After a good breakfast I had a nice and easy start to Bouleternère (184m) via the extremely low passes on the main road to Perpignan: Col Saint-Pierre (240m) & Col de Ternère/Coll de Terranera (233m). Trying to play catch-up with my insane plan was out of question from start this day, but surely I wanted to go as far as I could. The main problem was that I had planned going over a dubious gravel passage between two passes where I had not been able to get any information on how easy/hard it would be.
First, however, was a warm up climb over Col Fourtou/Coll d’en Forto (646m) and despite the low height, this is a long climb on a slowly raising road where one could mostly use the big front chain ring, and only a little before the pass it was time to get down on the small chain ring. Got help up with a man catching up with me that I later met in Amélie-les-Bains as at the top he went up and probably took the road over the Coll d’en Xatard/Col Xatard (753m), which is the normal road there, but I took that last time here so decided on another road, which slowed me down about as much with some ups and downs.
On my way down I passed by at least two unnamed passes, so thought I had to do at least one named pass down here and got up a small road at Taillet to Coll del Peiró/Col du Calvaire Saint-Jean/Col del Payrou (603m) in the photo here. Took the first bad road up, but the road back down was all fine and soon I was down in the last major valley (Vallespir) east in the French Pyrenees before the coastal road.
Down at Le Pont de Reynès (161m) and the most eastern point on this tour I went up the valley and had no catched up with the plan for last day. I tried to find some place to stop at in Amélie-les-Bains and bought a coca-cola in a grocery and went back down on the road again where I met the man from the Fourtou pass and said hello and continued up along the Le Tech river to Arles-sur-Tech. Stopping yet again for a coffee and toilet visit (think I did not put on suncream until now, but it was cloudy today) and checking my plan.
Just out of the village the next climb started for me to the pass I had to skip on my visit in Girona in 2014 (and wisely so I now realised). This is the Coll/Col de la Descarga/Coll de la Descárrega/Col de la Descargue (1393m) and starting at 301m this means a climb of 1092 height metres. This is also a bit steep especially on the first section up to Coll de l’Ànsia/Col de l’Ànsia/Coll de Lancie (606m). I was already very tired at Corsavy (770m) and decided to stop again as there was a nice café/shop (Chez Françoise) here and this was easily the best place I stopped at in all of France this summer. Great place and very nice personel and totally clean towel in the toilet, great views and great ice cream. Please visit if you ever come near here!
Yes, thought it must have been here I was starting to question myself, wrote on Facebook: “Feel like I am getting too old for tours like this. […] There was rain in the air when arriving, but seems to have gone again. Cloudy and less hot but still feels tropical.” Had some water and continued and now the road is almost flat for quite some time as it goes inside the valley before it starts climbing again. The problem was now more the length than the steepness.
The Col de la Descarga/Coll de la Descárrega truly feels like an epic climb comparable to the most well-known such climbs in the rest of the Pyrenees and the Alps. This climb should be on the top 100 destinations in the Pyrenees. Finally reached the pass, but the road continues steeply up to the Refuge de Batère at 1482m, but that was not really so interesting for me this time as the plan was to take off on the gravel road here. It starts with the concrete ramp in the photo here and goes via the tower one can glimpse on the ridge to the right.
They even got a big classic road sign for the pass here, which is a bit odd for a mostly one-way pass. I took another photo left out of the walking sign laying down (with the correct spelling for the pass, Descarga, as someone has tried to change the road sign to say as well) and a sign for the refuge, which should offer lodging in summer and a café.
In the photo here I look back over the Canigó/Canigou massive (the actual mountain top is just north (to the right) of the mountains seen here).
In the photo here is the vast area that I climbed up to get here and it gives a truly epic sense when standing here by the Batère/Batera tower.
The Tour de Batère/Torre de Batera (1424m) itself and also the highest point for this day. This is the closest road to the Canigó/Canigou that can be used with a road bike to go around it. Until the tower the road is fine and easy, but below it is more varied and sometimes quite bad like it is just after this point, where I actually met a normal car, the driver looked at me as if he wondered what I was doing there though.
Skipping the photo of the sign (showing 1429m for the high point). The views down north from here are quite nice and only lower mountains from here.
Another nice photo. I was a bit unclear about the way from here and first thought it was the road to the right at the fork just below here as that road looked better, but unfortunately it was the one turning back into the woods and there the weather suddenly turned bad. It had been rather cloudy with some rain drops in the air at Corsavy (part of the reason for resting there).
It got rather wet on the way down and also there was water on some places on the forest road, so best go here when it has been dry for a couple of days if you want to try it and you should also expect that maybe you have to walk in a few places shortly depending on how confident you are in your tyres holding up.
The gravel road was pretty bad all the way down to the asphalt road at Col de Palomère/Coll Palomeres (1035m) as seen here. It stopped raining, but got back a little again, but then went away totally as I descended the charming and remote-feeling valley to near where I stayed the night in Joch.
Rainy and rough pavement down through the forest to Valmanya. But from Valmanya (just below the Canigó/Canigou) both the pavement and weather got better and the road down was quite nice.
However, the road down was dangerous with many twists around the mountain that it clings to and in all the curves you could not see oncoming traffic, so was a bit close at one of them to a car, but not much traffic (which is also dangerous as you may not stay alert enough).
Once down I went back up the same main road I went down the day before to Prades. I went straight through and continued to Ria where I stopped for a soda and maybe a banana. It was already getting a little late and I contemplated where to stop for the night and if I could possibly get up to the Col de Mantet/Coll de Mentet (1760m) which was one of the three important climbs of the area (Jau + Descarga + Mantet). I realized it would be a little too late for that, so decided to at least escape the hellishly hot valley and go up to Sahorre.
I turned off the main road at Villefranche-de-Conflent (433m) up to Vernet-les-Bains and stopped just after to take the last photo for the day here. Above Vernet-les-Bains a road continues up to Col/Coll de Jou (1125m) where I have been before and tried to climb the road continuing up the big mountains here as there is a gravel road/track legendary among mountain bikers crossing over to the other side, but it turned out to be both steep and increasingly worse higher up, so gave up. As I have heard one could more easily go higher up on the other side where asphalt runs out at 1685m, but it is still likely too bad for a road bike all the way to Collada de Roques Blanques (2248m).
No, I took the nice and easy way over Col de Sahorre/Coll de Saorra (706m) to Sahorre/Saorra (675m). I stopped in Vernet-les-Bains to try and google up some place to stay at in the area and found that there was a gïte/auberge in Py on the way up to Col de Mantet, but the phone number seemed not valid and probably it has closed down. The two places I saw in Sahorre were both expensive and there were no obvious places elsewhere nearby. Eventually I stayed at the less expensive place in Sahorre (the was maybe closed) after looking around a little. It was the most expensive place I stayed at during this vacation, but not the worst (places usually tend to be worse the more you pay in the mountains). The lady came across as a conservative English lady (she was nice though), but it was a rather simply B&B with separate apartments in a row. Also had to eat dinner at the restaurant which was ok. The best about the place is that it is a nice location! I said there has been long stretches between shops in Ariege on the way over here to the Pyrenees Atlantique/Catalonia and she said it is just a desert (or deserted) here in south of France, which I found witty and somewhat accurate.