.............not all those that wander are lost..............

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Col d'Izoard - well, almost..................

We parked the car on the verge at Le Laus, which is a short twisty drive up from Briancon. The road from here up to the Col is closed to vehicles in the winter - but still accessible on skis, snowshoes and on foot. In fact, it is tidily pisted and marked out in two halves so that the x-c skiers do not have to share their track with those on foot. It can be ridiculously difficult to control those skinny skis when the snow is rutted!

I was spending the day with Jeff and Maryann - they had invited me to join them to explore the snowshoe tracks here.

As we walked up the road I kept thinking 'people cycle up here' as the Col d'Izoard is probably world famous as one of the gruelling mountain climbs undertaken during the Tour de France. There were various 'cut throughs' to avoid following the road as it climbed in zig-zags up the mountain side. The French call these zig-zags 'lacets'. This form of road building was 'invented' by Napoleon - so he could get his troops up steep inclines quickly. What he actually invented were carts which had wheels fitted on an axle thus enabling them to make sharper turns. Before that, the mountain tracks climbed in wide loops so you could push a handcart with fixed wheels.

{The last stretch up to the Refuge}

Eventually after much puffing and panting (mostly by me!) we reached the Refuge. This is one of the Inns on the mountain road supposedly visited by Napoleon on his march through France and is therefore called Refuge de Napoleon. We enjoyed a huge cup of hot chocolate each and a well-deserved sit in the sunshine. We watched a few people continuing up the road to the Col - but we didn't feel inclined to join them.

We thought it might be impolite, never mind 'interdit', to eat our packed lunches there, so we put on our snowshoes and started our descent. The track went down along the route of a frozen and snowed over stream. Lunch was eaten sitting on a bridge parapet, swinging our legs like large children.

{One of the easier bits going down}

Following the path down we clambered between rocks and over what must be small waterfalls in the summer. Some bits were quite hairy-scary but do-able, trusting the spikes on the snowshoes to hold in the snow.

{The old village houses in Le Laus}

As we reached the road just before Le Laus, we had completed 10.1 kms and climbed 845 ms (according to Viewranger).

Definitely a day to remember!


Louise said...

"swinging our legs like large children" I have a wonderful image in my mind. I could do with some carefree leg swinging!

Laura said...

Sorry Louise, I'm just sort of rubbing it in - which is mean I know.
Don't worry I've been paying for the lovely day out since Friday evening - my knees have never stopped complaining....along with my back, my hips and also my neck.
The joys of getting older!

The Odyssee said...

That’s really nice. Somewhere i have never been.
The antidote for getting old is to get out there and keep doing it. It will keep you young.
Well that’s what i get told anyway.
Just a minute whilst i move me zimmer.Ha