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Rise above the clouds

Updated: Jan 12

Words & photos: Jamie Wilkins

Above the clouds on Col du Tourmalet near sunset

I’ve wanted to see this for a long time and in the end it couldn’t have happened more perfectly. I’d been out for a big training ride, up the Col de Troumouse, then the Col de Tentes, and finally the Col du Tourmalet, pushing myself hard on each. It had been sunny on Tentes but by the time I’d descended back to Luz St Sauveur I could see cloud rolling in and I realised that I’d be climbing through it.


I entered the cloud around Super Bareges with about 7km still to climb. The temperature and visibility both plummeted; the former much more welcome than the latter. At times I could barely see far enough even at climbing speeds. I thought I’d be in the cloud all the way to the summit at 2100m but rounding the big hairpin just before the 4km sign the cloud above me brightened and a shot of excitement bolted around my veins at the realisation that I might get the view I’d been dreaming of.



One kilometre later the peaks above started to come into view as the cloud thinned and after one more, just as the gradient kicked up again from the penultimate hairpin, I emerged into a beautiful sunny evening. The steep final two kilometres hurt much less knowing what awaited me.


I must have spent about half an hour at the top. I took loads of photos and chatted to a couple of British riders who were doing the Raid Pyrenees, and then we took some photos for each other, too, which is how I was lucky enough to get the main photo here.



Most of all, though, I simply drank in the beauty as the sun set behind Pic d’Oudégon to the west, bathing the landscape in a thin golden glow and highlighting every undulation in the blanket of cloud filling the valley. It was magnificent, and all the sweeter combined with the delicious fatigue buzzing through my body. It was like a reward for the tough ride, maybe a nod of appreciation for the effort from the mountains themselves.


All at once I felt like a giant and also incredibly small on this massive, beautiful planet.


The Géant du Tourmalet, bathed in golden hour light



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