Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Le Mt Ventoux

200m: Leave from Jouncas, head up the valley towards and past Murs Coll, past the wall that gives Mur it's name. The wall extends the length of the Provencal countryside. It was erected from dry stone by citizens after a governmental decree in reaction to the bubonic plague overwhelming the streets of Marsailles. It was coined the mur de la peste and was guarded along its length 24 hours a day by sentinels. To be able to cross, one must have a clean bill of health in hand. A lasting representation of panic surrounding the outbreak.

(Picture egregiously stolen from wikipedia)

900 m: Views of Mt Ventoux begin to show in the distance as we reach the peak of our climb for the day and head down to Sault.

810 m: We stop for eau potable and watch goats cross the road at a busy rural intersection.

740 m: The road switchbacks up 100 meters and dumps us into Sault, perched airily above the valley. Feels like finishing a Tour de France stage. We enjoy beers and look out at the valley as the sun sets.

680 m: We drop to the valley floor before starting our climb to the top of Ventoux. The road is gently graded and in the trees at first. Scattered Tour graffiti spray painted on the road makes for interesting reading as we climb.

1440 m: We triumphantly emerge above tree line. After a picnic break we begin the exposed climb over white, tumbling talus, which gives the mountain its snow-covered appearance from far away. The climb steepens to over 10% grade and the temperature begins to drop slightly as the wind picks up. I am passed seven times on the way to the summit by others in race kit. He who finishes last still finishes, right?  Andrew passes one man dressed in head to toe spandex and on an ultralight bike...and then won't quit talking about how he now owns this man's soul forever.

1850 m: Only one kilometer to go, the observatory on top of the mountain gets closer in view.

1912 m: Summit time! Excited to be done with the climb, and feeling self-accomplished for completing an HC climb with full touring gear. Battered by the wind, we do not stay long to revel in our accomplishment.

1700 m: Rim-boiling steep, airy descent with amazing views to the north.

440 m: We arrive at Maulacene, among many old men playing bocce ball, a strange beauty pageant, and a noisy tractor demonstration. We work on consuming as many calories as we burnt during the day in pizza and salad.

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