Montagnes de France - 24 September to 7 October 2015
Troisième Étape - St. Jean, Pontarlier, & Wissembourg
Story Jim Paterson.
Photos Jim Paterson, Mags Campbell, Dave Spence, Louise Wall
miles through France, Spain, Andorra and Italy crossing countless
'cols' and driving great roads. This was Montagnes de France 2015.
Menton Thunderstorms hit party goers
I reported in the Nuit du Mentonnais
story that while Simon and myself were getting wet in the Maritime Alps
the rest of our party stayed in Menton, eating out for dinner in the
evening. Well the thunderstorms that caught us up in the mountains had
swept along the Côte d'Azur, reportedly the worst rain in 40
years, causing havoc, even loss of life in Cannes. Returning to
our hotel the party goers found the streets awash like rivers and the
rain heaving it down. With no waterproofs or umbrella the end result
was as shown. A little more than slightly damp you could say. But they
managed a smile all the same. A hot shower on the cards I would say.
Menton to St. Jean de Maurienne
Sunday 4th October, suitably dried out and with the sun shining, the
storm had passed over during the night though plenty of devastation in
its wake, we started our tour north back into the Alps.
start of our 230 mile journey seemed a bit of déjà
vu for Simon and myself, heading back up to Sospel. However we took the
north east route to Breil sur Roya, over the Col de Brouis, 879m
(2900ft). Heading through the Gorge de Saorgé, hugging the La
Roya river to Tende before crossing over to Italy.
was the original old Col de Tende, also known as La ca Canelle climbing
up to 5900ft, but that has a very loose surface near the top and
suitable for four wheel drive, high clearance vehicles and
motorcycles only. Ferrari, Alfa and Sprite don't meet that criteria. In
the end we all opted for the Tunnel de Col du Tende. At 3200m (nearly 2
miles) long it cuts through the mountain to appear in Italy. A new
tunnel was being constructed and with one way contraflow traffic we had
a 25 minute wait before our turn.
all met up at a small café for a break, Italian coffee this
time, and continued through the Italian Alps, up above the snow
line to the Colle dela Madeleina, where the pass rises to 1996m
(over 6500ft). We thought this would be the highest, but we were wrong!
The peak marked the border back into France.
north took us through several ski resorts and over the Col de Vars. At
2108m (6916ft) marked another high peak of the tour. The 2011
Trans Alpina tour crews remembered this one. Reaching Guillestre we
drove through the Gorges du Guil, pretty tight it was too, and the
Combe du Queyras. To reach Briancon on our route we climbed over the
Col d'Izoard 2360m (7743ft). Was this the highest on the tour? Well we
had a few more to climb. Col du Lautaret 2058m (6750ft), Col de Galbier
2142m (7027ft), though some took the tunnel through the mountain, Col
du Telegraphe (1566m (5138ft). It was a long descent down to the river
valley to follow alongside the River L'Arc and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne,
our ovenight stop.
The party was split over two hostelries and our party enjoyed a great meal in a nearby restaurant, close to the hotel.
St. Jean de Maurienne to Pontarlier
5th offered us an option for the start of the 190 mile day. Either
climb the Col de Chaussy 1533m (5029ft) with 17 lacets (those
hairpins) in the first 3km, up an almost vertical cliff face. Fine for
Tour de France cyclists, but we all decided to take the alternative, an
easier start to St. Francois-Longchamps.
Top of Col de Madelaine It
was not long before we started climbing again, this time to the top of
Col de la Madelaine 1993m (6538ft). It was glorious sunshine as we
reached the peak, with views across to Mont Blanc, the highest peak in
Europe at 4809m (15778ft). My MX5 co-driver, wife Rona referred to it
as the little mountain in the distance!
French friend Hervé, who used to live in Scotland for many
years, and now lives nearby in France , arrived from the opposite side
on his motorcylce, to meet us at the summit. Col de Madelaine that is,
not Mont Blanc! Photo shoot over we headed on with Hervé
and caught up with all th news at a coffee stop on the descent.
route continued to Albertville, Annecy and Bellegarde-sur-Valserine,
close to the Swiss border at Geneva. Following the Jura mountains to
Morez and finally Pontarlier.
It was here that Richard in the
Alfa Spider spotted the Ferrari rear tyres looking somewhat bare. Yup
they were nearly down to the canvas, the result of Don's enthusiastic
driving over the Col's. Richard also noticed that
Dave's Rover 75 front tyres were approaching a similar state. Time
to seek out the local 'Kwik Fit' garage. Luckily help was at hand,
although Ferrari tyres rated at 200kph (125mph) were not in stock, they
did have something suitable. I joked with Don that 30kph tractor
trailer tyres were cutting it a bit close!
Pontarlier to Wissembourg
6th, the longest leg of our tour at over 270 miles. Leaving the Jura
mountains we crossed the 'Belfort gap' to reach the Vosges mountains.
Passing Belfort we are entering the Alsace region where the town names
sound very Germanic. Not unusual as this part of France was once part
of Germany and has been fought over many times over past centuries.
passing Cernay we were into the 55 mile Route des Cretes (Route of the
Peaks) climbing the Col du Grand Ballon (great round topped mountain)
1343m (4406ft). Terrible heavy rain and mist on this section, so no
great views today. Most of the peaks were 'tiddlers' compared to what
we have crossed so far. The Col de la Schlucht at 3737ft, and Col
de Bonhomme at a mere 3114ft.
We were passing Molsheim, home
of Bugatti on our way to Saverne. I had expected a call from
Ettore to say my Veyron was ready to collect, but alas it was not to
be. The final leg took us round Hagenhau, home town of 9 times World
Rally Champion, Sebastian Loeb, finally reaching our stop over at
Wissembourg where a superb evening dinner awaited us.
Next - The final Leg, Wissembourg to Reims
Updated 31 October