07 September 2007

Windy Col de Saxel Ascent...


This is more of a photo essay, to share with two distinct groups of friends:

those from Eurobike, and those from TOPIX (where Yes-or-NO Floyd partisans post, thrash and slay news and rumours to the great dismay of opposing participants); I hope...

Oh: all photos and the films, were shot with my NOKIA 6300... A toy even a former cameraman could love!

Tourist information here:

France Travel Guide -

Tourisme en France -

The rains of August, 2007, have ended with the onslaught of "the Bise", our wind from St. Petersburg, which funnels through the plains between the Jura mountains, and the northern Alpes. It's a three-day event, and after sweeping leaves off the bed (devote AIR-worshiper here) ten times, we can only say 'A bientôt!' to its retreat.

Even so, high winds didn't stop ole ZENmud, the weather was bright, wind high and I decided it was long overdue for a 'first' ascent (Of the year) up the Col de Saxel: the northernmost Col of the French Alpes, rising 570 meters over lac Léman, to 944 meters high.
(click on ANY photo for an enlargement)

First ascent of 2007, due to slow recuperation of a lingering thigh-nerve-muscle problem: ole ZEN is feeling the aches of skiing like an eedjit in Vail, CO, for thirteen years...

Setting out from Hermance, on a freshly-cleaned Bernard Hinault, a beauty of nine years, which has taken me twice to the top of Ventoux, twice over Vail Pass (brought via United Airlines in 2004)... four times around Lac Léman...

Starting out, across the river Hermance, world-wide unknown Franco-Suisse border, we take a fond look at the Cafe de Hermance, which actually sits on the French side of the border. Filets de perche abound there, under new management.

Immediately undertaking the first ascent out of Hermance, a strong wake-up call; the first kilometer serves, with about a 4% rise, to shake the legs and tone them up fast...

and the next flat, five km stretch takes one through a long series of bright tall cornfields, to Douvaine, renowned world-wide for... nothing, except perhaps its beautiful Sunday Market, and its crossroads status, between Geneva, Evian, Thonon, the Lac and les Alpes!

OH: and its five-way intersection, which becomes much more fun on the return leg....

Another two km, rising constantly but lightly, then time to turn left...

and onto the Côte de Ballaison.

First vineyards, first turn, first 'Halo shot' of the trip. I saved it due to the opposing arcs it created... you can't have it all in a phone-cam,

or a cam-phone! ;-)

Therein starts the 3km rise toward Ballaison, another easy, steady climb to work out the thighs and warm us up under the sun, in facing the strong headwinds from our left side ...

Just passing the vineyard, a bucolic hillside rises up towards 600+ meters.
(NB: the Lac Léman is perpetually maintained at or near 373m above Sea Level) The village of Ballaison sits to the upper right of the photo-panorama I soldered together.

This approaches the 8km point from my lakeside apartment in Switzerland, with 2+km to go to the summit of the Côte.

Here's the 'downtown', in Ballaison, and I'll follow the arrows pointing right, which (in better light) are indicating Bons-en-Chablais, the town astride the foot of our Col.

From the signpost, another 700m upwards, gently, to a rapid, three-turn descent of only 2km.

Across rolling agricultural land, past some trailers occupied by immigrants from 'The East', and then it's into Bons... Bons-en-Chablais...

After crossing the RR tracks, and winding up an approach to the traffic light, awaiting our turn to climb straight up past the church, into the menacing clouds that formed en route. Bons sits at about 560m, so we've already done from 375m to 475m (out of Hermance), from +/- 530m to 690m (base of Côte to summit in Ballaison), and now to begin 'The Climb', of some 8.5km at a 4.6% gradient, from 560m to 944m: some total ascent of +/- 660m for a two hour, 50+km tour!

A short warm-up, then a left turn follows.

This Col is easy, fun and with long straightaways that dominate; as seen on the map, the first major turn is to the right, and after crossing through
Marclay, the opportunity to look horizantally across to Ballaison, at again the same altitude, is a good mark of progress.

As indicated, turns are coming, and in this photo, Ballaison sits in the light-coloured band on the right side of the intermediate ridge. In the far distance, are les Juras (mountains)...

Spinning my triple easily (has it come to this? Will I ever climb again without a Granny-gear? Bwaaaaah), I enjoy the transition to forest land, and reap the magic of a series of small waterfalls, such as the one shown here to right below.

Without noting it, I'd guess the distance from home to be about 18-19km, and this photo to be situated at about 800-850m over the sea.

I shot a movie of that but the wind noise was so existent that I don't think posting it as such would be a pleasure for the ears...

Waterfalls means the road is winding higher, shade is cool and the trees cut down the force of the wind...

The last section again is straight enough, until a last hairpin turn takes us up onto the final straightaway, within the rising clouds, looking southward towards Mt Blanc, itself obscured for another photo-visit.

Half a click, then 300m to go, nearly up, easy-faster-gearshift higher farther and Voilà!

On y est : there we are!

The Col de Saxel, at 24.6km from Rancho Ghetto, the ZENcastle-in-obscurity... to return, point them downhill, do it all again, only ...


COURAGE, cyclists who are tempting their Fate...

ç*”*”*””*ç”*”* ZENmud ”*””*ç*”*”*””*ç”

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Hey Drew: Saw your note on Eurobike. Thanks for taking the time to post this ride report. I love the photo journal format of rides. It was a nice change from my usual blog reading - which consists mainly of families blogging their experiences adopting a child from Taiwan (see my blog for clues as to why).

Bike is in the basement and the tires are half flat from the last time I cleaned the chain and put air in the tires. I didn't actually ride it then, just thought about it and air in the tires seemed like a good idea. Thanks for the encouraging blog post!