The Tourmalet pass

A Pyrenean legend

The Col du Tourmalet links the Adour valley with that of the Gave de Pau (de Gavarnie). Its name, which means “bad detour”, unabashedly announces the color of what awaits cyclists who choose to tackle the giant of the Pyrenees.


On the road to the Tour de France

The Col du Tourmalet is the pass of superlatives. This giant of the Pyrenees is also the Tour de France’s most frequented pass: 60 climbs and 3 stage finishes.

It was the first pass over 2,000 m crossed by Tour de France riders in 1910.

The sculpture, a tribute to Octave Lapize, the first rider to cross the Col du Tourmalet on the Tour in 1910, welcomes cyclists at the end of their effort. This shared history is also reflected in the stele, erected in 2021, in memory of Jacques Goddet, former director of the Tour de France.

Identity sheet
  • Start altitude: 822 m
  • End altitude: 2,108 m
  • Cumulative ascent: 1,306 m
  • Distance:16.9 km
  • Average gradient:7.5%
  • Level: difficult

You may encounter cows in the pastures and sometimes even on the road: stay cautious.

The altitude will require you to manage your effort well on the last few kilometers to the summit, especially on windy days.

At the summit, breathtaking views of the Bastan valley on the west side and the Gripp valley to the east.

About 1h30 for the ascent.

This pass is very busy with cyclists and cars. Plan to set off early in the morning.


Restaurants are available at the two summit inns.

Preparing for the climb

From Saint-Lary, reach Sainte-Marie-de-Campan (37.6 km) via the Col d’Aspin. The climb starts at 857 m and culminates at 2,115 m altitude. In a way, it’s the roof of the Pyrenees!

The ascent from Sainte Marie de Campan is 17.2 kilometers long at an average gradient of 7.37%. The first 4 kilometers are not difficult, but take in the valley floor to reach the foot of the mountain. After passing through the hamlet of Gripp, the slope steepens and climbs steadily up to La Mongie. This section passes under several paravalanches, which are not the most pleasant to cross, with the noise of cars echoing against the walls. At La Mongie, you enter the alpine pastures up to the pass, where the view opens up and allows you to appreciate the landscape. The climb is fairly quiet up to the paravalanche, but then it gets tougher as you approach La Mongie.