Port de Balès

Port de Balès, an epic climb in the Pyrenees

Port de Balès, also known as Col de Balès, is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.755m (5,758ft) above the sea level, located in the central Pyrenees in the department of Hautes-Pyrénées in France.

The road over the pass is a narrow, well-surfaced road that cuts up the cleared mountain pastures. It links the village of Ferrère (to the north) to Bourg-d'Oueil, Haute-Garonne (south-east).
The pass has been climbed several times by the Tour of France race. It’s a broad open summit with excellent views of the snow capped Spanish frontier mountains. It is generally closed by snow for long periods during the winter but remains popular with bikers during the summer. The organizers of the Tour de France were looking for new routes in the Pyrenées, so in 2006 they paved the last 5 kilometres of an old trail on the south side of Port de Balès to link to a little forestry road in the north side creating a huge 'through' climb.

There are 2 routes to reach the summit. Starting from Mauléon-Barousse, the climb is 18.87 km (11.73 mi) long with an elevation gain of 1,185 meters (3,888 ft) and an average percentage of 6.3%, with the steepest sections at over 11%. The North side is very variable between 6% and 12% gradients, following a peaceful wooded stream valley beyond Ferrére. The last 10km is more difficult than the first. In the last 4km, the scenery rapidly changes as you emerge from the trees to enter a wide bowl of green pasture with grazing cattle.
The second route starts from Bagnères-de-Luchon. The climb is 19.66 km (12.22 mi) long with an elevation gain of 1,125 meters (3,691 ft) and an average percentage of 5.7%, but with several sections over 11%. The South side from Luchon is occasionally steep with long shallow stretches through small villages. No facilities at the summit. Luchon has many cafes and restaurants, or there is an interesting bar/ cafe at Ferrére and others at Mauleon Barousse. At its southern end, the climb starts on the foot of the climb to the Col de Peyresourde which has been used many times in the Tour de France.



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