The Pic du Midi de Bigorre or simply Pic du Midi, at an elevation of 2.877m (9,439ft) above the sea level, is a high mountain pass in the French Pyrenees. It's famous for its astronomical observatory, the Observatoire du Pic du Midi de Bigorre (Pic du Midi Observatory), part of the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées (Midi-Pyrénées Observatory). It's one of the highest mountain roads of Europe.
The road to reach the summit, located in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in southwestern France, is a dirt track, with holes and stones. The climb is accessed from the summit of the Col du Tourmalet via an unsealed road. But it is not for the inexperienced or unfit due to the combination of the altitude and technical road surface. The track is usually closed, but is drivable. The route includes an amazing scenery with cliff edges and two short tunnels.
In many places, the trail is bordered on one side by cliffs and on the other side by a drop of hundreds of meters unprotected by guardrails. The familiar outline, standing clearly apart from the main Pyrenean chain, the breathtaking views and the scientific observatory have largely contributed to the widespread fame of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre. On arriving at level 4, a glassed-in gallery and several terraces offer the most incredible panorama of the Pyrenees. To the south, the Néouvielle massif stands out like an extraordinary illustration of glacial relief. At level 6, you will embark on the Star Ship. Words can’t describe the road and pictures don’t do it justice.
Starting from Luz Saint Sauveur, the ascent is 24.7 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.926 meters. The average percentage s 7.8 %. The road up to Pic du Midi starts exactly at Col du Tourmalet, beside the gift shop. It starts off with a few not-too-steep kilometres and a very good gravel surface. It's one of the highest mountain roads of the country.
The surface on this gravel road is often loose, especially along the sides of the road. Construction of the observatory began in 1878, and the 8 meter dome was completed in 1908. The scene at Pic du Midi is one out of a sci-fi movie: A fortified concrete-and-stone complex, packed full of metal domes, sprawls across the top of a precipitous peak above the clouds. On the top, there’s the highest museum in Europe, that will guide you through the history of Pic du Midi and over a century of scientific research and technological progress.
Pic: Raphaël Ehret