El Portalet

El Portalet, a road straddling the border between France and Spain

Col du Pourtalet is an international high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.794m (5,886ft) above the sea level, situated on the Pyrenees, a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain. The pass offers the most beautiful views of the Ossau Valley.

This mountain pass, also called El Portalet or Portalet d'Aneu, links the Ossau and Tena valleys. This road is usually closed from late October to late May when the access is not cleared of snow. On the top of the mountain there are several souvenirs shops.
The pass is crossed by 2 roads. On the Spanish side, the road is called A-136 and links Biescas and Huesca. Starting from Biescas, the ascent is 29.04 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 923 meters. The average percentage is 3.1 %. The road is fast, wide, open and scenic. It’s fast and wide because there are ski resorts at the top and so the road is designed for the myriad coaches that bring the skiers up in winter.

On the French side the road has worst quality. It’s called D934 road and connects the pass to the towns of Laruns, Oloron-Sainte-Marie and Pau. Starting in Laruns, the 29-km climb is comprised of 3 successive “ramps” with a 7% grade, alternating with long, slight uphills, as it passes through steep-sided gorges, high-mountain prairies and authentic Pyrenean villages. There are steep stretches that hit 15% though not for long. The road is very easy and constantly about 5%, with only one little steep section just when reaching a dam. It is not too heavily trafficked.
The experience of using this road is very impressive. The drive is definitely worth it. Col du Pourtalet straddles the border between France and Spain. The view at the top is well worth all the effort: an uninterrupted view of the Pic du Midi d'Ossau mountain and the Cirque d’Anéou, where sheep and cows can be seen peacefully grazing. Various bars and restaurants also allow to refuel before heading back down. Don’t forget your camera!


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