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Day 2 : Ballon d’Alsace and Grand Ballon

The weather predictions were rain and cold, while it was sunny yesterday when we were locked up in trains. We immediately started climbing the Ballon D'Alsace. It had an index of 3.5, measured by the 100 cols tour organizers, to denote how challenging the various climbs were. 3.5 wasn't too bad. The route passed through a nice forest, but was a little steep, about 5%. From the top, we had a nice view of the Vosges mountains. We obtained a stamp at a souvenir store to prove we had been there (and required for finishing the 100 cols tour), we were the only visitors.


The travel directions were clear, so we didn't need a map. Over all sorts of small roads and another col we arrived at the bottom of the Grand Ballon. That mountain had an index of 5.9. It was the most challenging climb we would do this vacation, and it was on the first day. Bram had already climbed it by foot on his recent hike. Back then there was over a meter of snow.

Right at the start it was pretty steep. The range of my gears had been just right for our trip to the south of France, last summer. However, now I wished I had a lower gear. Because we already drank all our water on the first two climbs we filled our bottles in a mountain stream. The water was pretty clear. We didn't know yet, but it tasted better than most tap water at campsites. That contained so much chlorine that we only got more dehydrated after drinking it.

There was much snow along the road when we got higher. Bram had bad memories of that and hoped it wouldn't get worse. Luckily it didn't. The last two kilometers were so foggy that we could only see 10 meters ahead, and it also started to drizzle. We also needed to get a stamp on the summit of the Grand Ballon, but everything was closed due to the weather. Therefore we took pictures in front of a sign. I didn't want to stay long. I am not giving my thumbs up on the photo, I was putting on my jacket because I was freezing. 

le grand ballon

Bram had bad memories of this mountain, that is why he looked so happy

le grand ballon

It was pretty cold at the top.

Near the summit was a restaurant that was still open. The people there were pretty surprised when we walked in wearing our wet cycling clothes. Fortunately, they did have a stamp. Before starting the descent, I put on my long trousers. It was so foggy that we just had to guess how each corner would turn out. Bram had already made the descent during his hike. There would be a flat section that had taken him two hours to cross by foot. It actually went downhill gently and we crossed it within 5 minutes. Bram wanted to take a picture of the ATM that allowed him to finally get some real food during that hike.

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Bram near his beloved ATM.

In the afternoon we climbed a mountain called 'Horodberg'. If you pronounce it in Dutch it sounds like 'oh rot berg', 'oh damn mountain'. Near the end of the afternoon, after climbing four other mountains and an infinite number of hills it was still cold and wet. Fortunately, I carried a warm jacket. To save weight, Bram only carried a t-shirt and a not-waterproof light jacket. We passed by a mountain lake and took a break to take these pictures:

lac blanc

Lac Blanc in the fog.

A Dutch man and woman asked where we were going. They said the weather would be better tomorrow. People told us that the entire trip: 'tomorrow the weather will be better'. The man offered to put our bikes on his car and drive us up the next mountain, but he understood that would take away the challenge. It wasn't much, but at least someone understood what we were going through, apart from the fact that he probably thought that was the only col we would climb today and that we would sleep in a hotel tonight. They got in the car. Suddenly the woman got out and ran toward us, saying there were some restaurants at the summit where we could sit, rest, and dry. I don't think she believed we would do that, but she probably felt better saying it.

We didn't manage to cycle 200 km on our first day, but 160 km was all right. Maybe during the rest of the trip, when we aren't climbing the steepest mountains, we will be able to cycle a bit further.

Distance cycled : 163.28 km

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