Day 2 : Ballon d’Alsace and Grand Ballon

The weather predictions were rain and cold, and that while we spent yesterday in trains while it was sunny. We immediately started climbing the Ballon D'Alsace. It had an index of 3.5 as measured by the 100 cols tour organizers to denote how tough the various climbs were. 3.5 wasn't too bad. The way up passed through a nice forest, but it was a little steep, about 5%. From the top we had a nice view towards the mountains in the Vosges. 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 was pretty clear so we didn't need a map. Through 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 toughest climb we would do this vacation, right 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, but 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 a lot of 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 started to drizzle as well. We needed to get a stamp on the summit of the Grand Ballon as well, but everything was be 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 phote, I was just putting on my jacked because I was freezing. 

le grand ballon

Bram had good 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 we just had to guess how each corner would turn out. Bram had already done the descent during his hike. There would be a flat section that had taken him two hours to cross by foot. It turned out to go 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 4 other mountains and an infinite number of hills it was still cold and wet. Fortunately I carried a warm jacket. Bram only had a t-shirt and a not-waterproof light jacket, to save weight. We passed by a mountain lake and took a break to make these pictures:

lac blanc

Lac Blanc in the fog.

A Dutch man and woman asked where we were cycling to. 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 they probably thought that was the only col we would climb today and we would sleep in a hotel tonight. They got in the car. Suddenly the woman got out and ran towards us, saying that there were some restaurants at the summit were we could sit and rest and dry. I don't think she actually believed we would do that, but she probably felt better saying it.

We didn't manage to cycle 200 km on our first day. Instead we did about 160 before it was time to stop. Maybe during the rest of the trip, when we aren't climbing the toughest mountains of the entire week, we will be able to cycle a bit further.

Distance cycled : 163.28 km