Dead Ends

I know there is a way over the ‘Massif de Tabe’ with a bicycle. I’ve just got to find the route. The hard part for me as a route finder is finding a route that’s not completely insane. Yesterday I tried a new route. It started at Mercus, a small left turn from what was the Route National to Paris.

Once one leaves the old grand road, things start to get very Ariège. It soon gets steep and narrow and once outside the village it turns quickly into farm land. It’s dairy farming this side of the mountain.

The road winds up, giving wonderful views of the plains to the north and high mountains in the south

After several km, we come to the end of the tarmac, where there is a fork in the road. The right takes you to a picnic location, the left fork, my way, is Foresters road. This is good, fast, hard gravel climbing for a few km.

As I reach the next right fork, for me, the Hike-a-bike begins and as I break out of the trees, I can see Mont Fourcat ahead of me.

The massif is often referred to as Mont Fourcat. This is the peak that looks over the capital of the Ariège, Foix. It’s not huge at 2,001 m and once on the peak one can see the cirque or ridge that leads to the peak of St. Barthélemy. This peak fills me with dread at its height and sheer stunningness.

Apparently there is a chapel at the top that is dedicated to Saint-Barthélemy. This was once a Christian pilgrimage, which included spending the night at the summit and attending the sunrise of August 24th. This pilgrimage was maintained until the late eighteenth century, when a new chapel, which was more accessible, was built at another location.

Interestingly, this fits in with the Further race date.... maybe this will be a CP?

When I finally reached the peak of Fourcat it was 7pm. I could follow the plan and go left over what looked like the steepest climb down, or go right to connect with the route that we found going up a couple of weeks before. For a long time I could not make a decision.

Would I take the race this high? Would it be too dangerous? I took the easy way out, smashed my way back down the way I had come. Even though I had come to a summit that felt like it was a dead end for the race route, I have hope that it’s not. I will attack it from the other side next week.

Camille McMilllan