Col du Tourmalet , Col d'Aspin , Bielsa Tunnel

jacquigem

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Hi, anybody been this way recently ? Is it sensable in our 7.5m Autotrail ? Considering doing after staying at Gavarnie Thanks
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daygoboy

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Probably not helpful but I used to travel via the Bielsa Tunnel some years ago 7.5m van with motorbike on back, no problem. Winding approach on the Spanish side IIRC but no HGV ban, the roads have possibly been straightened on stretches so likely to be improved since I last went through. These days I prefer the Somport Tunnel, again the approach is winding on the French side, with long term upgrading works on the Spanish side, a bit lower elevation than the Bielsa so slightly less likely to be snow affected in November or late March when I go through. Nearly 9km long it seems to go on forever, single lane each way always light traffic when I use the route. Last time being end of March. Both toll free.
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jacquigem

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Thanks daygoboy , we have been thrugh the Bielsa so no what to expect , we hope ! Havent done the Tourmalet or Aspin passes though
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witzend

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Hi, anybody been this way recently ? Is it sensable in our 7.5m Autotrail ? Considering doing after staying at Gavarnie Thanks You should have no problem if you can get it up to Gavarnie where I,ve seen larger vans
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Wooie1958

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Done both the " Cols " in our 7.5m, 4,100kg Compass Castaway no problem. Haven't done the tunnel so cannot coment on that, sorry. We really like Gavarnie, if you're lucky the local Pottok will come and say hello.
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daygoboy

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Apart from the increased chances of being turned back due to snowfalls and having no chains or studded tyres, is that on the cols the Douane have a plenty of time and opportunity to train up their trainees. Often looking out for ciggie smugglers from Andorra and the smart arses thinking that on less used routes less chance of a going over.
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Makzine

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Did the col D Aspen the other year in summer in a 7.5m tag axle hymer clenching of bum cheeks going up the steep side and stopped at the top overnight. In the morning a 52seater coach full of tourists went down the way we came up. Haven’t done the tunnels or other route, have fun.
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barryd

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Both those passes no problem at all. Just check there hasnt been a sudden snow fall over say 1500 metres. Can happen in October. Unlikely though. Great passes.
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Snapster

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We did the Col d’Aspin a couple of years ago in a 7.5 metre van, no problems. Lots of steep sides, steep drops and sheets of ice on the roads when we went but just take it steady and watch for the sheep wandering along the road, usually just after a tight bend!
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barryd

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Just a tip but coming down Col D'Aspin heading towards Tourmalet there is a fantastic Aire (wild spot) at Lac de Payole. Loads of space there by the stream below the lake and beyond. I think there is or was an official Aire but it all changed. Its one of the spots you see on the Tour de France stacked with vans.
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TeamRienza

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Our last stop at Payole was about 2 years ago and at that time there was an Aire near the head of the lake (with basic services) and a great wild camp near the bottom end. It is very obvious as it is popular so nearly always vans at it. You will find co-ordinates for both on searchforsites as well as reviews. With regard to the cols, I have done Aspin and Tourmelet in a 7 metre van and found them easier and shorter than the drive up to Gavernie. Davy
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jacquigem

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Thanks everyone, just a quick update , came down from Gavarnie and got to the top of Tourmalet without too much difficulty (couple of hairy moments facing big lorries coming in opposite direction on hairpins but stopping and letting them pass worked ok). Lovely spot at top , stopped and had a look around . 5 minutes on the way down, burning smell , pulled up and front offside wheel smoking well. Managed to pull of, stopped the smoke with a small bottle of water ? and had a cup of tea . Everything seemed ok so set off gingerly downhill but decided to miss Aspin and headed down to Bagneres de Bigorre and found a lovely campsite as 9 days on the road needed to do some washing . Vehicle seems to be handling ok . No more smell/ burning . No warning lights so thinking about carrying on but going up D929 to Bielsa tunnel from Lannemezan . Brake pads were changed before we came out and mechanic seems to think if handling ok then not seized and maybe just overheated. Any comments /views...
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Snapster

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We stopped 4 times coming down from Col d’Aspin to let the brakes cool down as I felt they were getting hot. The road was too steep for engine braking to have any effect ( 4 tonne van) so I was on the brakes all the time, especially coming up to hairpin bends.
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barryd

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Yeah its always a bit of a wobbly moment when your wheels start setting on fire. :D On the Simplon pass (Italy to Switzerland) in 2009 I lost the brakes completely for a short while. :( On the old Peugeot scooter (Automatic 2 stroke) on at least three occasions I lost both brakes which is even more worrying on an automatic scooter with no engine braking.
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korky

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Whatever you do,don't throw water on your brakes,discs could warp.Use a low gear, 2nd if need be and don't keep gently applying the brakes all the time, but checking there is no one right behind you,apply them firmly,nearly stopping the vehicle then let it roll on a bit and apply again.This way they should not overheat.Or if there's a lot of traffic behind,pull over when possible and let them cool down a bit.I've been on hairpins nearly everyday since 6th September, 12 days in the Alps, then Corsica and now Sardinia without any overheating.I'm only in a 3.5t PVC so a heavier van may be a bit more of a challenge.
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