The Boucle d'Izoard
Had planned to climb the Col dIzoard, which I've never done before, but had seen signs for a Boucle, or circuit, which seemed more interesting than just climbing and then descending the same way. So we picked up some information from the Tourist Info, a great simple map with twelve proposed routes. Naturally the Boucle was the longest and the most strenuous. I'd have expected nothing less from Ian!
After a day's rest, when Ian went off on his own to explore Ceillac, I was up for the challenge. The route took us up the Queyras gorge again, but then you turn left off the road, before Queyras and start the ascent, up through pine woods, through the alpine meadows of La Chalp, on through the trees again, climbing higher, eventually to the Caisse Deserte before reaching the top of the Col. It's so strange to come out of the woods and on to a lunar landscape, similar to the top slopes of Ventoux. The scree extends for miles with the road twisting through it. Huge dolomite peaks rise straight up from the scree. Must look incredible in the snow.
A coca cola, and piece of foil-covered fruit loaf and then we were both together off down the descent into Briancon. We'd packed a sandwich for lunch and drank another coke in a bar before setting off on the return to Guillestre. The route very cleverly took us South crossing the main N94 road, through forests and villages, with minimal traffic, mostly downhill, but occasionally climbing with clear views of the Durance river and the valley floor below. A spectacular route of 62mls and 7000' of ascent.
Called in at the pub in Guillestre for a celebratory pint of Guinness, before heading back.
That night we were besieged by ants! Everywhere in the van, even in bed! 3am buttoned myself inside the duvet cover to try and get some respite. Moved the van to another pitch early in the morning. I then went off on a second attempt up to Risoul. When I got back, chuffed at knocking 10mins off my time, 1hr 16secs, was less chuffed to find thousands more ants in the van. Everywhere! Ian went off for some chemical help, put powder all around tyres, and sprayed all over inside of van. Emptied it of carpets, clothing, bedding, food, mostly everything! Sprayed and then cleaned the van thoroughly. Took all afternoon, which ought to have been rest time!
Slept like logs that night and no ants. Ian's new campagnolo wheels, ordered at a good price from Wiggle have arrived, so time to move on. I've been badgering him to buy some new wheels, ever since Lorenzo told us his story of how his wheel had "exploded" on him going uphill! Ian finally admitted that he had done a good deal of mileage on these wheels, and it could be time to change them. With visions of them and him exploding on a fast downhill section, he succumbed to ordering them express from Wiggle. They flew them to Marseille and then drove them to Guillestre, for £15!