Unlike Col de Rousset, which is really a one-sided event (the spectacle and thrills are to the south of the col), Col de Pennes has four approaches, all worthwhile. From the east you can ascend from/descend to Recoubeau or Barnave, and on the western side there two roads from the Roanne Valley. I’ve ascended from both of these from the valley, and neither is particularly comfortable: the ascent through Pennes le Sec is unrelenting at the start, and the ascent via Aucelon keeps a bit of a sting in the tail.
Anyway, today, for the first time, I ascended from the east, via Barnave, and descended via Aucelon. It was a treat: the hairpins (nine of them) above Barnave give the feel of a proper (mini) Alpine climb, and quickly get you up to the col, at 1040m (from about 450m at the main road). From there, watch out for the sharp left turning to Aucelon (see photos). Do be cautious on the descent: there were a few gravelly bits, bit even with a perfect surface this wouldn’t be a descent to find your top speed, as it’s full of blind twists and turns, and some steepish drops to your right.
One observation I made while doing this ride was how on the ascent from Barnave the road gets to the col despite the geography (hence the hairpins), yet the Aucelon descent really works with the geography, following the contours round every little valley.
Anyway, enough words, and now for a pile of photos. I’ll annotate them at some stage when I’m on a PC (it’s a laborious task on a tablet), but they tell the story in the order below. They are a mixture of helpful (I hope) and pretty. Though the one of me doesn’t fall into either category.