Col de Pennes (1040m) – route 2

Col de Pennes certainly is a little treasure – if you’ve read my ‘route 1’ for the col you’ll already be aware that there are two ways up to it from each side, so you have eight possible combinations of ascents and descents. I haven’t done all of them, partly because I think I’d find the ascent I chose today a fairly hairy descent, thanks to the gradient and twistiness.

So, the ascent: from the Vallée de la Roanne road (the D135) I took the D595a to Pennes le Sec. Mind you, I think I must have been a bit mad to decide to ascend that way today: it’s a sharpish ascent from the outset, the afternoon sun had been warming everything nicely, and the exposed ascent was still in full sun. It’s extraordinary how cool 30C in the shade can feel in those circumstances. I’m rather glad I had the excuse of taking photos to stop and cool down a fraction.

The descent was via Jansac to Recoubeau – none of the Col de Pennes descents are fast (they are all technical), though this one (apart from one ‘airy’ section that clings to a crumbly-looking cliff face) has some straighter sections. At least, today, it hadn’t been resurfaced and left with loose gravel, as had the Aucelon road (which featured in route 1). In any case, it’s worth taking your time and being prepared to stop – some of the views are stunning, either of the Roanne Valley on the ascent, or the magnificent Drôme Valley and mountains beyond on the descent.

A couple of notes: don’t rely on the ‘eau potable’ (see photo) on the ascent: at today’s rate I think I’d have reached retirement age before having a full bottle. (Incidentally, there is drinkable water from a marked pipe out of the cliff by the roadside about 1km out of St Benoît, just before the ‘tunnel’.) And be sensible about how hard you ride in hot weather: I took it extremely gently and it was still hard in the heat: when I got home it was still 30C in the shade, and had peaked at 53C in direct sun. Distinctly warm.

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