Ride report: Everesting Mount Ventoux
It all started a few weeks before Christine and I left for vacation
in Provence: she was checking out the June climbing challenge on Strava, and noticed that there was a
special reward for people who complete the challenge by "Everesting"
a climb: a titanium medal. Christine mentioned this to me and jokingly
suggested that I could Everest Ventoux to get the medal. At this
point, she should really know better than to joke with me about stuff
It so happened that during our trip, there was a day where the rest
of the group would be riding mountain bikes. I'm not really much
of an MTBer so that day seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The night before I checked the maps with our local expert, Youenn,
and the routing seemed straightforward enough. I also calculated the
elevation: I would need to do at least 5 climbs to get an Everest's
worth of elevation, and maybe 6. I'm not sure how the "rules" on
Everesting work, but I was just trying to get that much elevation
during the entire ride, including going there and back. I guess by
a more "pure" definition of Everesting, you should only include the
elevation gained on the climb itself.
Knowing I was in for a long day, I didn't have any booze the night
before and tried to go to bed early. Unfortunately, I couldn't sleep
well. I was nervous and kept thinking about the ride, tossing and
turning. Eventually I did get a few hours of sleep, and woke abruptly
to the alarm after a disappointingly short slumber.
I loaded up on granola, yoghurt and coffee and rolled out just before 7.
I was estimating an hour of transit each way, and 2 hours for each
ascent/descent, so 12 hours total. In retrospect, this was WAY too
optimistic, but more on that later.
I made my way over to Sault, which is the base village for the "easy"
way up. I took it easy and racked up 500 meters of climbing just getting
there. Off to a good start!
The way the roads work up to the summit, there are two approaches that
join at a chalet called Chalet Reynard. Sault is one of these, and is
the less challenging of the two, starting from a higher elevation and
having a more gentle gradient. The other approach that meets Chalet
Reynard starts from Bédoin, and is the most famous approach. To
the chalet, its gradient averages 9-10% over 14km. Then there is a
third approach, completely distinct from the other two, on the "back"
(i.e. northern) side of the mountain, from Malaucène. This
approach seems to be less commonly-ridden, and while it is similar
in length to the Bédoin approach, its gradient is more varied,
ranging from 4% to 14%.
My first ascent from Sault went well, and I was able to enjoy the
relative cool of the morning air. The 6km stretch from Chalet Reynard
to the summit was windy, and I would become intimately familiar with
it during the course of the day. This was also my first encounter with
the freelance cyclist photographers. Apparently Ventoux is a popular
enough destination for cyclists that photographers can make a decent
living just going up there and taking photos of cyclists as they pass
by, then running behind them to shove a business card in a jersey
pocket. I was pretty surprised the first time this happened, but got
used to it quickly. The card has a website URL and time range written
on it, so you can go find your photo later and pay a fairly large
sum of money for it if you want (though I will note that hanging out
near the summit of Ventoux all day is probably not terribly pleasant,
and all in all it's way more useful and less annoying than many other
tourist traps, so...)
First ascent under my belt, I hit up the little shop at the
top to refill my water, ate half a Cliff bar, and rode down to
Bédoin. The descent to Bédoin was fun, though on the way
down I noticed that it seemed a bit steep and of course I knew what
was coming next :) I also saw a guy hauling his kid up the mountain
in a trailer, and wondered if one day maybe I could be that much of
In Bédoin I quickly found the local boulangerie mobbed by
cyclists, and figured that would be a good pit stop. I inhaled a slice
of pizza and made my way back out of town. It was already warming up
and I went through most of my bottle on the way to the chalet, leaving
very little water for the last 6km. There's a fountain at about 5km
from the top, where I could have stopped, but I didn't know if it
was potable (it is) and figured I was close enough to just go for it.
This was by far the most crowded it would be all day; a HUGE group
of Dutch tourists was making their way up. It was a strange group,
in that they had incredible support (medical vans, feed stations,
mechanical support -- I saw one guy given a spare bike when he had
a flat) but were clearly very inexperienced riders. Many of these
folks were very wobbly, some of them had collapsed on the side of
the road, etc. Anyway, despite being half Dutch I found these folks
pretty annoying. Their riding and their support vehicles' driving was
quite unsafe. Fortunately, they weren't descending; they got bussed
down from the top (I guess I'll at least give them kudos for riding
up and bussing down, instead of the other way around like they do
at Haleakala). As if to offset the suckiness of the Dutch tourists,
a super strong Dutch woman (at least I'm assuming she was Dutch
because her jersey had all Dutch stuff on it) came flying past me on
the last 6km of this ascent, crushing me and (I hope) everyone else
on the mountain .
After navigating the wobbly Dutch tourists, I chugged a Coke at the
top, ate the other half of my Cliff bar, and headed down the "back"
side of the mountain to Malaucène.
In Malaucène I found another boulangerie but the cyclist
ahead of me in line bought their last slice of pizza, which was the
last savory thing in the whole place, so I had to resort to a pain
au chocolat. Rough times. Water bottle filled back up, I made my out
of town for the third ascent. This one was by far the hardest of the
day, probably because it was quite hot and I really had to ration my
water. I had already gone through half of it at about 7km of 21km,
so I really had to pay attention and take small sips from then on. The
last 10km of that approach are also the steepest, so this was really
poor planning on my part.
Mixing things up, I chugged an orange juice at the top this time,
refilled water again, and blasted down to Bédoin for the fourth
ascent. It was late afternoon at this point, and I was starting to
get worried about time. My water planning fail fresh in my mind, I
filled up my bottle and got a second to shove in my jersey pocket. At
this point in the day, my shoes were giving me horrible hotspots
, and this was the first ascent of the day that I didn't complete
non-stop. At around 10km from the summit I stopped to swap water and
give my feet a break. Feeling a bit 'broken' by this experience,
I soldiered on and made my customary visit to the shop at the
summit. Concerned about time, I asked the shopkeeper when they closed.
"Vous remontez?!?" , she said, with a look of combined disbelief
and concern on her face. "Oui" was my response in a tone of voice that
I can only imagine conveyed intense sorrow. "Désolée,
mais nous serons fermés la prochaine fois."
Having no time to waste, I made my way back down to Bédoin
again. The complete idiot that I am, I had forgotten my lights when
rolling out in the morning. There's a bike shop in Bédoin,
but they were closing up for the day and very rudely refused to let
me pop in quickly to buy a light. The boulangerie was also closed,
so I had to resort to junk food from a "tabac" (aka quik-e-mart
type place). I bought 3 Cokes, chugged one, filled my bottle with
the other two, scarfed my last Cliff bar and threw another bottle of
water and a couple chocolate bars in the jersey pockets for ye olde
The last climb was pretty unremarkable; I again had to stop to give my
feet a rest and refill my bottle, but at least this time I made it to
the Chalet Reynard (now all closed up) to do so. The last 6km in the
open slate environment were chilly, and I was not looking forward to
the descent. Dusk had arrived, and while the summit was beautiful with
Karl obscuring the setting sun, I had no time to spare and didn't even
stop rolling at the top. There was one other lone cyclist up there,
who also seemed to be pondering his life choices, much as I was.
Despite the cold I wanted to descend quickly and get it over with.
My plan to get back to our guest house was to go back through Sault,
which is a longer descent than to Bédoin. Light was becoming
increasingly scarce on the way down, and a few deer and a fox on the
road made sure I was paying attention.
When I finally made it down, I was extremely grateful for the little
ramp into the center of Sault that allowed me to warm up slightly. I
cruised through, and there were a few people about, but it was
Only about 30km left from Sault to the guest house, but it was now
pitch black so as soon as I saw any headlights I had to pull off
the road completely, as cars would be completely unable to see me. I
chose the steeper and shorter of two routes back, and the descent into
Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt was definitely 'challenging' in the dark.
I rolled in to the guest house at about 2320, completely shelled,
and having worried Christine sick by leaving my phone in airplane
mode to save battery and thus not getting or responding to any of her
texts (another idiot move on my part, sigh). Though this was nowhere
near my longest ride, it was the most climbing I'd ever done in a
single ride, even more than the Devil
Mountain Triple. Fortunately for me, Christine's happiness at my
being alive seemed to mostly overcome her anger at my idiocy. Strava
uploading, showerbeer, food and sleep were all quickly forthcoming,
and deeply enjoyed.
 Note to any male riders who might be reading this: when the
super strong badass Dutch cyclist crushed me, I did not instantly
accelerate and try to catch her in a vain attempt to demonstrate
some non-existent athletic superiority over her. I simply grinned,
comtemplated her badassery (yes that's totally a word) and hoped
that she would crush everyone else on the mountain as well.
 Before you go all "well it's your own damn fault for wearing
those ridiculous shoes", this was a new set of shoes (Chrome) that
I'm trying out because my old ones are worn out and they don't
make them any more. The old Keen Austin shoes that I had never gave
me hotspots, even on much longer rides.
 Almost more remarkable about this exchange was that the shopkeeper
had decided that I was worthy of vouvoiement, addressing me
with the polite "vous", even when I must have looked a complete and