Chasing the dawn on Mont Ventoux

A few years ago, if Andy had suggested watching the sunrise from the summit of Mont Ventoux, I would have worked out how long it would take us to drive there, set an alarm and enjoyed the drive across and up the mountain.

But that was a few years ago and things change. So a couple of evenings ago when we started chatting about heading up to watch the sunrise, the whole conversation was around how long it would take to cycle up from Sault and where we could get head-torches from to light the way.

One of my early trips up Mont Ventoux on my old Hybrid with its basket!

So often we chat about doing something and never quite get round to doing it as life gets in the way, but this time the boys aren’t with us and we had no reason not to do it, so the suggestion quickly became a plan. As it would be a full moon, with good weather (and very light winds) we decided to do it sooner rather than later, so last night the bikes were loaded into the car and we set the alarm for 2.15 this morning.

Even at 2.30 as we left the house, the sky was bright with the full moon

There’s something so exciting about getting up in the early hours like that, it somehow throws me back into the excitement of travelling during the night on childhood holidays, so I bounced out of bed, threw on my cycle kit and packed our last bits of kit, whilst Andy gave Millie a quick walk.

The drive across the Saint Christol Plateau to Sault was beautiful with the lavender fields just visible by the light of the full moon and Deer, Foxes and Wild Boars being caught, looking surprised in the headlights.

Unpacking the car at Sault ….. Are we mad?

Unloading the car at Sault, we almost felt like naughty teenagers, trying not to wake the neighbours as we giggled about what we were doing, whilst tying our warm clothing around the handlebars and clipping in to ride off.

Warm clothes round handlebars, head-torch lit… all ready to go

Needless to say (as this was a bit of last-minute planning), we had no winter cycling kit with us, so had cobbled together a motley collection of jackets, fleeces and leggings which meant we didn’t really look the part as we started to head off along the road that leads towards the mountain.

Not exactly state of the art & height of fashion cycling kit…. but needs must….

It felt so different to be on the mountain in the dark, totally alone without the usual trail of cyclists passing in both directions and no cars either … The most perfect cycle path.

Empty road lit by the moon

The only light came from our head-torches and the bright full-moon……

The sky was bright all the way up

And the only sound came from the rustling of leaves and snapping of sticks as unseen animals dashed out of sight into the woodland as we continued to climb.

Even though it was chilly, we soon warmed up on the climb and wrapped yet more of our layers around the handlebars, climbing in just short-sleeved jerseys and shorts. What was strange though was that every so often, for no apparent reason we would hit a patch of warm air that would last a few hundred metres, before it turned chillier again….

Hard to believe this was all the layers needed for the climb

Once we passed Chalet Reynard we started to see the skies behind us becoming lighter and taking on the apricot tones of the approaching dawn. Although we knew we still had an hour to get to the summit before sunrise at 6.12 am., it was hard not to panic that we might miss it having come all this way……

Just after the first bend following Chalet Reynard … dawn started chasing us up the road

So we continued on, watching the colours on the mountain shift from dark greys and browns ….

Monotone colouring under the moon

To paler tones as the early light started to move across the sky….

Dawn approaching as we climbed the last 6km

The view into the valley, back towards The Luberon was incredible, with the small towns and villages lit up, twinkling below us as we watched the summit get closer with every turn of the pedals…..

Looking back across the valley

Reaching the Col Des Tempetes I was stopped dead in my tracks by the view (although to be honest by this point I was very happy to have a stop!). The view across the layers of blue mountains towards the distant rocky mountain tops, set against an orange sky was utterly stunning …. To be honest there is no photo that could ever really do it justice….

Nothing prepared me for this ….

The final few hundred metres to the summit passed in a blur of colour and excitement that we would actually make it to the top with about 15 minutes to spare before the sun poked its face over the distant ridge…..

It felt as if we were higher than the moon

I must admit that as I turned the last corner and rode past the sign marking the summit, the view brought tears to my eyes. I knew it would be spectacular, but what I saw outstripped any preconceived ideas of what it would be like, happily there was a small group of cyclists who captured the moment for us (as we captured it for them)

Utterly stunning colours as we arrived at the summit

All that was left was to pile on the layers we had brought with us (as the pre-dawn chill was quickly getting into our bones) and watch the sun start its progress into the sky above us…..

Time to wait for the sun

We were transfixed by the sight…..

First shafts of sunlight breaching the distant ridge

Utterly, utterly stunning….

The colours were incredible

Certainly worth the early start and every turn of the pedal…..

Even the view away from the sunrise was spectacular, as the light threw an enormous shadow of the mountain across the valley below ……

A Mont Ventoux-shaped shadow, stretching across the valley floor towards Carpentras

Of course we made the most of the peace and quiet, especially once we had the summit to ourselves after the other cyclists started to ride back down the mountain, leaving us to enjoy the solitude.

Beautiful light and peace at the summit

I can’t imagine that there are many other times of the day in late July that you can just wander up and pop your bike against the Summit post to take a photo….

I never tire of seeing my bike here

Or take a selfie in front of the landmark tower, with hardly anyone else in sight….

Worth the ride

Eventually though, with the sun now high above the horizon, we decided it was time to go and started the descent back down the mountain towards Sault, well wrapped-up in our layers against the unexpectedly cold morning air (certainly much lower than the expected 14 degrees)

Starting to head down

As always the ride back down was an absolute delight, watching the sunlight move across the hillside, whilst the birds started their early-morning chatter…..

The sun starting to warm the mountainside

We did snigger though as we started to see cyclists heading off up the mountain for their early ride, smart in their matching cycle kit, smiling at us and probably wondering what on earth these two grinning idiots dressed in a mish-mash of tracksuit bottoms and fleeces were doing weaving their way back down the road at just before 7 am….. we were so happy!!

Even just after 7am the road is still quiet …. not a car in sight

Then back down through the Lavender Fields……

The scent of the cut lavender was superb

…..their scent rising in the early-morning light……

Taking a moment

…. And the air filled with the sound of bees, busy around the acres of flowers…

The purple view is incredible

And finally back into Sault for a much-needed and well-earned breakfast

Almond croissants and a Grand Creme

And a quick wander around the wonderful Wednesday morning market A visit to Sault on Market Day

The gentle start to the Wednesday Market

Before finally heading back to the house and a rest ….. all home by 10.30 am after a full day (or probably more precisely, night) of excitement …..

I loved this ….

I have a feeling though that it won’t be the last time we head up to watch the incredible palette of colours that comes with watching the sun rise from the summit of Mont Ventoux

Golden morning-light …. just stunning

Shared via #FarawayFiles

Fifi and Hop

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Carole Handel says:

    Absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing this adventure.

    1. Thanks… It was such an incredible experience… The joy of getting up there, seeing the sky and then the sunrise itself will stay with me for a long time 🙂

  2. Sharon says:

    What an adventure! I don’t think you’re crazy at all. This is something I would love to do, and you’ll always remember this sunrise. I did get up in the wee hours to drive into the Grand Canyon park to see the sunrise and it was spectacular. And you rode your bikes here in the dark — good for you!

    1. It was wonderful and the delight of simply riding on an empty mountain with headtorches watching the sky change to dawn… We’ll certainly remember it… Mind you watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon sounds incredible too… Can you cycle there 😉

  3. Bright Lights of America says:

    You really deserved that coffee and pastry by the end! I used to set my alarm for 3am to go for a long run, but even I was like “2.15am? REALLY?” You guys have more motivation that I do! That photo of the blankets of blue is absolutely gorgeous and I can see why you did the ride. #FarawayFiles

    1. Thanks… It was incredible and well worth the early alarm. We seemed to get going really easily considering the time and the views were Jaw-droppingly stunning… I think we’ll be making it an annual event now #FarawayFiles

  4. Janis says:

    What a wonderful thing to do, it looks incredible that time of day and such an achievement. I must admit I don’t think I could cycle up there, we drove up there a few years ago and the views are wonderful. From memory it was pretty cold and that was September during the day. Well done. #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks… It really was wonderful and worth doing… The sense of achievement in getting to the summit of Mont Ventoux is always great, but to do it to watch the sunrise made it even more special #FarawayFiles

  5. What a beautiful post and inspiring experience! I’m impressed by how well you timed it as well, especially cycling in the dark.I know you had lamps but still. I can see it was all well worth the early wake-up and trek up – what a gorgeous sunrise! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks I’m pleased you enjoyed it and it was a very special experience. It was strange to see the sky getting lighter and worrying that we would miss the actual sunrise, but somehow we timed it perfectly, which was wonderful… The sunrise was certainly worth the effort 😊 #farawayfiles

  6. really gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing. x

    1. The photos really don’t do it justice… It was utterly jaw-dropping x

  7. Lovely description and photos, thanks. We did this twice last year. Literally the best ride ever.
    We descended to Malaucene which keeps the beautiful mountains in view for longer. The first time we looped back through the Gorge de la Nesque. 2nd time, the other way via Toulerenc. Both amazing. Both a bit too hot by the time we were on the last bits. It was crazy hot last August. . . But obviously we’re planning to do it again this year!

    1. It’s stunning isn’t it… I love the ride through the Gorges De La Nesque… Utterly beautiful and so peaceful. Arrived back in Provence last night so bikes out again today, just for a little Valley ride… Happily the weather has cooled a little now.. The early 40s of June this year were the worst

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