Biggest grouping of Cols in the French Alps

Sunny Portrush

Über Member
Location
Musselburgh
I was just wondering if anyone knew the best area of the French Alps to give you the biggest amount of Cols.

To point out what I mean, I stayed in Le Bourg D`Oisans last summer. There, within a relatively small area you have Alpe D`Huez, Col du Glandon, Croix de Fer, Telegraphe and the Galiber which is quite a collection.

Anyone else know of an area like that?
 

andrew_s

Guru
Location
Gloucester
Barcelonette
Bonette, Vars, Cayolle, Allos, Larche, and, if you're feeling adventurous, the Parpaillon, or maybe the Lombarde as a long 3 col ride with the Larche and Bonette.
 

Foghat

Guru
Bourg St Maurice is a very pleasant town and a good hub in the French Alps - with a handy railway station too (although I drive for maximum flexibility and to take extra gear, tools etc). The following cols and dead-end climbs are all pretty accessible from there:
  • Col de L'Iseran - huge climb from Bourg, spectacular scenery, unlit tunnels necessitate rear light
  • Villaroger - nice, quiet, narrow, shaded alternative to a reasonably long section of the busy main road on the way up to Val d'Isere and the Iseran
  • Cormet de Roselend - real top-drawer pass, with very fast southern/eastern descent section near top if a good westerly tailwind (60+mph achievable with strong wind). Watch out for the lethal Bruyneel bend on the southern descent just before the sequence of short tight hairpins below the Vallee des Chapieux mid-climb plateau section (excellent side valley off from here too, up another decent climb to La Ville des Glaciers, with great views of glaciers hanging above)
  • Col du Pre - alternative route to northern/western ascent of Cormet de Roselend, if you want extra (hard) climbing and miles
  • Col du Petit St Bernard - nearly 20 miles continuously uphill (i.e. no downhill or flat sections) from the very (i.e topographical) base at the bridge over the Isere river by the hydroelectric power station between Bourg and Seez, but less steep than many. Eastern ascent in Italy is noticeably tougher
  • Cormet d'Areches (a few gravel km at summit, wider (28+mm) tyres advised) - whole climb unrelentingly tough but very nice and has a remote feel to it. Link to Col du Pre and Cormet de Roselend for an impressive and demanding circuit
  • Col de La Madeleine - classic Tour de France pass, linking Maurienne and Isere valleys
  • Col du Joly - tremendous views of Mont Blanc during much of the ascent, but not a fully traversable col on a road bike as the surface changes to off-road at the top
  • Col des Saisies
  • Col des Aravis
  • Arc 2000 - soulless ski station at the top but a decent not-too-busy hefty dead-end climb and can link to beautiful Peisey-Nancroix valley via Arc 1800 for a good circuit
  • La Plagne - ski station dead-end, scene of the epic "that looks like Stephen Roche" Liggett-commentated Roche fightback on the finish line back in 1987
  • Val Thorens - ski station dead-end
  • Courchevel - ski station dead-end
  • Meribel - ski station dead-end
  • Peisey-Nancroix (Refuge de Rosuel) - raised, hanging valley south-west of Bourg, very scenic once you get up into it, although once had an encounter on the climb that put me in mind of the Annecy murders
  • Les Coches (Les Bauches) - dead-end above ski station on southern flank of Isere valley, south-west of Bourg
  • Plan Bois, near Les Coches - very tough (sustained steepness for 8 or more miles all the way up from Macot La Plagne) but quiet, secluded and narrow climb, and plenty of shade through wooded sections. Can link to top of Les Coches for an interesting circuit, or to La Plagne if on wider tyres (gravel sections on link)
  • Notre Dame du Pre - between Aime and Moutiers on southern flank of Isere valley
  • Valmorel - dead-end climb near Moutiers
  • Pralognan La Vanoise (Refuge Le Repoju) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
  • Champagny (Refuge du Laisonnay) - dead-end climb south-east from Moutiers
If you want a very big day out and can handle going over the Iseran twice in order to get there and then home, there's also the fantastic but little known Plan du Lac near Termignon plus the easier side of the nice Col du Mont Cenis near Lansleboutrg. Keep going west down the Maurienne valley from Termignon and you come to the northern ascents of the Galibier, Croix de Fer and Glandon….or up over the Madeleine for a monster circuit back to Bourg St Maurice. Having a car makes getting to these further afield areas a lot more feasible, of course.

The new (this year) cyclists' tunnel at the Tunnel du Siaix on the road from Bourg to Moutiers now makes heading west from Bourg to the Madeleine, to the western/northern ascents of the two Cormets, and to the cluster of ski station climbs around Moutiers, a far more tolerable experience than before.

Superb cycling terrain.
 
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Foghat

Guru
Barcelonette
Bonette, Vars, Cayolle, Allos, Larche, and, if you're feeling adventurous, the Parpaillon, or maybe the Lombarde as a long 3 col ride with the Larche and Bonette.
Col des Champs too between Allos and Cayolle for a good three-col circuit from Barcelonette.

Very high cols of Izoard, Granon and Agnel also within sensible range if able to drive-ride.
 
OP
Sunny Portrush

Sunny Portrush

Über Member
Location
Musselburgh
Foghat - that is excellent info indeed. I had stayed in Bourg D`Oisans last year for a couple of days (family in tow lol). I did Alpe d`Huez and was going to do Croix de la Fer but it was 38 degrees and I thought I was gonna melt so gave up.

I quite like the idea of staying in La Chambre so I can do the Madeleine and Col du Glandon.

However, I would be hiring a bike, the gearing on my own is ideal for the Alps! I think I can hire a bike in Bourg St Maurice but nothing appears to be available in La Chambre.

I do like the idea of tackling the Iseran!
 

Foghat

Guru
The Croix de Fer is definitely worth having another go at....an epic climb. Note that there's a pretty unwelcome climb in the western descent (or a welcome/unwelcome descent in the western ascent, depending on how you look at it) due to re-routeing of the road around a major landslide in the mid/late-1980s. Glandon/Croix de Fer is a nice circuit from La Chambre.

La Chambre - not much going on there and always seems a bit dead when I've cycled through, so not surprised you haven't found bike hire. In comparison, Bourg St Maurice is a busy, active town with plenty of facilities. The intriguingly-engineered Lacets de Montvernier climb is very close by La Chambre, though, adding interest.

Thoroughly recommend the Iseran, especially from the southern 'easier' and quieter side you'd presumably be approaching from if staying in La Chambre. Would be a big day out from there, also cycling past all the old Maurienne military forts near Modane, unless you drive-ride it, perhaps starting from Lanslebourg or Termignon instead.

There's quite a few less well known climbs in and around the Maurienne valley - @Shut Up Legs is your man for those, though:
French Alps 2019
 
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