Col de la Ramaz and Col des Charmettes

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A nice loop with the main objective to climb the steeper side of Col de la Ramaz from Taninges. The second part of the ride includes some unplanned col-hunting on an unpaved, snowy road.

Stage 20 of the 2016 Tour de France will feature Col de la Ramaz. The stage route will also be used for the Etape du Tour. I reviewed the route in some detail here.

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But today I was climbing the side that the Tour will descend. I started at the nicely signed climb-summary-sign on the edge of Taninges.

I followed the D307 towards Lesgets. This supremely quiet road follows the opposite edge of the gorges taken by the main D902. It’s a far better choice any time one is linking Morzine or Lesgets with Taninges or Samoëns. It’s the difference between being passed by a couple of hundred cars, or perhaps none.

Half way to Lesgets is the turn left up to Ramaz and Le Praz de Lys ski station. And here begins four very steep kilometres. The road was marked as closed due to a recent land-slide, but it was fine by bike.

Steep but sexy hairpin

Steep but sexy hairpin

Above the ski station, the road was again marked as closed, but was it was quite open.

Don't believe everything you read

Don’t believe everything you read

With Col de la Ramaz, you can make bigger road bike loops that also include one or all of Col de l’Encrenaz, Col de la Joux Verte, and the legendary Col de Joux Plane. Here are two examples: Ramaz/Joux_Verte/Encrenaz/Joux_Plane loop and Joux_Plane/Encrenaz/Ramaz loop

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I was wearing my new PodiumCafe.com wind breaker. Nice kit.

Getting repaved for the Tour de France

Getting repaved for the Tour de France

I descended the other side, doing the usual detour on the old cliff road that bypasses the modern tunnel. It’s covered in small landslide debris, and feels less safe every-time I take it, but more fun than a tunnel.

The old cliff coad

The old cliff coad

Soon after, I turned off the main route onto a small side road that quickly becomes unpaved — too rough for a road bike. It’s a great detour that heads much higher with some very steep stretches. First through woods but soon above the tree line.

I’d been here once before, visiting Col de Cordon. As the route became snow covered, I considered a return visit as I was within half a kilometre – see map below – but it would require some carrying, and I had another goal in mind.

Here is an old ride up Ramaz that then explores a couple of unpaved cols: First Col de Chavan, detouring up a great farm route off main Ramaz road and then Col de Cordon.

Haute Point

Haute Point

So I kept heading higher, to the end of the road at Les Charmettes d’en Haut. From here, the snow covered route was more hiking trail than road, but I was close to what I thought was Col des Follys, so I kept going – I could see the sign. But when I arrived, while it looked like a col, a huge drop on far side, but checking my GPS IGN map it was still a stretch further.

A couple of times in the past, I’ve done some stupid snow traverses carrying a bike and had promised myself “never again.” This didn’t seem particularly dangerous, but ….. more fun to save for a return visit where I can pedal it. So no Col des Follys

Col des Follys ahead.  Return visit required.

Col des Follys ahead. Return visit required.

But the good news? I was certain I was at a col, so I checked the Club des Cent Cols database. And indeed, I had reached Col des Charmettes (1656 metres). Wooohooo. There were perhaps more creative ways to return to the start, but I just headed back to the Ramaz main road, and then Taninges. Always fun to cycle cols just as they’re opening as snow adds to the atmosphere. A decent ride.

Remember, on the edge of Taninges is the Chartreuse de Mélan:

Chartreuse de Mélan Monastery and my favourite bench

Chartreuse de Mélan Monastery and my favourite bench

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6 Comments

  1. Nick Harris on

    Hi Will,

    Great post, as usual. 🙂

    One question: at this time of year, how do you know before you leave the house (or do you) whether a high col like the Ramaz or Colombiere, is cleared of snow or passable by bike? It seems like the French route websites I check are quite often out of date, or the cols are officially barred but in practice passable. In the past I’ve tried my luck and sometimes got lucky, sometimes not. Any tips well received!

    Cheers,
    Nick.

    • Hi Nick,

      Yes, I think there is often a few day window when cols are passable before officially open. I remember cycling the south side of Iseran the day before the opening and seeing literally hundreds of marmottes as they seemed to have forgotten to be afraid of humans.
      1. I do monitor the official government sites for opening and closings. At least if they say “open” one is certain it’s open.
      2. Sometimes I email local tourist offices. They often know the “official plan” as the opening approaches – the above Iseran example the guy told me it was fine for bikes. Valloire often seems current on the Galibier plan (often reachable from south side well before “open.”)
      3. For Ramaz, it seemed to me it should be open, so I actually used the twitter search bar and found a tweet from some stranger saying he’d passed over the day before.
      4. I stopped a descending cyclist early on and asked him where he’d come from 🙂
      5. I have found that ignoring closed signs – as long as things don’t get too crazy – often works 🙂

  2. Col de la ramez is a bit of a hidden gem to non locals, first did it last year on a borrowed(friend who lives near Cluse) 30year old steel framed marin mountain bike, on only its second set of tyres and still the original brakes.
    Did it from the Mieussy side and had to hang on to the brakes down the otherside, it was interesting stoping for the land slide.
    But a nice little ride

  3. Martin Mandel on

    Hi Will,
    I was there for a change (ho ho) on the 11th too but didn’t leave home until 16.30. Thunderstorm started just after the tunnel on the way down!! Made for an interesting sprint back home.
    For mountain biking the Charmettes is great and the traverse to Follys is fun too. I usually continue on a good track to the Col du Jambaz, then back to Onnion via Megevette. There is also a nice climb to Ajon/Plaine Joux from Megevette if you want to extend the loop.
    Cheers

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