Col des Chasseurs and Col de Sur Cou

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This is a great but challenging “exploration” loop on the north edge of the French Alps in the same massif as Plateau des Glières. To reach the high point – Col de Sur Cou (1605 metres) – it’s first a tiny paved road, then steep gravel, and finally trails.

This ride is a classic example of me staring at detailed maps in search of nearby cols that I have never cycled and hoping the little roads/trails are fun by bike. 🙂

I started in St. Pierre-en-Faucigny entering the very north edge of the French Alps through the Gorges des Evaux. It’s a beautiful narrow road, but has plenty of fast traffic and blind corners. Usually I’d take the little cliff road that runs parallel/above on the east side, but it was closed today. No worries. I soon turned off the main road (at Termine). Here the adventure begins.

I crossed the gorge and headed up. The first 4 kilometres are paved and very steep – just a little road up to a few farms/chalets. It’s consistently well above 10%.

Nice hairpin

Nice hairpin

At roughly 1000 metres the paved road ends – becoming good quality gravel. Initially there is a long stretch that is crazy steep, in the high teens, tough on gravel. I had to push a couple of times. After that hell, it’s lovely again. 🙂

Nice gravel road in the woods

Nice gravel road in the woods

Sambuis
Scenic, a rare flat stretch

Scenic, a rare flat stretch

At Bellajoux / Les Mouilles the road ends. Here I would make a detour, basically on a hiking trail, to Col des Chasseurs (1490m). Great views.

View from Col des Chausseurs

View from Col des Chausseurs

As a Chasseur des Cols (Hunter of Cols) I was very excited to reach Col des Chasseurs. So when I saw a fallen sign on the ground nearby, I propped it up for a photo.

actual name is Col des Chasseurs

NB: Correct name is Col des Chasseurs

I doubled back and rejoined my main route. The trail deteriorates here, and even some easy stretches become hard work. But it’s a beautiful environment.

Road is getting rougher

The last smooth stretch

I had wanted to climb Col du Freu (above my head in photo below), but I could see it was far too crazy for a bike. Getting over Freu would have linked up with the valley above but with easy access to Plateau des Glières (see links at bottom of post).

Col du Freu above

Col du Freu above

But I had a back up plan and continued to Col du Petit Cou (1570m), and the nearby Col de Sur Cou (1605m) – both marked on the map.

Col de Sur Cou and another broken sign

Col de Sur Cou and another broken sign

From Col du Petit Cou there is a steep ascent (I walked) down to a farm. Here a rough gravel road begins leading down to the tiny ski station of Orange. This descent was steep enough in a couple of places that I again walked despite a mountain bike and disc brakes. But I am a wimp and it’s very nice stretch.

Finally, from Orange I took a fantastic ridge road partly gravel partly paved – completely deserted, high above the valley below, before winding back down to the start. Sorry, I was hot and thirsty and took no photos on the descent. But trust me, fantastic stretch of road.

This is a very fun, challenging little route well off the beaten track. It requires a mountain bike and a touch of pushing in places, but it was well worth the effort.

More climbs in this massif:

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

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