Col du Solude

7

This is a great route (map at bottom).

soludeeast solude_west

If you have climbed Alpe d’Huez, you may have looked across the valley and seen an amazing little road carved into the cliffs above Bourg d’Oisans. I’d avoided it for years, but with my new found “tunnel courage” I finally went to explore. :)

The climb starts from the back of Bourg d’Oisans and heads up immediately. A sign warns of four unlit tunnels, but I was prepared with 3 lights — wooohooo!

And these were indeed dark tunnels. The longest was just under 400 metres, but uphill. Two tunnels also had turns in them making them pitch dark. A couple of the tunnels are so narrow that I was ready to point at light at any car and suqeeze against a wall, but in fact, I didn’t see a car for the entire climb.

Entrance to 4 Tunnels

Entrance to 4 Tunnels

The tunnels are along the fabulous cliff stretch visible from the valley below. From here, I could clearly see the little known cliff road across the valley that I always recommend to people. It links the lower slopes of Alpe d’Huez to the lower slopes of Col de Sarenne - more details here.

View of Great Cliff Road

View of Great Cliff Road

After the tunnels, the route is just as good. It winds up and up, in a fabulous environment, getting ever closer to big mountains. Unfortunately it was overcast, but this entire route seemed so beautiful that I am eager to do it on a perfect day.
Big waterfall behind

Big waterfall behind

The road is only paved until Villard Notre Dame (10 kms), but this includes most of the climbing and is more than worthwhile if you only have a road bike. After a couple of great signs warning of the dangerous road ahead, I continued for the last four unpaved kilometres to the col.

This stretch is a lot of fun – and occasionally vertiginous – with avalanche debris and no barriers on the flatter stretches. I was treated to more fantastic views of the valley below and Alpe d’Huez across the valley.

alps

I had a glance through some old photos of climbing Alpe d’Huez. Below is one that shows Col du Solude up high, and the start of the cliff road below, in the distance. Photo taken from about half way up the Alpe. You can also see Bourg d’Oisans below.

alpee

Just a little over Col du Solude is the little perched village of Villard Reymond, situated at the top of a long gorge, up against big mountains. From the town, the road is paved all the way down. It is a wonderful descent and more than worth climbing too (note, above I included the profile for this side).

Much of the road is cut into a cliff above a tight gorge. Also some great hairpins.

Villard Reymond side

The road exits onto the lower slopes of Col d’Ornon. The fun descent continues from here down to the main road just north of Bourg d’Oisans.

This is such a fun loop. Bring a light or two for the tunnels, a bike with thicker tires, and enjoy.

Route 2,610,202 – powered by www.bikemap.net

9.3 Awesome

A superb, near deserted, road with unbelievable views throughout. If you don't mind a few tunnels, this is a truly memorable loop. Remember only paved to the highest villages on each side.

  • Difficulty 8
  • Views 9.5
  • Quiet / No Traffic 10
  • Fun Factor 9.5
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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

7 Comments

  1. I’d also noticed this road while riding in the Alpe d’Huez region. Thanks for the description, it sounds even more awesome than I’d imagined. I’ll have to make it there one day.

  2. awesome, I have run as far as that longer tunnel but wasn’t game to go further. WIll be heading there in 3 weeks and will hire a mountain bike and do that circuit.

  3. Scott Neilson on

    Great post, a group of us rode the same loop last year, although we rocked up on road bikes and rode the gravel road all the way up to Col du Solude, miraculously with no punctures! Check out the climb up to Oulles if you get a chance at the bottom of the descent off the Col d’Ornon, hairpin heaven.

  4. Tony, I am not 100% certain if cars are even permitted. Generally it would be OK, except a kilometre or so stretch that is a gravel cliff road with no barrier and signs of lots of little landslides. I wouldn’t take my car there.

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