Bastien is a fellow Col hunter. I have long admired his photos and often taken his cycling route advice from his great blog – but we had never ridden together until now.
We agreed to meet at Bourg d’Oisans at the foot of Alpe d’Huez. I had no idea of the planned route, but I knew that we wouldn’t be doing something as standard as climbing Alpe d’Huez – I had no doubt that he had something special in mind. And I was correct.
Our route started by climbing the first few hairpins of Alpe d’Huez – steep! But at the first village, we left the famed road and turned right to take a wonderful cliff road – thus taking a hilly “long-cut” to the start of our main climb and avoiding the busier tunnel-filled main road (see map below).
We saw dozens of Marmottes today, often a feature of quiet, high routes.
At Lac du Chambon, we turned up towards Besse, briefly following the climb to Col de Sarenne. The road remains paved until a few kms past Besse and then becomes a good quality gravel road. After Besse, we leave civilization – and keep heading up into the mountains – the fun really starts here.
At 1900 metres we passed Col Nazie – but the road just kept going up. Finally we crossed over the Col Saint Georges (2245m) into a “secret” plateau: Plateau d’Emparis.”
Our next goal was Col du Souchet – this required a little detour onto hiking trails due to a misplaced ranch with unfriendly “do not enter” signs. Boo.
The Col is an amazing place. The glacier-filled peaks of La Meije dominate (these are the same mountains one sees lower down from Col du Lautaret). Sadly for our photos, the clouds had rolled in.
The 6 km descent down to Le Chazelet is not easy – it’s more a steep hiking trail than a road. Talented cyclists can ride most of it, but I had to push the bike for much of it. But again, a beautiful place.
From Le Chazelet, a short uphill to Col des Portes. Then it’s a steep, fast, paved descent to the main road, and then almost 30 fast kms back down to Bourg d’Oisans. Luckily, at this time of year there is far less traffic through the numerous tunnels.
Merci Bastien for a very enjoyable day! A wonderful route and that I never would have discovered on my own.