Colle del Nivolet

11
Woohooo

Woohooo

nivolet250

Let’s get the hyperbole out of the way: This may be the most beautiful high Alps paved climb I have ever cycled. Seriously. :)

Colle del Nivolet is a gigantic climb in Piemonte, Italy in the heart of the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. It was built between 1953 and 1963 to service the two hydroelectric dams up high. The national park, along with the Vanoise National Park, (the connected French side of the highest mountains here), make up one of the largest protected natural areas in Europe. Apparently the wild ibix here migrate between the two parks.

Wikipedia lists it as the 8th highest paved road in Europe at 2641 metres (the summit sign say 2612m).

Happy Bike

Happy Bike

I started in Locana forty kilometres from the summit. In fact, the climb takes quite a while to get interesting. The first half is on a lightly trafficked, but main road that gently climbs towards high mountains. Nothing too special.

TIP: After 14 kms there is a 3.5 kilometre uphill tunnel (8% average). Not fun at all. To bypass: a 100 metres before tunnel take the small road on right. It is the old road — in terrible condition, but hey (and there are some great old hairpins). After 2 kms you are forced into the tunnel. But ride 100 metres inside and climb out again on the left onto a better quality old road that rejoins the main route at the tunnel exit. Phew!

The route gets more touristy as it reaches Lago di Ceresole – a large artificial lake with a dam. It’s after the lake that the climb finally starts to get fun. From 15 kms or so to go, the road is closed for 7 months of the year a clear sign that we are leaving civilisation.

The steepest part of the climb are these great hairpins below the two dams. They wind everywhere, I failed to capture a good photo, but fun to cycle.

Here the climb begins to get very fun

Here the climb begins to get very fun

More hairpins

More hairpins

The first diga (dam) is the big one. Diga/Lago di Serrù.

Diga di Serrù (Serrù Dam)

Diga di Serrù (Serrù Dam)

The beautifully coloured Lago di Serrù decorates the view for the spectacular last several kilometres to the summit.

Lago di Serrù - standing on the dam

Lago di Serrù – standing on the dam

Every Sunday until the end of August, the road from Lagi di Serrù until the summit is closed to motorised traffic. Bikes/pedestrians only.
Next, there is a much smaller dam at the darker blue Lago Agnel.

A flat stretch, but scenic.

A flat stretch, but scenic.

Then the road heads up again.
Lago Agnel

Lago Agnel

Gran Paradiso indeed

Gran Paradiso indeed

After the Colle (pass), the paved road descends for a couple of kilometres. There are a couple of more lakes and a little restaurant – it’s just over the Piemonte / Aosta border. By mountain bike it is possible to continue down into the Aosta valley via Valtourmench.

view over the top of the col.  Paved road ends beyond 2nd big lake

view over the top of the col. Paved road ends beyond 2nd big lake

I loved, loved, loved this climb. And I had a lot of fun trying to get a few photos on the way back down.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

11 Comments

  1. Pingback: Lago di Narèt

  2. The film The Italian Job features this climb, a point of interest worth noting, at the end the coach comes to rest precariously high above those lakes.

      • 2 years ago i climbed the Col de Nivolet with bike road, as yuo said last 15km is incredible scenic climb one of the best climb in the Alps. After the top and the short descent just after the end of 2nd little lake, start the 9km hiking trail that will finish in Pont Valsavaranche where the asphalted road return. The first 7km oh hiking trail is a false flat from 2550 to 2300m and was possible to cycle (very slow!!) for 2-3km even with bike raod, the rest is bike by hand. Last 2km is a narrow and steep hiking with bike on shoulder, half hour of steep descent. The total 9km is roughly 2 hours of hiking included time to photo!! My stage is follow with P.S. Bernardo e half Iseran until Tignes. The day after I climbed last part of Iseran, MontCenis and the whole flat ValSusa until the foot of Nivolet, loop closed with 370km and 6800m climbed. A very very nice tour, here some pictures (poor) of that incredible days. https://picasaweb.google.com/112979256872436490347/TraNivoletEIseran

  3. Pingback: Here are my ten favourite alpine Road Bike Climbs of 2014.

  4. Hi Will, I would love to do the Nivolet just when it opens in spring. It looks absolutely amazing! Do you happen to know anywhere I can monitor when it opens? Cheers, Jesper

    • Hi Jesper,

      Last year the road above the dams opened in late June. It is situated in the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso . So I followed the news on their official site. I also contacted them in mid-June and they quickly responded with the planned dates for opening more than a week before it happened.

      Link: http://www.pngp.it/

  5. Hi Will. Did this one last week with my daughter and I fully agree with you. This climb has everything except traffic and it’s easily as breathtakingly beautiful as Stelvio! We did however start at the beginning of ‘Lago di Ceresole’ to avoid the less interesting bit (and the scary tunnel). From here it only gets better and better… If I could choose only one climb ever I think I’d choose this one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Fantastic col and even better pictures. One question: how do you take your own pictures? Auto timer doesn’t give enough time to get down from such a beautiful vantage point and ride the bike before the pux is snapped.
    Will try to do this col next year. Gavia and Mortirolo + Dolomites this year.

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