Aguille Croche via Col du Joly


From Beaufort, Col du Joly (1990 metres) is one of the many great climbs just off the Route des Grandes Alpes – usually ignored by cyclotourists. See here for details of the paved side.

But today’s route climbed the far, unpaved side of Col du Joly – through Les Contamines ski slopes. Then I tested my fear of heights heading much higher to Aguille Croche (“quavering needle”).

From Les Contamines village, the road becomes unpaved almost immediately. It’s a bumpy but adequate gravel farm road all the way to the Col. Hard work at times, but always quiet and super scenic – with the Mont Blanc massif dominating the views.

Aguille Croche high in the distance. It seemed a long way away.

Nearing Col du Joly there is a nice reservoir which I assume is for the snow-making machines during ski season:

Just below Col du Joly

Just below Col du Joly

I’ve climbed this side of Joly on a mountain bike before but used a different, but also superb route. See here.
Someone had knocked the Col du Joly sign down. But I needed my summit photo!

Col du Joly - 1990 metres

Col du Joly – 1990 metres

From the Col, heading away from Mont Blanc is a a very bumpy ski-lift service road that heads higher, and higher.

View of Col du Joly below

View of Col du Joly below

High Col du Joly, hard work

High Col du Joly, hard work

The Aguille Croche peak the a high point ( 2,487 metres) of the ridge that extends from Saisies ski station. The road magnificently reaches all the way to the top of a chairlift just below – at 2,435 metres. There is a nice little orientation table labelling all the peaks. Fabulous views:

Aguille Croche

Aguille Croche

There was a path to the ridge just below.

Aguille Croche

Aguille Croche

I had a look over the side. Wow, I felt vertginous. So, I ended my exploration here, with a quick staged photo. It didn’t seem too safe an idea to go any further ;).

Aguille Croche

Aguille Croche

I descended a different route. Again, just fabulous views.

nice road

nice road

I loved this ride. While extremely difficult at times, it’s such a beautiful, and remote location.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Spectacular views, thanks for sharing.

    Have you ever tried to climb Col de l’arpettaz (above Ugine) and then rejoin col des Aravis (non paved road) ?

  2. Hi Will,
    Thanks for the great post and site.
    Which of those two gravel roads you rode between Les Contamines and Col du Joly was the smoothest surface? I’m looking to ride a longer loop on the road bike (with some chunky tires) so looking for the path of least resistance up to the col!

    • Hi Ben,

      First, just in case, realise that this route is likely still under snow for a while yet. 🙂

      Hmmm. Both ways definitely have some rough parts. I am not sure I can think of one as a better surface than the other.

      I think I preferred the way I descended in this post (climbed in the other). The top stretch is particularly nice — last photo in this post.

      Descending the other side of Col du Joly (to Beaufort) is fully paved.

      Enjoy, it’s a great climb.

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