Col de la Colombière – In the Snow


 Col de la Colombière

I just couldn’t resist.

While skiing at Le Grand Bornand a few days ago, I kept looking towards Col de la Colombière and wondering if I could reach the top with a bike – without waiting until June for the road to open.

The South-West side from Le Grand Bornand is the easier side of Col de la Colombière – at least when there is no snow.

It was cloudy, cold and dark down low. But approaching Chinaillon I begun to get through the fog – sweet, another day above the clouds.

I was pleased to find that road was ploughed until about 3 kms from the top. Then it was steep, deep, and soft snow – VERY hard work uphill with a bike:

Col de la Colombière - South Side

I had descended this side at speed (OK lots of people passed me) in two cyclosportives this summer – great hairpins even with snow! I had also been hailed on here (in July!) with the Tour d’Enfer. I’ll take sun and winter anyday.

Do not try accessing Colombiere from the classic north-east side during winter. The last 3 kms have steep mountains on one side and a cliff on the other. As the photo below – from the top looking down – shows: avalanches all over the road. Eric, are you listening? 😉

The cement thing in the bottom middle below is the safety barrier. The road is to the LEFT.

Col de la Colombière - View of north side

Col de la Colombière - view towards Chinaillon Col de la Colombière - the top Where is the Col sign?? Col de la Colombière - 2nd last hairpin A Bouquetin?

The only living creature I encountered was a very relaxed Bouquetin – see very last photo.

The next time I am here will likely be to watch the epic stage 17 of the 2009 Tour de France, which will descend this side to the finish.

Eric had ambitious plans to do a monster loop from Geneva and climb the harder north-east side. Too much for me. I hoped to surprise him coming from the other side – but never saws him. I was alarmed to see the state of the other side and hoped he had turned around. Quick glances down the cliff revealed no fallen Flemish cyclists. When I got home, I found that he had abandoned his plans. Hmmm, he’s not coping with turning 40 very well. 😉


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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Génial cette sortie !! Félicitations Will !!

    J’espère que tu n’as rencontré personne là haut avec ton vélo, sinon ils se seraient probablement inquiétés de ton cas et t’auraient emmené voir le médecin 😆

    Je me demandais justement aujourd’hui si c’était faisable de faire un col dans ces conditions, j’en ai déduis que non et que ça serait pas mal de monter en ski de rando au sommet puis de descendre par la route (au Galibier par exemple)

    Bon, je dois essayer bientôt j’espère, en vélo… pour suivre les traces du maitre ! 🙂

  2. Bastien

    Merci. Attention, il faut bien choisir la route en haut.

    Careful, you need to choose routes carefully as there are some serious avalanches threats around.

    You are correct, using cross-country skis or snowshoes is more fun than pushing the bike. But I needed a bike at the top for the photos 😉

  3. Chilly,
    Wow, looks like you had a much more fun day than I did! Congrats on escaping the clouds and doing Colombiere yet one more time this year. Mind the snow and stay away from potential avalanches!!!


  4. You wanted to surprise me Will…but I ended up surprising you in the bad way. Reading your blog I deeply regret not having been part of this beautiful adventure. However, the ride that I had in mind (and still believe to be possible) requires me to have a “good” day. I didn’t feel like that when I woke up this morning, so I simply postponed the plan, not knowing what you were up to. Yes the 40-thingy is kicking my a.. over and over again 🙂 For today you deserve the HERO sticker!

  5. Eric, I know you are determined to do the North side. But honestly – no joke – I think it is a dangerous and bad idea.

    Not only is the road currently treacherous, but it is directly below cliffs that can avalanche.

  6. You are one crazy dude !
    But hey, if we keep getting wonderful photos like this, just keep doing it.

    Remember, “There are no hills, there is no wind, I feel no pain!”, or at least that’s what I try to tell myself !

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