my favourite winter Alps climb. As long as there is no recent snow, the route is always well cleared – and the views are fantastic.
I usually take a long-cut via the superb Col de Plan-Bois. in winter this requires a short snow hike, and I had the road bike with me.
It’s been warm. I have frozen descending this before. I had two completely unnecessary extra jackets in my back pack.
Above Manigod, I stopped at my favourite self-portrait location. It’s become a small tradition to stop here for a photo. Below are photos from 2010, 2009, 2008, and the big one from 2011. 🙂
After a quick detour to Col de Merdassier (see map), I descended towards La Clusaz, and then turned up for the last few kms to Col des Aravis.
It was significantly colder on some of the shaded stretches:
Still a few snow walls remaining:
Surprisingly at Col de la Croix Fry, Manigod ski-station was still open (it is linked with La Clusaz):
I love this route …. and with the big Cols still several months from opening, it provides a good climbing fix.
Did this last summer- the easier way! Rode from Thone to La Clusaz, up the Aravis, u-turn, then Col de la Croix Fry and back to Thones. Thought at the time when flying down the descent that it looked a lot harder the way you rode it! For an ageing novice like me it looked too much.
However, may try it this summer as am staying in Entremont for 2 weeks.
Would like to thank you as you are responsible for me finding this area as a holiday destination and for inspiring a fat old Welshman to try to ride some proper hills!
Well done. Yes, it’s a bit steeper than Thones to La Clusaz …. but probably a little quieter and nice views if you need to catch your breath. And the detour to Merdassier is easy but scenic.
PS – I am full of Welsh blood !
Hi Will – very envious of your climbing prowess. I’m planning to attempt Alpe D’huez and some of it’s friends this year – what’s the weather like generally in early May? And continuing the Welsh theme – I’m English but live in Wales (in the beautiful Brecon Beacons)
One never knows with the weather, but early May has the chance to be very nice for Alpe d’Huez. On the other hand snow is possible too. 🙂 It’s just hard to predict. For example the last few weeks would have been surprisingly good. Regardless, bring some warm clothes for the descent.
At least the road is always open. Saturday’s can be busy on the road if skiing is still open ….. but it will likely be finished for the season by then.
The real problem with early May is that most of the great nearby climbs will likely be closed. For example: Col du Sabot, Col de la Croix de Fer (s-west side), and Col du Galibier (definitely closed). All of which I think are at least as fun as Alpe d’Huez. Also you likely won’t be able to get above Alpe d’Huez to the little lakes.
A few other climbs from Bourg d’Oisans should be possible in early May. For example Col d’Ornon, Col du Lautaret (moderately busy road), La Berarde, and Les Deux Alpes.
Best of luck
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Thanks to this article that inspired me and made me discover this nice road from Thônes-Col de la Croix Fry. In a sunny evening I rode up from Thônes to Col de la Croix Fry – Col de Merdassier – Col des Aravis – La Clusaz – Saint-Jean-de-Sixt – Thônes.
It was a nice idea to do this in the evening since traffic to go up in the road to Col des Aravis and down to La Clusaz and Saint-Jean-de-Sixt to Thônes was very weak, temperature was perfect.
Really nice for mon premier col de la saison.
Thank you for sharing this nice climb.