Col de la Croix Fry via Col de Plan Bois


I have to cycle 100 Cols in 2009, so I thought I better get started.

This route is another of those rare big Alps climbs that I think is better in winter or early spring than summer.

Col de la Croix Fry was the last climb in the gigantic 2004 Tour stage 17 won by Armstong by less than a second over Kloden

Cycling on cold, sunny days in the Alps is always a tale of two rides.

  1. Climbing is wonderful. As good as it gets. You are warm and the views are a dream.
  2. Descending can be awful. It can be so cold, made worse as you are covered in sweat from the ride up.

But I have learned to dress for the conditions – and even though my arctic boots were like having 2 pound weights around my ankles – my toes were cozy!

From D12: 6.6 kilometres; 610 metres ascent (2030 feet); average grade: 9.3%

Starting from Thones, I took a quiet road up to the lessor know Col de Plan Bois. Parts of this great climb are VERY steep (in the mid-teens) with a full kilometre at 12%.

The road was sort of cleared to the top, although the last 2 kms were very icy. I knew the road would be shut at this point. But enjoying the views, I pushed for about 1.5 kms along well packed snow-shoe trails until the other side became cleared and generally rideable.

Descending through a dark, shaded gorge past a waterfall, it was so cold – too cold – briefly terrifying. 🙂

From D12: 11.4 kilometres; 819 metres ascent (2690 feet); average grade: 7.2%

In winter, the primary west route to Croix Fry is usually perfectly cleared due to the little Manigod ski station at the top. And this time of year it is surrounded by beautiful snow-covered Alpine peaks.

Below Manigod the route rejoins the main road up to Col de la Croix Fry. A little more traffic, and quite steep, but again, this is a stunning route – and I enjoyed myself.

At the Col, a nice couple from Paris took my photo and we chatted about how cold the descent would be – as if I needed reminding.

Enlarge the first thumbnail photo above. On the top of the sign is a borne velodateur. Basically, you can stamp a time card (from the tourist office well below in Thones) when you reach the top – after stamping it at the bottom – to record you time and route completion.Common on big climbs in the Aravis Alps

But first, I took a quick three km detour to visit Col de Merdassier – a tiny ski station (this probably shouldn’t count in my 100 Col challenge). 😉

15 kms downhill back to the car. Luckily I had six layers, my arctic boots, and my “Cagoule” (balaclava) – so i survived.

Bike route 112971 – powered by Bikemap 

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Wow, very impressive start to 2009!! I agree, this means you are 98 cols away from completing your challenge — great start and I love the boots.


  2. Hi Will,been looking at your site for a few years but never commented….always looked like great riding that you do,but for me living on the other side of the world makes riding in proper mountains a bit out of reach.But fast forward…I now live less than 100km from you so have been hitting a few good climbs in the last 6 months…Mont du Chat,Colombier.Col de Portes etc… but I have been wondering what you use to keep you feet / hands warm.Are those artic boots cleated?!… i start really struggling under -8C to keep toes and feet warm!.
    Love the site,good luck on the 100 climbs.
    Cheers Ian.

  3. Hi Ian

    Thanks for the comment.

    Wow, Mont du Chat and Colombier are terrific climbs and I am guessing you mean Col de Portes near Grenoble. Well done.

    Recently I have been experimenting with Sorel boots on REALLY cold days. They keep the feet VERY warm. I took my SPD pedals off the hybrid and just have regular pedals. I only have been using them on really cold days with long descents or if I expect to be pushing the bike through snow.

    The boots are a little heavy – and certainly NOT designed for cycling. But I tell myself it is good training for the summer. And nothing is more miserable than cold feet.

    All the best,

  4. Thanks Will,Yes I thought you may have just been on flat pedals.I only have my road bike which has been fun climbing on skinny tires in the ice…even more fun on the descents.Yes absolutely nothing worse than freezing feet and hands.I will try something similar once I finally replace my MTB frame that I cracked just before leaving Sydney.
    The Col de Portes I meant (think thats the right name) is not Grenoble,but behind Lagnieu.It is only 1000m but is a good 15km climb and I can ride it from home which is a 98km round trip.
    Roll on spring!…just filed in my Etape Entry from the Velo mag that came out today!!!.

    Cheers Ian.

  5. Pingback: Col des Aravis, Col de la Croix Fry Loop : Cycling Challenge

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