This is a tough, very fun, five col loop that requires a mountain bike to cross over into, and then exit, the Vallée d’Abondance. Five cols? Yes, the three in the title, and two more that are visited while descending. See map at bottom of post.
I’ve done a similar loop previously using Col du Corbier. But I was staring at maps looking for a new Col and I’d never visited the higher (unpaved) Col de l’Ecuelle. Note, one could also use the paved and very nice Col du Grand Taillet further down the valley.
I started in Morzine, descending down the Vallée d’Aulps for a few kilometres before turning up a beautiful, tiny road beginning the 7 kilometre climb to Col de l’Ecuelle:
The paved road ends half way up and is extremely steep for a couple of kilometres. I pushed a little as my tires slipped on the gravel and my weak legs complained. But nearing the col it’s a pleasant ride:
From the col, the gravel road goes a little higher, and gets easier, turning into a fun farm road that passes Col de Drôline, then descends to the paved road at the summit of Col du Corbier.
I’ve climbed Drôline from the far side as part of a very fun Vallàe d’Aulps six Col Col-hunting loop – see here.
While I’d skipped it, Col du Corbier (west side) is a steep, fun paved climb – see above link. I descended the east side of Corbier – lots of hairpins- into the Abondance valley.
It’s then a gentle false flat ride to Chatel through the valley before turning off the main road up through a little ski station and ski slopes to Bassachaux. It’s a scenic, paved climb.
But I made a rooking mistake in late fall: climbing an east facing climb. So it was in the shade as the mountains blocked the low November sun.
At the Col is a parking lot and a chalet restaurant. And beyond: a great unpaved road that exits the Abondance valley and crosses into Avoriaz ski station:
Warning; it becomes a very steep descent on a rough gravel road for a couple of kilometres before joining a paved road just above the famous goat-filled little village of Les Lindarets.
This paved road is the climb to Col de la Joux Verte. An interesting 15 kilometre climb through the woods qnd past Lac de Montriond – see this post for details.
I was exhausted and running out of daylight, but I was only 4 kilometres from the summit of Col de la Joux Verte, so I headed up, reaching the Col at the exact minute of sunset. I decided I better get a move on and descend to Morzine.
Part way down:
This is a great loop, challenging but generally super-quiet (a little traffic in the 2 valley floors) and scenic. But leave yourself enough time to finish in daylight :).