This is a great but challenging “exploration” loop on the north edge of the French Alps in the same massif as Plateau des Glières. To reach the high point – Col de Sur Cou (1605 metres) – it’s first a tiny paved road, then steep gravel, and finally trails.
This ride is a classic example of me staring at detailed maps in search of nearby cols that I have never cycled and hoping the little roads/trails are fun by bike. 🙂
I started in St. Pierre-en-Faucigny entering the very north edge of the French Alps through the Gorges des Evaux. It’s a beautiful narrow road, but has plenty of fast traffic and blind corners. Usually I’d take the little cliff road that runs parallel/above on the east side, but it was closed today. No worries. I soon turned off the main road (at Termine). Here the adventure begins.
I crossed the gorge and headed up. The first 4 kilometres are paved and very steep – just a little road up to a few farms/chalets. It’s consistently well above 10%.
At roughly 1000 metres the paved road ends – becoming good quality gravel. Initially there is a long stretch that is crazy steep, in the high teens, tough on gravel. I had to push a couple of times. After that hell, it’s lovely again. 🙂
At Bellajoux / Les Mouilles the road ends. Here I would make a detour, basically on a hiking trail, to Col des Chasseurs (1490m). Great views.
As a Chasseur des Cols (Hunter of Cols) I was very excited to reach Col des Chasseurs. So when I saw a fallen sign on the ground nearby, I propped it up for a photo.
I doubled back and rejoined my main route. The trail deteriorates here, and even some easy stretches become hard work. But it’s a beautiful environment.
I had wanted to climb Col du Freu (above my head in photo below), but I could see it was far too crazy for a bike. Getting over Freu would have linked up with the valley above but with easy access to Plateau des Glières (see links at bottom of post).
But I had a back up plan and continued to Col du Petit Cou (1570m), and the nearby Col de Sur Cou (1605m) – both marked on the map.
From Col du Petit Cou there is a steep ascent (I walked) down to a farm. Here a rough gravel road begins leading down to the tiny ski station of Orange. This descent was steep enough in a couple of places that I again walked despite a mountain bike and disc brakes. But I am a wimp and it’s very nice stretch.
Finally, from Orange I took a fantastic ridge road partly gravel partly paved – completely deserted, high above the valley below, before winding back down to the start. Sorry, I was hot and thirsty and took no photos on the descent. But trust me, fantastic stretch of road.
This is a very fun, challenging little route well off the beaten track. It requires a mountain bike and a touch of pushing in places, but it was well worth the effort.
More climbs in this massif: