There is only one paved road that connects the Tarentaise Valley and the Beaufortain Valley to the north: the beautiful Cormet de Roselend. And expert cyclotourists know the part paved / part gravel alternative via Cormet d’Arêches.
But I wanted to search for another way over these mountains. Or at least a more adventurous route to Cormet d’Arêches. But road bikers, don’t leave yet because this route starts with a terrific paved climb.
A 3D Video of ride:
Starting from Aime (see map at bottom), the first few paved kilometres share the route to Cormet d’Arêches in the above link. But before Granier, I turned left onto a tiny road. It’s paved – with some fun hairpins – until a little settlement at La Combe (above 1700 metres means this is a 1000+ metre paved climb). Beautiful and worthwhile.
But with a mountain-bike the fun is just beginning. From here, begins a gravel farm road that is ride-able all the way to Col des Tufs Blancs (2304 metres).
These aren’t rugged mountains. Everything is green, and above 2000m there were plenty of beautiful Beaufort cows enjoying lunch.
At Col des Tufs Blancs are views of of the Beaufortain on the far side, but a touch west of much development. Just mountains. Amazingly, the farm road continues east to Col des Gemisses (I believe it’s 2348m but the sign says 2358m).
Here, I had planned two options. Turn around, or keep going. The terrain didn’t look crazy – although the road ended, so I kept going. I followed a hiking trail down, then up, to Col de la Grande Combe (2356m). I occasionally pedaled but mainly hiked here.
From Col de la Grande Combe it was just a downhill hike to Cormet d’Arêches (2108m) and a road. Again, I cycled some of this, but much was too tricky. But it’s never dangerous. Just a hike.
Here’s a view from above that includes Col du Coin (2398m), that I rode to in the above Arêches link.
View from Cormet d’Arêches:
I hiighly recommend Cormet d’Arêches as a climb. It’s also a beautiful descent: downhill all the way back to my start point. Of note, the top few kilometres are far better surfaced than I remember. I think fine on a road bike, although the top few kms on far side were very rough last time I visited.
Sometimes I don’t know what to expect when I map out a ride like this. Will there be too much pushing? Is the unpaved stuff rideable? Is a high ridge dangerous/passable? etc. But this ride exceeded all expectations.
Super quiet, very pretty, rideable all the way to 2304m (Col des Tufs Blanc), challenging, and four (!) cols. Excellent.