It was a road closed, bike-only day for Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer. Fantastic. But the best part of this route is above these famous roads.
I cheated by starting half way up Glandon, just before the road closure as I wanted to save my legs for the higher challenge. I love Glandon, especially the final three kilometres. The hairpins and views are special.
I would then go over the top and cycle the final three kilometres to Col de la Croix de Fer (2064m) . I’ve written many times about this road.
See here for details of six ways to Col de la Croix de Fer including via Col du Glandon. But the rest of this post will focus on the unpaved ride above.
Exactly at the summit, behind the Croix de Fer col sign is an ignored gravel road. It splits in two directions. I would climb to the right and return via the left – the most rideable direction. After a kilometre the gravel turns up. the next 3.5 kilometres average +13% and can be slippery (and snow covered). It’s hard work, but rideable.
In the photo below you can see the horizontal paved Croix de Fer road in the distance and the tight hairpins in the forefront that I was climbing.
The direction I was continuing:
Higher up I would run into some snow on some of the hairpins, but it was easy enough to hike through (Croix de Fer road now FAR in distance).
At 2525 metres I finally reached Col des Tufs (aka Col du Vallon). From the col it’s a small descent to the first of two beautiful lakes: Lac Bramant (2448m) and Lac Blanc (2473m).
It’s possible to cycle around these lakes on trails, so I did!
At the far end of Lac Blanc is Col Sud des Lacs (2476m) — see the profile on the map below for all the col locations. Beyond Lac Blanc there are a couple of smaller lakes and the trail heads higher toward the Glacier de Saint Sorlin.
There was too much snow to continue but I have previously mountain-biked to the base of the glacier. Details here, old photo below.
Instead, I turned around and rode the other side of Lac Bramant including riding across a small dam:
Below is a 360 degree view of these lakes. You can move the photo with your mouse (if you scroll for the down view you might spot me!).
I wanted to return to Croix de Fer via a different route so I cycled up to Col Nord des Lac (2533m) and headed down a blue ski piste. Initially, it was far too steep and slippery for me to ride, but more skillful mountain bikers could do it. Regardless, I don’t mind hiking, and it is not dangerous. Looking back up the ski slope:
Eventually I reached good quality gravel ski-lift service roads that I was able to follow all the way back down to Col de la Croix de Fer:
Again, there were lots of road cyclists at the col taking photos and thinking they had reached the summit. 🙂 I pedaled back onto the main road and descended back to Glandon and down – eventually seeing the first car of the day.
Beautiful, Will! I tried to do the same route a few years ago, but struggled on a cyclocross bike with 28mm slicks and a full set of touring/camping gear. I gave up when I noticed a mountain biker further up was carrying his bike.
The road you used on the return was much easier, and it was very special to get away from the tarmac for a little while.
A great article and beautiful photos by you, as always. Many thanks!
Great stuff, as always, Will. We were over from the States and riding Glandon on road bikes the same day as your excursion. Thanks for all your writing and photos. We rode for nine days and all your information guided us. Thanks again, Chet Scott. Bon jour…