Petit Col des Encombrés


In summer Col du Galibier via Col du Télégraphe can have some traffic – especially gangs of noisy motorcycles. Nothing too terrible, but all the same. This ride starts at the exact same intersection as the start of Télégraphe but heads in the opposite direction. And after 1 kilometre, I never saw a car.

The first couple of kilometres pass a few chalets, houses, farms, but the road quickly becomes quiet. Plenty of hairpins and great views across the valley at Fort du Télégraphe – old pic same view.

At 1210 metres I reached Col de Beaune and then the route turns onto a much smaller, but still paved road. It heads through the woods for a while reaching an auberge/restaurant and the parking for hikers at roughly 1500 metres.


For a slightly less challenging road bike loop including Col de Beaune and Col de Beau Plan see this link.

Here the road gets small. But, to my surprise, it was still paved. Warning: while paved, it is narrow, steep, and slippery with plenty of sand/gravel/etc. A very tricky descent on a road bike. I was happy to have my mountain bike.

The road soon gets above the tree line. Simply beautiful. There is the occasional farm building or old chalet but this is not a developed tourist area. No ski slopes, no villages, no cars. Woohoo.

Nothing but views

There is a short unpaved stretch, but it quickly becomes paved again all the way to 2090 metres. Wow. Here it gets rough. The road is fenced off to block vehicles and occasionally quite steep. I pushed here and there as I occasionally slipped off the bike at an impressive 4 km/h, but generally it’s quite rideable.

Start of unpaved road at 2090 metres
Almost ……

As I approached the summit I ran into a huge flock of sheep blocking the road. Me, being super brave, continued through the flock, briefly scared as one of those giant white guard dogs became a little angry with me.

Baaah, high point of route – 2361m

There was a note pinned on a fence saying 14 sheep had recently been killed by wolves. The farmers now employ giant Pyrenean Mountain Dogs to protect the animals. One needs to be careful. They can be aggressive and you should be still as they sniff you and they will soon leave you alone. I was nipped by one once when I didn’t stop pedalling.

This high point at 2361 metres doesn’t have a name on my IGN map. It’s beside a little peak called Le Perronnet. The road clearly continues down the pother side and one could descend to St-Martin-de-Belleville in the valley that leads to Val Thorens.

For another way to get across to Val Thorens from the Maurienne Valley see here: the first time I ever reached 3000 metres on a bike.

Me, I took a hiking trail that soon lead to Petit Col des Encombrés at 2329 metres. My original plan was to double back, but I had no interest in meeting my canine friend and his gang of sheep again. A chatty French hiking couple took my photo at the col sign, and I decided to hike down a trail with them. Monsieur was a cyclist and we shared local stories. 🙂

2329 metres

After a couple of kilometres we parted company and I found an old farm road that led my back to the paved road and a fun descent back to the start.

I absolutely loved this ride and plan to perhaps climb/traverse from the other side one day. It’s a beautiful and fairly huge climb, with stats as big as the biggest Alpine road climbs, but it is completely deserted – something that I just love. Again, for roads bikers: it’s fine to 1500 metres, and “possible” to 2090 metres.


Happiest while cycling uphill.

1 Comment

  1. Niels Speelberg on

    Hi Will, I love your site and without it would never have found this beauty climb. It was very hard, it must be one of the hardest in France, only the Grand Colombier from Vireu le petit and the Artzamendi are comparable in my opinion. I did it from Saint Martin de la Porte, which is a slightly shorter route. The 10 percent kilometer indications in the graph don’t tell the whole story, there are many sections much harder, I saw 16,17 and even 21 percent a couple of times. Thanks for posting these great stories, they are inspirational!

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