It’s a little strange to start cycling towards Col du Télégraphe without dreams of seeing Galibier soon. Valmeinier is a ski station above the Maurienne valley linked with Valloire – perhaps more familiar to cyclists – 17 kilometres below Col du Galibier.
After 9 of the 12 kilometres to Col du Télégraphe I turned off the main road to visit Valmeinier for the first time. The paved road goes perhaps 7 kilometres higher to Valmeinier 1800 (yes, it’s at 1800 metres). Valmeinier is dominated by Mont Thabor (3178 metres), and while I saw some unpaved ski-lift service roads higher, from studying some maps, it seems a great place for hiking, not cycling.
As a paved cycling climb to 1800? There are a few hairpins, it is 16 kms up — it is fine, but there is nothing particularly special to this little detour.
But I had an additional goal in mind ….
Anyone that follows this blog knows that I love searching for climbs to Alpine dams. Glancing at at a map, Lac de Bissorte looked like the largest in the north French Alps that I had yet to visit. But I was struggling to see how to get there on a bike. It is on the far side of the huge mountains above Valmeinier.
But there is an unpaved cliff road that goes around the mountains – running alongside the Maurienne valley below – that at least gets below the dam.
I really enjoyed this road. Great views below, no traffic, generally slightly up (with a few downs).
Eventually I reached Le Prec. A little plateau with some cabins. It was clear that I wasn’t getting to the dam by bike. It was a long, steep (see the bump in the map profile), hiking trail up – the dam was visible high in the distance. But despite the quickly worsening weather, I wanted to have a look. So I hid my bike in the woods and started hiking. It’s a long hike, definitely worth it.
It was lightly raining and even a touch of wet snow, but it was nothing terrible. But clearly, on a sunny day this must be a lovely place. High mountains hidden in the clouds on three sides of this long lake.
At least there was a life preserver if I fell into the lake:
I hiked back down, feeling pleased that I had made the effort. In the future, “Bike / Hike” may become a new strategy for some tough to reach cols. 🙂
This was a fun outing. But in general, when you visit St-Michel-de-Maurienne, I suggest climbing Col du Galibier via Télégraphe, and giving Valmeinier a pass.