Friday, 28 June 2013


And finally- Col du Galibier

It's almost beginning to have its own folklore.  Will Galibier be opened?  A landslide meant that it had to be closed!  It snowed this morning, so it's been closed again!
A lovely morning but quite cool, as we set off up the valley to St Michel de Maurienne into a cool breeze, with winter extra clothing packed into a small rucksack and enough snacks to keep us going for the long day ahead.  About ten miles before we started the climbing up the Col de Telegraphe, which then descends down about six miles into Valloire, before the climb up Galibier.  Reached Col de Telegraphe in 2hrs 15mins from campsite at St Jean, just for future reference, because it's the kind of significant climb you'd do again.  Feeling good up the Telegraphe, but aware that the longest, hardest climb is yet to come. The climb up to Galibier is not horrendously steep but it is long.  Apart from about 20 mins descent into Valloire, it was 4hrs 40mins before I reached the top of Galibier!  It is such a long climb, but amazing.  I caught up with Ian at Le Plan, where there is a cafe/restaurant, and he caught me having a coke, trying to get some sugar before the steepest climb up the "wall", which faces you from Le Plan.  He was absolutely frozen but paused for a coffee, and advised me not to hang around for long on the summit as it was absolutely perishing, with a piercing wind.  He set off back, and I carried on with 5km to go. After the next couple of kms, the road gets a little easier, zigzagging around alpine pastures and crags.  Gorgeous scenery.  Then there is a steep climb up to the restaurant, where cars have to go through a tunnel over the top, and bikes and motorbikes can follow the road over the proper summit.  A couple of exhausting 10% kms, with your back and bottom absolutely killing, and then you're there.  One of the best places on earth, and you did it with just a bike and your own legs.  The best feeling in the world.  360deg of fabulous mountain scenery.  Yes, it's freezing cold, but what a view!  Put all the clothes on that you are carrying in your rucksack.  Stuff left-over pizza, from last night into your mouth.  It looked horrible when I packed it int tin-foil this morning, but tastes fantastic now.  Artichokes and peppers in tomato sauce on cold pizza!
Time for a photo.  Get in the queue as elated cyclists cross over the top and want a photo to prove it!  Chat to fellow cyclists from Rotheram!  And then it's time to go back down to earth, with still a long way to go to get back.  The coldest I've ever been in the Alps.  Couldn't stop shivering on the way down, and struggled to keep my hands warm enough to brake effectively!  Couldn't stop at Le Plan, cos it was too exposed and cold, but waited until I got another 10kms or so back into Valloire.  After a coffee and a breather, I set off over the next section.  A climb, but good-paced one, back over Col de Telegraphe.  Not much of a climb from this angle, and then all the way back to St Michel de Maurienne to the site at St Jean de Maurienne.  The hardest cycle yet, being 6hrs35mins in the saddle, with 64 mls and 8000ft of climbing overall.  What a day!  Really enjoyable. Would definitely do it again.  There's something special about doing it "properly".  I've done it before from shorter distances, from Lauteret, from Valloire, and they were special climbs at the time, because they were all achievements.  But to do it over the full distance, not being dropped off nearer, or being picked up by minibus and taken back down,which so often happens, with people under time constraints, trying to pack in as much climbing as they can into their brief holidays.  A guy from Rotheram summed it up, at the summit.  "You dream and plan this all winter, and it's just the best thing!".  Absolutely spot on.  Knackered but thrilled!

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