»From: Valloire (Fr) toCol du Lautaret (Fr)
»Elevation: 2645m asl
»Winter closure: yes
» Length: 26km / 16.25 miles
At 2645m, the Col du Galibier is one of the toughest mountain passes in the Alps to climb. From the north, the Col du Télégraphe must first be conquered and from the south the Col du Lautaret. In summer, snow regularly falls at this height, so that the pass can also be closed in the middle of summer. There is normally a winter closure from (late) October to late May or early June.
The Galibier is regularly included in the Tour de France: this year twice, on July 13 & 14, 2022 as part of a short climbing stage via the Galibier to the Col du Granon and the next stage.
The elevation makes it extra tough for cyclists; until about 2000m, your body can cope with the decreased availability of oxygen by changing its heart rate and breathing. Above roughly 2000 meters, the lack of oxygen is too big to cope in this way and acclimatizing counts.
The Galibier has, thanks to its elevation, not seldomly snow in the summer. It’s the combination of these 2 factors that make the Galibier tough to climb.
The tunnel that by-passes the summit is not allowed for cyclists and hikers.
Valloire-Col du Galibier
On the north side, the ascent of the Col du Galibier in Valloire begins at an altitude of 1500m. Valloire is a modest winter sports area. The approach to the Galibier is almost straight ahead and gradually rises to Bonnenuit at almost 1700m altitude. From here the road starts to meander until you reach Plan-Lachat at an altitude of 2000m.
This is where the very winding and spectacular section to the top begins. At Collet du Plan Nicolas the limit of 2400m is reached and through a final series of bends the bare top is reached. There are a total of 8 hairpin bends on this side.
Col du Galibier-Col du Lautaret
The start of the descent is spectacular: through 5 hairpin bends you descend 150m at a rapid pace. For the next 2 kilometers the road remains on the same mountain slope, with a deep chasm on the left. On the right side the mountain wall rises to more than 3000m. Via a large pendulum you reach the other side of the river on the southern mountain side. Via the last 2 hairpin bends you reach the top of the Col du Lautaret.
View from the Col du Galibier
To the south, a beautiful view unfolds: the La Meije massif, with several peaks above 3800 meters. At 3982m, De Meije itself is just short of a “four-thousander”. The view to the north is less spectacular. Do bear in mind that it’s cold at the summit and an extra jacket (when by bicycle) would be a great asset.