Another HC Col and TdF favourite, this time reaching 2,067m.
The plan had been to climb the Col de la Croix de Fer from the St Jean de Maurienne side, but conversations with other cyclists who had come down that way the day before led us to change our minds.
The general description corroborated by several people was that there was heavy traffic at the beginning going to a quarry, there were sections of melted tar on the climb, there were sections of loose gravel, there were road works and because the road was kept open in winter to give access to a ski resort, much of the road was pretty well wrecked with holes, ruts and in a generally very bad condition. None of this filled us with enthusiasm.
So, the new plan was to relocate our car and climb the Col from the other side.
We opted to leave the car at the Barrage de Grand Maison, at the bottom of a lake. This started us off part way up the climb on a lovely smooth road. In driving around to here we had seen four marmots, which got Sheila very excited. The first was just a bum and tail disappearing into its burrow, but the others were in full side view crossing the road.
Climbing up from the barrage to the Col turned into a semi rest day. The weather was sunny / cloudy with a lower temperature and a gentle breeze. Cycling without being drowned in sweat felt good. We poodled along slowly, for the first time not just going slow because we could go no faster, but actually (on the not too fierce gradient sections) just because we felt like it. We stopped on the way several times to admire the view and eat snacks, and the trip turned into a marmot spotting day. Our final score was 14, sitting up, running along, or just marmoting. We even managed to crawl along the road edge slowly and photograph one – felt quite wildlife safari.
Coffee and then picnic at the Col with usual photos. This time of both the Col sign and of the Croix de Fer, which marked an old pilgrim route.
Good run down and a short detour to the top of the Col du Glandon at 1,924m. This was a real cheat because, although the climb up the Col du Glandon from the side valley is really tough, we just diverted from the Col de la Croix de Fer road and climbed all of about 16m!! Still a ‘tick’ and there was a lovely large bike sculpture that provided a group photo backdrop.
Ran into a vast hoard of sheep all over the road and up the hillside on the way home. 21st century transhumance is very much a motorised affair with large quadruple decker vehicles stopped in the middle if nowhere up a mountain disgorging vast quantities if sheep or cattle.
Overnight stay tonight in a very comfy chalet stuck up a hillside (as they are) with super views.