Col du Télégraphe (1,566 m), Col du Galibier (2,645 m) and Col d’Izoard (2,360 m)
It was raining when we woke and a quick check of my weather app confirmed that it would continue for most of the day. We had breakfast in a bar near the hotel then set off down the Maurienne Valley towards our first climb of the day.
Starting from Saint Michel de Maurienne, the Col du Télégraphe ascent is 12 km long with 14 hairpins and a vertical gain of 856 m. It’s a nice climb with plenty of tree cover to shade you when it’s sunny. That didn’t matter today. This was my fifth time up this side of Télégraphe and it took us just under an hour.
In Valloire, we stopped in a bar for coffee and snacks where Luke wowed the barmaid with his newly discovered fluency in French.
Next up was the Galibier, one of the supercols from the Tour de France. Starting from Valloire, the Col du Galibier is 18 km long to its summit at 2,645 m. The maximum gradient is 12%. The wet weather made the climb easier, it was certainly easier than I remember it from the Marmotte, but the descent was murder in the cold. We waited for Marcus shivering in one of the cafes on the Col du Lautaret for 40 minutes before deciding that he’d probably continued on to Briancon and the relative warmth of lower altitude.
We bought some lunch in an E.Leclerc supermarket and stuffed our faces in its foyer before heading to the 19km long Col d’Izoard. This was a tough climb. The weather had improved so it was hot again and the flies were out in force. The Col d’Izoard has some long steep straight sections that are psychologically tough and climbs over 1,300 m from Briancon to its summit at 2,344 m. The decent to Guillestre is a real treat though, very fast, with a nice gorge to enjoy.
Guillestre is a fantastic little town. It only has two hotels and the first we tried was full. Fortunately, the second hotel is enormous and we have nice rooms with balconies overlooking the mountains. We went into town for dinner where we kicked off the meal with house cocktails made from Campari. Campari is an unusual liqueur which tastes a bit like earwax. The dinner was good though.