Running and Riding Up the Col du Granon (2413m)

After our pleasant ride to the head of the Vallee de la Claree yesterday, today's outing promised to be a more challenging proposition as we set out to ascend the Col du Granon, the steepest col on our guide to local cycling climbs. Starting out from Saint Chaffrey, a short distance from Briancon, the ascent to the Col du Granon (2413m) is only 11.5km long but climbs a fearsome 1053m, giving an average gradient of 9.2%. This was quite a bit more than our other climbs including the 7% Col d'Izoard, 7% Col du Galibier and the 6.5% Col Agnel....all of which had been pretty hard already. Plus there was another change, due to our ongoing bike issues and lack of enough gears on our road bikes, I'd be 'jogging' up this one while Esther cycled on our kindly loaned, heavy hybrid we've nicknamed 'Thomas the Tank Engine'.

The Col du Granon has only featured once in the Tour de France (1986) and was the highest ever mountain top finish until 2011 when a stage finished at the top of the Col du Galibier.

Setting out at a gentle pace, which was as fast as we'd be going all the way, the road up through Saint Chaffrey from our parking spot didn't leave any room for a warm up as it started steeply immediately through the houses until we found the D234T road that would take us to the top.

We soon passed our first waymarker at 10km to go and saw our first of many 9%+ gradients for the kilometre ahead. However, unlike our recent ascents of the other nearby cols the fantastic thing about this climb was that there was so little traffic on the road. Since the route to the col is essentially a dead end the bulk of the limited traffic comes from people visiting the col or heading off for hikes which is far fewer than the other busier mountain passes in the region.

As the narrow tarmac road wound upwards through trees the gradients didn't relent. Fortunately for us it turned out my 'jogging' pace was similar to the speed Esther was going on Thomas the Tank Engine so we could stay fairly close for most of the way.

Climbing so steeply the view was changing all the time, with great scenes along the valley towards the Col du Galibier and back down to Briancon as well. Although a little overcast today the clouds added a moody feel to the valley and when the parted to reveal the darkened glaciers it was a marvellous sight.

With just a few kilometres to go we passed a fearsome waymarker promising 11.5% average for the kilometre ahead and I had to switch to 'fast walking' which, to be honest, didn't really seem to change my speed at all, while Esther powered a little way ahead.

But the metres continued to pass steadily for both of us and in around an hour and twenty minutes the end of the road was in sight. Esther arrived first as I power walked the final kilometre and we managed a few chilly photos at the sign before layering up to enjoy the view.

Having made the effort to get here we didn't want to rush off so had a nice, warming cup of tea in the cafe before heading out once more to explore. The views were spectacular. We climbed another 100m or so to a nearby summit to get a fantastic panoramic of the Hautes-Alpes including the glaciers of the Ecrins across the valley to the west and it was breathtaking. The clouds even parted a little and we got some sun to improve the view even more!

After an hour or so at the top it was time to head down but with tired legs I didn't fancy another 11km jog. Fortunately a friendly couple agreed to give Esther a ride down in their car with them so I got to roll down on Thomas the Tank Engine and in no time at all we were back in our nice warm Homer after an exciting and exhilarating climb.



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Adventures In Life, Love, Health & Travel: Running and Riding Up the Col du Granon (2413m)
Running and Riding Up the Col du Granon (2413m)
Adventures In Life, Love, Health & Travel
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