Cycling the Col de l'Iseran from Bonneval sur Arc - Southern side (2764m)

If it weren't for the extra, man-made lump that has been built to raise the Cime de la Bonette up to 2802 metres, then the 2764 metre high Col de l'Iseran would be the highest pass in the French Alps (at least as far as I know). It is possible to start this climb from much, much further away and indeed that is what Esther did because she started at Termignon some 39km from the top! From here the climbing is done in fits and starts, with a few kilometres of climbing here and there separated by longish flatter sections. However, the real guts of the continuous climbing gets going 13.4km from the top in the village of Bonneval sur Arc. From here it is a 977 metre ascent at 7.3% average gradient to reach this high altitude, chilly col in the high mountains.
As cycling climbs in the French Alps go, it's hard to overstate how wild and untamed the mountains feel on this approach to the Col de l'Iseran. On the northern side of the col, as we saw from our motorhome on our descent, there are several large ski resorts including the famous Val d'Isere and so ski lifts and buildings adorn much of the mountain side. In contrast this southern approach from Bonneval sur Arc is much more natural and, in my opinion at least, much more beautiful for it. Maybe it's because the road is so long to reach Bonneval that by the time the tough climbing starts the only civilisation on display is the tiny village of Bonneval itself, looking tiny surrounded by big mountains at the valley head.

As usual, the pictures describe the scenery far better than I can.

In fact the only thing the pictures can't say is how fantastically, bloody cold it was at the top. Granted we were up there at the end of October, but with snow lining the roads for the last 8 kilometres of the climb, it was a good 5 degrees below zero at the top and that was without accounting for the wind! The descent on the bike was the coldest I think I have ever been and was somewhat torturous. Shame we only have ten litres of hot water in the van for our showers!















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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!: Cycling the Col de l'Iseran from Bonneval sur Arc - Southern side (2764m)
Cycling the Col de l'Iseran from Bonneval sur Arc - Southern side (2764m)
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Adventures In Life, Love, Health, Travel... & Puppies!
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