Cycling the Col des Saisies from Flumet (1657m)

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Thursday 14 September 2017

Cycling the Col des Saisies from Flumet (1657m)

Tackling two climbs in one day is not something we've often done, but after our morning riding up the Col des Aravis, we decided to have a go at the nearby Col des Saisies as well, which is also part of the Route des Grande Alpes. On paper at least this climb didn't look 'too' bad. Basically 15km at an average grade of 6.4% (from 700m up to 1657m, 957m of ascent) making it quite similar to the Col de la Colombiere we'd done the previous day. No worries we thought.....and this despite the many times I've warned against using average gradients to judge a climb!

The opening kilometres out of the picturesque village of Flumet were lovely with tight switchbacks rising into tree lined roads and brief glimpses of the view onto the hills we'd come over earlier in the day. The sun was shining through the leaves and the afternoon was a comfortable temperature for riding up mountains. It was steep though, tickling along at around 7-9% most of the time, or at least that's what it felt like since there were no markers until the village of Notre Dame de la Bellacombe some 4km along the way.

From here on up two things changed. One, there were waymarkers for most of the upcoming kilometres to underline that it was actually quite steep, usually 8% if not a bit more. Second, the view was brilliant and kept improving as the climb went on, with a wonderful panorama across the valley to the right of a long, bare rock ridgeline that ran for kilometres along the horizon (I should look up the name really). It was stunning with bright blue sky beyond really giving great contrast to the rock.

Since the opening half of the climb had been so steep my usual game of working out the remaining 'average' to the top was starting to suggest that the second half would be relatively easy ("hmm, getting on for 'only' 5% left" I was thinking).....and then I went downhill.  I should have expected it really, it's happened on most climbs and it wasn't by much, but just enough to keep the portion of the road that was uphill (i.e. most of it) challengingly steep.

Not that I was complaining. It really was a fine climb with the final few kilometres weaving around some high altitude tree lined slopes to reach the ski resort of Les Saises after around an hour and a half of uphill. Les Saisies itself, being a ski resort, was a collection of shops, restaurants and the always slightly sad image of out of action ski paraphernalia making the place look a little untidy. The pups certainly took some getting used to the plastic, oversized penguins and bears strewn about the slopes waiting for children in winter, but the view from the car park at the edge of town, where the col marker was, was not spoiled by the clutter of ski resort beyond. From here the view of the ridgeline really stood out, with even more of it visible than before. It was so beautiful that when I bought the camper up later in the afternoon we decided to stay there overnight and rest our tired legs watching the sun set over the Alps.

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