Cycling the Col de la Croix du Fer (2067m) & Col du Glandon (1924m) from Barrage du Verney (south side)

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Saturday 21 October 2017

Cycling the Col de la Croix du Fer (2067m) & Col du Glandon (1924m) from Barrage du Verney (south side)

Counting the days backwards, it was hard to believe it had already been 7 weeks since we had cycled up to the Col du Glandon/Col de la Croix du Fer from the north starting at La Chambre. It felt like it had been just yesterday that we were grinding up those final 10-11-10% kilometres. Now that we were approaching the same col(s) from the south we were excited to see what the other side was like in comparison. On paper it least it looked like a very different and in fact far easier climb. In hindsight it was just another reminder of how foolish it is to pay attention to average gradients.

From the Barrage du Verney dam, which can be reached in about quarter of an hour by car from Bourg d'Oisans and the bottom of the Alpe d'Huez, the climb to the Col du Glandon is 24.1km long, rising 1152 metres to give an average of 4.8%. It doesn't sound too bad does it? To get to the Col de la Croix du Fer then requires another 2.5km of cycling at about a 5% average. Again, pretty straightforward.

I should probably also mention here that, as described in our post about the north side, to reach the Croix du Fer from La Chambre necessarily includes a crossing of the Col du Glandon as well. It's like a 2-for-1 deal because it is directly on the way. This, however, is not the case from the south side since the road uphill from the Barrage du Verney goes directly to the Croix du Fer. It still passes within 150 metres of the Glandon, but to do both would still technically require a detour albeit a very minor one.

Anyway, back to my experience of the climb and, I have to say that of all the Alpine cols we have cycled up over the past three years I reckon this ascent of the Glandon/Croix du Fer is the one where the 'average' gradient hides the most detail. There is an easy bit to warm up on for about 1km, but the next 7km are very steep at between 7 and 9%. The road then flattens slightly through a village before losing almost 200 metres of altitude down some very steep switchbacks. To be honest it was a little soul destroying, especially as on the morning I was cycling it was freezing cold and the descent was in the shade. After the descent the climb is very steep again at 9% but then begins to ease and the final 7 or 8 km to the Col du Glandon are relatively consistent at around 6%.

As an experiences, however, this is a very lovely climb. Lots of rocky mountain tops on display, pretty forests, huge lake that opens up at about 9km to's a very pleasant climb and not quite as hard as the north side even if the ups and downs make it a little bit of a psychological challenge.

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