From the moment my journey began, there was one destination that stood head and shoulders above the rest: Col du Parpaillon. Despite my extensive experience traveling through mountains, fjords, etc., I was caught off guard here, even though I should have known better! Where 300 kilometers unexpectedly took up much more time than planned, my anticipation remained unshakable. The delays did nothing to diminish my desire to be there, in my eyes the true beginning of France’s beauty. Although it’s a misconception to think that France’s charm starts there, this place symbolizes for me a gateway to the breathtaking.
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To get there, it was a logical choice for me to include Col du Galibier in the journey. Normally, I avoid the crowds of tourist hotspots, but Col du Galibier was an exception I couldn’t resist. And what a surprise it was: the view was not only breathtaking, the peace was overwhelming – until suddenly the serene silence was broken by an unexpected appearance. A procession of dozens of sports cars, it seemed, their engines growling in a concert of power and speed. Although they did not carry the license plates of Great Britain, their preference for the left side of the road suggested such an origin or at least a preference for driving on that side.
These machines – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches, and more – filled the air with a symphony that makes many a heart (at least among men) beat faster. Yet there was a touch of irony to this encounter; despite their ability to generate power, it seemed that the skill to handle this power with grace sometimes lacked. Maybe I sound like a critic now, but honestly, if I were behind the wheel of such a wonder, who knows if I wouldn’t make the same mistakes? During my adventures with my overlander, the weather is always a crucial factor that I take into account. With a combination of modern technologies, such as weather apps, and a dose of old-fashioned ‘common sense’ – an intuitive feeling for the natural world – I make my plans. For days, I was aware that the other side of the Alps was being plagued by bad weather, and I had already predicted that this would inevitably come my way. I was prepared for at least one day of driving through the rain.
Indeed, as I made my way to the top of Col du Galibier, my expectations became reality. The rain, which had taken some time to overcome the high Alps – a phenomenon known as orographic rainfall –, greeted us relentlessly. The moment we drove through the Galibier tunnel, we were enveloped by dense fog on the other side of the tunnel. It was exactly as I had expected, yet still an impressive experience. On the other side of the tunnel awaited us a dense curtain of mist and rain, an environment that, despite the challenges, had its unique beauty. This made me dream of something I had wanted to experience for years, and during my ride from Col Du Parpaillon , it finally became a reality after years of dreaming of such a situation. (of course at this point I could not yet be sure 🙂 )
Capturing the Enchanting Col du Galambier
A nerdy Deep dive into Col du Galibier:
The Col du Galibier is one of the most famous mountain passes in the French Alps, renowned for its role in cycling, particularly the Tour de France. The pass is located in the southern part of the French Alps, connecting the Savoie and Hautes-Alpes regions. At an altitude of 2,642 meters, it is one of the highest passes in the Alps that is crossed by a road.
The road over the Col du Galibier was opened in 1911. Shortly thereafter, it was incorporated into the route of the Tour de France, earning it a legendary status among cyclists. The pass is named after the nearby Pointe du Galibier, a mountain peak in the Massif des Cerces.
Key Events Tour de France:
The Col du Galibier is one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour de France. It is known for its challenge and beauty and has often played a decisive role in the race. The pass has been included in the course of the Tour more than 60 times. Monument to Henri Desgrange: At the top of the pass stands a monument in honor of Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour de France. This emphasizes the historical significance of the Galibier in cycling. Current Tourism Besides cycling, the Col du Galibier also attracts motorcyclists, classic car enthusiasts to contemporary car lovers, hikers, and tourists seeking to experience the breathtaking views over the Alps. During the summer months, the pass is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, while the surrounding areas also offer opportunities for skiing and other winter sports in the colder months.
In Summary, Known For Cycling:
Especially known for the Tour de France and other cycling competitions. Challenging Climb: The ascent to the top of the Galibier is renowned for its length, altitude, and difficulty, making it a bucket list item for many cyclists. Interesting Facts Elevation: The Col du Galibier is one of the highest navigable passes in Europe. Views: From the top, on a clear day, you can see the Barre des Écrins, the highest peak in the Écrins, and other surrounding mountain peaks. Weather Conditions: The weather on the Galibier can change rapidly, with possible snowfall even in the summer. The Col du Galibier remains a symbol of endurance and adventure, not just for cyclists but for anyone wishing to experience the majesty of the Alps. Important Note Especially for Cyclists and Hikers! In 2002, the Galibier Tunnel was reopened after extensive renovation and 25 years after its closure. Since then, two alternatives are available for traffic over the Galibier at the summit area. Cyclists have not been allowed to ride through the tunnel since its reopening, nor have pedestrians.
For Campers or Overland:
PAY ATTENTION! The Col du Galibier can be climbed with a camper, but there is a specific route for vehicles up to 3.5 tons. Heavier vehicles must take a different route. This suggests that there is a maximum tonnage restriction for certain paths on the Col du Galibier. For specific details on tonnage restrictions and recommended routes, it is advisable to check the most current information and traffic regulations before your trip.
Further on after Col du Galibier, heading towards Col du Parpaillon, we passed several nice locations such as this church located in the hamlet of Sainte-Marguerite facing the Pelvoux massif (France, Hautes-Alpes, Saint-Martin-De_Queyrières), followed by other beautiful photos. Although I don’t know exactly where each photo was taken, I do know that we continued from the N98 onto the D994D
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