Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2009 – Tuesday July 21st

Morcles — Portes du Soleil — Pas de Morgins — Col du Corbier — Col de l’Encrenaz — Col de la Ramaz — Taninges (133 km, 3586m, ?°C)

Portes de l'Hiver

After a fine breakfast I descended the tight serpentines to Lavey-les-Bains and the hospital there. I wondered whether that was a special hospital taking care of nutty cyclists going up to Rionda. Now I had decided to try out yet another not so obvious road for road bicyclists – the road to Les Crosets (a ski resort which is part of the cross border area of Portes du Soleil). The idea was to get up to the actual pass of the name Portes du Soleil (1950m). I went to Monthey (424m) where I tried to find a bicycle shop without success (the one I had visited earlier was closed down).

I decided to take an alternative road up from Monthey to Troistorrents via Chenarlier (I did not have to look at the map as I could figure out which turns to take). (Maybe I could have taken the higher going road on this side of the valley up to Val d’Illiez, but I do not know if it is asphalted or not.) At Troistorrents I made a a somewhat bad decision in trying to take a short-cut up to the main road. This short-cut was a bad gravel road which I could not bicycle on for short stretches (it crosses the railway once), but it was not endlessly long. I stopped at Val d’Illiez for a small lunch (sandwich and coke at the pastry shop there).

Here starts the real climb up to Les Crosets (one could turn off this road up to Champoussin, which would be a similar climb and it seemed more traffic was going to Champoussin). The climb to Les Crosets is not very steep and the road is good. Les Crosets (1672m) is a somewhat boring ski resort with many hotels. Now in Summer there are very many people cycling up here on mountainbikes as the area is ideal for mountainbikers (with many nice tracks) and perhaps also for downhill riders.

Portes de l’Hiver

After fooling around for a while trying to find the easiest way to get up to Portes du Soleil (1950m), I took the most obvious road from where you arrive at Les Crosets. This road is asphalted for some time while going through the houses here and it is quite steep. It turned out you were not allowed to cycle on this road I noticed when coming above the houses (rather obviously because the people living there would be in danger when going outside for people coming down this road, but cycling up is probably okay).

There are some possibilities in taking the wrong road up, but you see where you are going so I found the right way. The gravel continues up very steeply – almost always above 10%. They had just put new gravel on the road, I realised after a while, but it was mixed with tar (or old broken asphalt) and thus it was possible to cycle on it even though it was freshly laid. At one point I lost traction and fell, but the grassy side of the road was high, so I did not really “fell”(it was just funny). I could cycle the whole way up to Portes du Soleil (1950m), but it is surely not easy and some people asked me at the top if I had really managed to cycle up there with my bicycle.

The views from up there was quite nice and much, much better than down at Les Crosets. There is a road going down the other side of this pass too, but I had decided to get up to yet another nearby pass – Portes de l’Hiver (2096m). Going up there with a road bicycle is sheer madness and especially so this day as you can see in the second photo here (they were just re-gravelling this part). Above were they were working with the road I could cycle for ca. 200 metres and then there is such a steep ramp that probably not even the best mountainbikers would managed to cycle up there (it was hard walking up there). One could continue further up the nearby mountain and there the road was even steeper (probably ca. 45-50%). Some guys on mountainbikes came down the steep road from the ski lift and had ache in their hands for all the braking and wondered how I managed to get there. Oh well, it was a short walk and the views here into France are quite nice! There is another road going down the other side of this pass too and even though it almost looked better than the road down from the Soleil pass, two different people I asked said I could only take the road down from the Soleil pass if I wanted to cross the ridge.

Col de l’Encrenaz

I had originally thought to go back the same way and in retrospect it would have been better, but I could not resist trying out this more direct road down to Morgins. It starts out cyclable, but just as I had gleaned from maps before, it was not much of a road for roughly 2 km after the first (from the top) visible part of the road. It was mostly cyclable these two kilometres also, but I was a bit unlucky at one point and jumped out of my pedals and landed on the saddle – ouch!! (That is what mountainbikers make sure to avoid happening, but my experience on this is not that good.) I felt that for two weeks afterwards when sitting down on chairs, but not sitting on the bicycle thankfully.

Then the road becomes partly asphalted from the first house below (restaurant, I think). The road becomes a little less good again later, but then becomes progressively better down to Morgins. I stopped in Morgins again and now half the day had passed already. It was hot now and it was time for ice cream and coke. The Pas de Morgins (1371m) is a very short climb from Morgins (1310m). At the top it is nice with a lake and I met a huge gang of cyclists here.

Down the French side there is very many people around Chatel and the road is not so good. Lots of traffic and heat down the French side. The road is better out of the villages (as usual). I went down to La Solitude (834m) (look for Bonnevaux, where there is water also) – just a few houses where you can take the first fully asphalted road south over Col du Corbier (1237m). This road is nice and lonely, but nothing special.

Col de la Ramaz

The climb up from below Le Biot to Essert-Romand (930m) is rather flat on the main road that you take off after the gorge here. The alternative road via Seytroux might have been a nice option. At the end of the Essert-Romand village I stopped again for a beer and ice cream. Here begins a somewhat steep climb up through the forest to Col de l’Encrenaz (1432m). This side of the pass is mostly very uninteresting, but on the other side it is nicer (Michelin seems to think otherwise – Michelin map makers always prefers deep forests to any views – it is a bit amusing to compare the Italian TCI maps marking of beautiful roads with Michelin’s markings as they seldom agrees on this).

It was starting to get late and colder, but I had decided to climb up to Col de la Ramaz (1557m) also before the day was over. The climb up to Col de la Savolière (1416m) from the turn-off of the Encrenaz pass (1124m) is quite steep (ca. 14% most of the time), but on a wide road. Between this first pass and the Ramaz pass one has wonderful views of Mont Blanc. The ski resort up here is not very nice. There is a short climb up to the Col de la Ramaz with good views. The highest point of this road is at 1610 metres and there is a sign there, but the real pass is located a bit below on the other side. I had thought to descend the other side to Mieussy, but after descending happily for while, thinking all climbing for the day was over, I cam to a fence and a man there told me I was not allowed to pass, but had to go back the same way I had come. I had noticed a “route barrée” sign on the other side of the pass, but it was standing a a bit on the side of the road and a few cars went over the pass, so I thought that maybe I could pass by anyway (typically one can in Italy), but you never know for sure. It would have been some hiking to be able to get around this construction area, so it was obviously best to go back and the climb was not long.

I took the small road via Rond down to Taninges (626m) where I found a room for the night at the second hotel just at the main crossroad in the village. This is a pretty simple hotel, but it was good enough for me. I got dinner included in the hotel price for just 4 or 6 euros extra (together it was 40 euro). I had two big plates of Moules (Molds?) and french fries. Then I managed to get them to serve me a pizza after closing down the kitchen (they had made too many).