Improving on my last ascent of this col shouldn’t be too hard, as on my previous trip I found the road ascent a bit dull, and then got chased off the mountain by the rain and cold, so surely room for improvement? I decided to take the off-road track up the opposite side of the valley for starters.
The Ride. The frost was thick and white on the road-side grass, a timely reminder that winter is lurking around the next bend, I crossed the valley and broke-out into the sunshine, but was glad I had brought my buff to go under my helmet. It stayed there all day. I stopped and picked up a treat from the Boulangerie in Seez, and what a treat it was …..a chocolate, almond croissant; two of my favourite flavours wrapped in to one warm fatty mass!
I turned left onto a small road leading to St Germain, passing a very picturesque waterfall and managing to resist the warm croissant in my pocket for at least half an hour, surely worthy of sainthood? The road eventually turned to gravel and the next hour and a half was tough going. The track is a far cry from the smooth ‘marble’ road above la Planay, but is rideable, with mixed gradients between 7 and 10%.
Back out on tarmac and passed what has to be one of the most brutal and incongruous buildings in the Alps; the hospice at the top of the Col. I guess it is a case of kill or cure? To my relief, the Italian restaurant was open for a much welcome cup of coffee (or two), so I didn’t have to use the restaurant attached to ‘the asylum’, before my ‘grand descend’. I chose the alternative road through Montvalezan, passing Chapelle St Michel, where I ate a delicious piece of salmon quiche, with amazing views up to Val d’Isere. Such a contrast to the last time I was here.
The Verdict: A tough, more interesting ascent for those that like gravel tracks, and a quick stop at Chapelle St Michel is definitely worth it on a clear day. A quick stop at the boulangerie in Seez is also to be recommended.
(top: the off-road track up to the col, bottom: the view from the steps of Chapelle St Michel where salmon quiche was consumed!)
(from left to right: the tower of Chapelle St Michel, an unusual way-marker on the chapel hillock, the village of le Chatelard with Chappelle St Michel in the background)
(left: the Hospice & St Bernard at the top of Col du Petit St Bernard, top and bottom: basic time lapse photography, 10.30 am and 10.32 am)
GoogleEarth ‘3D phantasmogram’ of my day out.
(top featured image: reflection in the lake behind Bourg Saint Maurice on a frosty morning)