Reader Q&A: Climbing the Galibier, Alpe d'Huez and other cols in September and October

Published by Lyn on 19 May 2014

Andrew emailed to ask whether it was possible to climb the higher cols of the Alps well into September and October. He's chasing the Club des Cent Cols and only has five cols to go. Here's our email Q&A.

Col du Rousset by Dwr

The Col du Rousset in the Vercors. Photo: Dwr

Hi Lyn

I am planning several cycling trips in September to the central Alps, the Pyrenees and the Picos de Europe in northern Spain. Your website is really helpful, including Paul Henderson’s article on when to go to the French Alps.

I am struggling coordinate the three trips around other commitments, including, most importantly, my wife walking the Camino. How late in September/early October do you think I can safely go the Maurienne Valley and Alpe d'Huez and still be able to climb the higher cols – Galibier etc? By the end of the three trips I hope to have ridden over 100 cols to be qualify for the Club des Cent Cols and need to get the 5 in over 2000m.

Cheers,
Andrew.

Lyn writes:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for getting in touch - I'm pleased you're finding the website useful.

To be sure, I emailed a few contacts in the Alps and also posted your query on our Facebook page.

The guys at Cyclomundo, who are based over the border in Switzerland and run a swathe of tours in the Alps, replied with the following:

"Usually until mid-October, it's fine. However, all the hotels are closed then if the rider needs accommodation. You may want to share this link with your reader for the status of each col."

Andy at Le Château d’Oz, near Alpe d'Huez, emailed me this:

"Hi Lyn,

The highest cols in our area, Glandon, Croix de Fer and Galibier, are open until around the end of October if the weather permits.

Frankly, if there is a big dump of snow in the middle of October, with more snow forecast, they will shut the cols as the traffic is minimal at this time of year. This is not due to the snow on the roads (often minimal), but the unstable snow on the slopes above the route.

The cols can be shut at any time due to bad weather; high winds (60-90km/h) can make the cols impassable for cyclists.

The question is really about the weather and that’s always best addressed on the day. It’s also often quite chilly at 2000m, best bring something warm for descending.

In brief, any date after the middle of October could be risky. Having said that, you could have absolutely brilliant weather all the time.

We are open until the end of September (fantastic weather usually), but closed afterwards as there are so few visitors.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Andy."

Gerry Patterson, who runs guided rides through the Alps with Cycling Languedoc, wrote this:

"I'd say October would be fine unless there's early snow. He might need to wrap up a bit, though."

Teresa at Velo Vercors emailed me the following:

"Hi Lyn,

All the cols in our region including Col du Rousset (featured in the TdF), Col de la Machine (one of France's most important roads and Europe's largest gorge) are open well in to October.
 
We close Saturday, October 4, but would be delighted to show him around the Vercors.
 
Best for now,
Teresa."
 
 

As mentioned above, most accommodation will have closed for the season into October, but you may get lucky with a bit of planning and booking ahead. I've inclued our bike-friendly accommodation map for the Alps below, or browse our Where to Stay section. Tell anyone you contact that you came via Freewheeling France and they'll look after you if they're open!

I hope that helps - please drop me a line back if you need any more info or advice.

Cheers,
Lyn.

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