See the sections for France and Italy of the Trento Bike Pages.

Mont Blanc

Contributed by Marco Buffa in November 1995


At Chamonix there's a large free-parking in front of Police station: I think it's hard to find a safer place than that for my car. It's first time I see Mont Blanc from northside: it seems a completely different mountain.

This first part is made up of three ascents: the first to Col de Montets(France), the second to Col de la Forclaz(Switzerland) and the last to Grand St. Bernard (frontier Switzerland/Italy) more and more difficult. Col de Montets it's very easy to reach also due to low devilment; there's just a little Savoy-roadsign on the top. (till here: 14 km. 45 min. 424 mt. of devilment) Sun shows up on the route in the descent (very steep). There's a drinking fountain on the left near Vallorcine; it's the last till Col de la Forclaz. I use the last meters of descent as run-up for ascent to Col de La Forclaz very brief but very steep. Unluckily run-up effects end almost immediately: the ascent is on a straight steep route but when I meet a left hairpin slope decreases and I can see a point supposed to be the end of the ascent (and in fact that is). Col de La Forclaz turns to be very crowded although his height is less than 1600 mt; i decide to take a long rest because ascent of Gran St. Bernard (44km) is coming; Col de la Forclaz is provided with a drinking fountain on the right just at the beginning of the descent. (till here: 32 km. 130 min. 900 of devilment) Descent on Martigny turns to be very surprising: there's a lot of mist while on the other side of Col de La Forclaz there was (quite a) clear sky and also it's a very steep descent I can also tell this by looking at faces of those who are climbing up. In a few minutes I get to Martigny (till here: 45 km. 160 min) First part of St. Bernard route looks like a motorway: in fact cars go very fast and that's a bit irritating. I also meet some descent stretch; in the whole there's no difficulty at all. (note also the railway with little trains taking to Verbier)

First part ends when crossing route to Verbier's valley (INFO for MTB riders: there's the chance to enter this valley,get easily to Mauvoisin lake and Chanrion refyge. Then taking 3 hours on foot you enter Italy at "Fenetre Durand" (2800 mt.) and go down to By valley so that you meet a wide mule-track from which you restart riding,down to Valpelline and, if you like, get back by italian side of Gran S. Bernardo. Great view of Arolla's glacier and Grand Combin. Only this tour requires a complete day to be completed).

A steep right bend introduces me to the second part: now the ascent is very demanding: the route bypasses a set of villages at my right included the ones at the beginning of Val Ferret ( here there's a path taking to Courmayeur via Col Ferret: you enter Italy in Val Ferret (yes the same name). Every year there is a relay race 7x21 Km. "Tour du Mont Blanc" covering this path). I'm very disappointed at reading "Col du Grand St. Bernard km 20"... Now I understand I wasted some precious energy in the first part ... Quite tired I'm at Bourg St. Bernard the last village before Col; Here starts a verglas from which I can see a beautiful lake; the route is now flat and gets to north entry of tunnel (only for cars I'm saying to my self "it's done". False. The last Km. are very demanding especially leaving the route to the Tunnel. I think that someone walking near me would go faster... but suddenly here's the hospice at the pass (till here: 90 km. 395 min 2900 of devilment). I take a long stop; it's been hard and from Aosta to LaSalle there's still some ascent.

Once entered Italy the route becomes narrower and requires a bit of attention because of the traffic; no villages till the south entry of the tunnel. Getting down to Etroubles a long (10%) descent stretch but take care due to a couple of hairpins. A drinking fountain on the right just outside Aosta deserves a stop. Aosta is very chaotic and full of traffic lights. (till here: 120 km. 460 min. 2900 of devilment). The route to La Salle is full of traffic: to avoid this I take indications to Pila and then to Jovencan and Aymavilles. From Aymavilles a narrow route takes to Villeneuve: here I prefer join the main route because is more flat than the other that ends to Arvier. In the end La Salle with a steep ascent: I however decide to take a stop at a drinking fountain; house I rented is 1.5 km.far.

Three days later I start again to retrieve my car in Chamonix parking. From La Salle, I cross Morgex and Pre' St Didier: here's the beginning of the ascent to Piccolo St. Bernardo. At first, several hairpins but not much effort is required; after a tunnel (ligthed) the route become straight and more and more steep (anyway < 10%). After crossing a little bridge a new couple of hairpin and another straight stretch: the wind in the opposite side makes the ascent to be more demanding. While entering a new tunnel slope decreases and I'm at La Thuile, last village before frontier. Exit from La Thuile is demanding and the weather's getting worse. Now the slope is constant and there are many bends; after crossed a red house a right hairpin takes to the last windfull 4 kms. Yes wind is the main difficult: luckily there's also a flat stretch before a final couple of hairpins. I see fog is coming up: the opposed cars have their headlights on. However I read "France 1 km." and while the slope decreases here's the pass. (till here: 30 km. 110 min. 1300 of devilment)

The descent is in the fog for 8 km; after that clear sky with clouds. The route is wider than the italian side that instead offers a better landscape. At Seez, crossing route to Iseran, a drinking fountain: I'm going on to Bourg St. Maurice. The intial project was to get to Cormet de Roseland but the weather is still getting worse; it's better go to Albertville. Main route to Albertville is forbidden to bycicles. Unluckily there are no clear signes saying where bycicles can ride: I often lose my way (and waste my time ...). In the end Albertville (till here 113 km. 400 min. 1300 of devilment). As the weather is now getting better I decide to take the route to Beaufort to get to Col de Saises. The ascent is very demanding once I left the route to Beaufort; towards Hauteluce I can see Mont Blanc and also rest a moment with a steep descent stretch I use as run-up for the last steep 5 km. Col de Saises is a Winter station not so beautiful in summer (till here: 145 km. 550 min. 2500 of devilment) The descent is interrupted by a straight stretch of ascent (both unexpected and unneeded). A stop to Megeve to buy some food and then down to St. Gervais. Here there's no alternative bike must ride on the motorway (and local people confirm that). Besides a long straight stretch of ascent drives me almost crazy (maybe I'm a little tired).

There's no else to say because mist is covering all the mountains but when I see directions to Mont Blanc Tunnel I understand it's done; the motorway ends and here's Chamonix (till here: 207 km. 750 min. and 3000 mt. of devilment)

Questions and answers:


No: it's better not waste much energy in first part of the ascent to Grand St. Bernard and also in the verglas before the tunnel.


Morgex in Val d'Aosta


Grand St. Bernardo pass and Baeufort valley