Col du Chaussy is a high mountain pass, at an elevation of 1.533m (5,029ft) above the sea level, located in the Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. The road to reach the summit starts with the famous “lacets de Montvernier”, a special 3 km stretch with 17 hairpins as the road virtually climbs a cliff. It's an improbable road clinging to the edge of the cliff. It's one of the most scenic drives in the world.
The challenging winding road to the summit is called D77B road. The Lacets de Montvernier – or Hairpins of Montvernier – are an astonishing piece of mountain road engineering. It climbs sharply via 17 hairpins tightly stacked one on top of another in just 3km. Dating from 1934, Col du Chaussy is probably best known for the truly unbelievable hairpins at the start – the “lacets de Montvernier.” But beyond this it’s a big climb with more than 1000 metres of ascent. Through a series of 17 tight corners, drivers will beat a vertical drop of 400 meters in just 3 miles away. The mountain is exactly where you do not want your brakes fail. Before leaving, check the brake fluid level and condition of your pads. It’s one of the lesser-known climbs in France but the road is like no other in the Alps. The bendy section is concentrated within a 2.5km stretch meaning a bend every 150 metres. This is the steepest part. After the hairpins, it’s still a very interesting climb winding up through alpine fields with a great stretch along a cliff road a few kms from the top. The road continues with quite regular slope (7-8 %) passing through the villages of le Noirey, Montbrunal and Montpascal. Ths southern side of the road is entirely paved, but very narrow. The last kilometers before the summit are badly surfaced.
In the mountains, when the road is not wide enough to allow two vehicles to pass, the vehicle going up has priority over the one that goes down. If the crossing requires a reverse, then the most maneuverable vehicle has to achieve it. Uphill, choose the 3rd or 4th gear, not more. Downhill, use your engine brake, even until 2nd downshift before starting tight turn.
There are 2 possible routes to reach the top of Col du Chaussy. Starting from La Chambre, the ascent is 14.4 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.062 meters and the average percentage is 7.4 %. And from Pontamafrey, the ascent is 14 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.031 meters and the average percentage is 7.4 %.
The road is paved. It is actually quite scenic and if you don’t focus only on the tarmac in front of you, you may see the ruins of an old castle. Not less than 6 years of work between 1928 and 1934 were necessary to defeat the 400 meters of ascent to connect the valley to the village of Montvernier. These small laces, stacked over each other, clinging to the mountain road is one of the most spectacular of Savoy, and a real challenge for cyclists. The upper section goes through several villages and offers panoramic views of the Belledonne Mountains.
This road is one of the most famous balcony roads of the country. A balcony road is a hair-raising lane cut into the sides of sheer cliffs. It’s a kind of road not for those who fear heights. There is little room for error on these roads. It’s normal for your palms to sweat looking at those photos, imagine what it must have been like before the barriers. There are not many roads like this in Europe, if you can handle the height and the prospect of a very long free fall this road absolutely has to be on the list of any road connoisseur. It runs as a single track road along the mountainside for some distance with nowhere to pass another vehicle. Here one says a prayer that nobody is coming towards you until the road widens some kilometres further.
Pic: Frédéric Prayer