Col du Galibier

Col du Galibier is an iconic Tour de France climb

Col du Galibier is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.645m (8,678 ft) above the sea level, located in the French Alps. It’s one of the most impressive climbs in the country.

Where’s Col du Galibier?

The pass is located on the boundary of Hautes-Alpes department (in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region) and the Savoie department (in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region) of France.

How long is Col du Galibier?

Located near Grenoble, the road to the summit is totally paved. It’s called D902. The pass is 43.3 km (27 miles) long, running north-south from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne to D1091 road. The road tops out at the Tunnel du Galibier and ranks with the Col de l'Iseran, 200m (650ft) higher, as one of the highest passes in France, offering magnificent views on both the ascent and the descent. From the top, a beautiful scenery awaits the visitor; within a short walking distance a viewpoint allows to admire and identify the surrounding peaks: Meije, Grand Galibier and even the Mont Blanc. There are cafes and food vendors at the summit.

How hard is Col du Galibier?

The road to the summit, part of the scenic Route des Grandes Alpes, is pretty challenging, with countless turns. The road is pretty steep, and hits a 13.1% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Remember to take into account the effects of altitude, which can be felt from 2000 m. Make no mistake. It's not a piece of cake.

Is the Col du Galibier open?

Set high between the massif d'Arvan-Villards and the massif des Cerces, in the French Dauphiné Alps, this road is usually open from June 1st to October 31th (depending on snow). The open and close dates all depend on snowmelt and snowfall each year. It's one of the highest roads of the country. The pass is named after Le Grand Galibier, the mountain peak at 3.228 metres that towers over the Col.

When was the road to Col du Galibier built?

Tucked away in the southeastern part of the country, the first road through the pass was built in 1876 for military purposes. A mule track had existed over Galibier well before that year. But in 1911, a semblance of a road was finished – the same year as the first Tour ascent. The paved road to the summit was built in 1976. Before, Tunnel du Galibier was the only point of passage at the top. The tunnel opened in 1891 and was in use 85 years, until 1976 when, because of its poor condition, it was closed and reopened in the summer of 2002. Between 1976 and 2002, with the tunnel closed and suffering extensive repairs, it was built the new road over the summit, and riders had to take the D902B road. Until 1976, all traffic, including the Tour de France, passed through the oak-doored darkness of the summit tunnel.

Why is Col du Galibier famous for?

The iconic road through the pass is a true monument in cycling history. It is often the highest point of the Tour de France. The first time the Galibier featured in the Tour de France, on July 10, 1911, only three riders got their crude single-speed bikes up the sloppy track to the summit without walking. In 1935, while descending the lower slopes of Galibier below Lautaret, Francesco Cepeda became the first cyclist killed in the Tour de France. At the south entrance to the tunnel there is a monument to Henri Desgranges, who initiated the Tour de France in 1903. The 2013 Giro d'Italia climbed the Col du Galibier, although the stage had to be shortened by 4 km due to heavy snowfall.