The legendary Col de la Madeleine is beautiful but heartbreaking
Col de la Madeleine is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 1.998m (6,555ft) above the sea level, located in the Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It’s one of the emblematic French Alps mountain passes.
The pass is 37.3 km (23.17 miles) long, running south-north from La Chambre to Bonneval. It’s one of the very toughest climbs in France. The Col de la Madeleine is known since Roman times. The decision to build the current road was taken in 1949 and the inauguration took place in 1969.
Located in the French Alps, the road to the summit is totally paved. It’s called D213 (part of the scenic Route des Grandes Alpes). This is one of the more well-known of the French mountain passes, much because of the frequent visits by the Tour de France over the years. The pass is pretty steep, hitting a grueling 13.5% through some of the ramps. It’s a mountain relatively difficult to climb, especially from La Chambre where the slope is steep and relentless. The northern approach from Bonneval is longer but with a lower slope and some passages where you can take some rest, in particular a three kilometers descent halfway through.
Accessibility is largely limited to the summer season. It is usually closed from November to the beginning of June but it can be closed anytime when the access is not cleared of snow. Perched at nearly 2,000 feet, its summit offers a stunning panorama on the Mont Blanc and Lauzière massifs. West of the pass, a brutal unpaved road climbs up to Le Gros Villan, at 2.522m (8,274ft) above the sea level. It’s very complicated with very steep slopes (22.41%. average slope) and exposed turns but therefore rather exciting.
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