top of page

Day 12 : The Galibier

It had again been a cold night. As long as the sun wasn't shining on our bivy bags we stayed inside. It would be too cold otherwise. We heard the frat boys talking about why the three Italians on the other side were laughing. It turned out they were laughing about our bivy bags. One of the frat boys thought we were still sleeping and shouted 'commando style'.


When I wanted to get up, the three Italian guys came to me to ask how our bivy bags worked. It wasn't easy to explain, but they nodded as they understood. The frat guys had piled their garbage bags on their van, so they didn't have to carry them to the cans at the camping's exit. Then they drove off like that. Bram heard them say that they had forgotten about the bags one time, so they had fallen off while driving.

We had to climb back uphill all the way from Bourg d'Oisans to the top of the Lautaret. The first part wasn't that steep. It was 15 kilometers to return to the village where we had slept two days before. There we got some food and drinks before continuing. It was another 10 km to reach the Lautaret. We saw many cyclists going downhill with a number on their frames. Perhaps today was La Marmotte, a well-known cycling race. At the top we bought some more bread. It was too warm to sit in the sun, but we found a nearly empty terrace with benches and parasols. We sat down but shortly after a lady came to tell us 'a drink or no table'. We ordered two colas, but they still didn't seem happy we stayed. As usual, we cut the bread into 3 cm thick slices and put on a fat layer of chocolate spread. I thought the drinks would cost 6 euros, according to Bram it couldn't be that expensive. It turned out to be 5,90. Now that we were allowed to stay on the terrace I decided to use their bathroom as well. There was a huge line. A French man there told me  La Marmotte had already been ridden earlier this year.

It was 8 kilometers from the Lautaret to the top of the Galibier. Those were a lot steeper than the kilometers we had already climbed. We cycled slowly, otherwise 50 km of nearly continuous uphill cycling wouldn't be possible. From the Galibier we had a very nice view. We stopped to take some pictures.


View towards the north


A few children suddenly started shouting 'ground hog'. There was a groundhog somewhere on the mountain. It was wobbling from one stone to the next. Fortunately, I carried an excellent camera, so I took a clear photo.

Galibier groundhog

The groundhog

When we thought we had finally reached the summit, we discovered that the indicated 8 km wasn't the distance to the top but to a tunnel through the mountain. The actual summit was another 2 kilometers uphill with a 10% incline. I would say I liked that idea, but Bram really hated it. We still decided to climb them though. Next to the tunnel was a souvenir shop, but we figured there would be another one at the actual summit. The view from the summit was really nice, so we took some more photos.


Col du Galibier

We walked towards a viewpoint.

100cols_tocht3 305.jpg

We had cycled up from this side


We would descent in this direction, below is the souvenir shop we would visit later.


An Orientation table at the top of the Galibier

Before we went down I quickly checked my bike. The part of my luggage carrier that might touch my tire was getting closer and closer. I told Bram, 'I need to find a rigid piece of metal about 20 centimeters long so I can fix it'. He said, 'good luck finding that on the top of the Galibier'. I also figured I would never find something like that.

We descended a little to the souvenir shop. I placed my bike against the wall and noticed something brown on the floor. I used my foot to remove some gravel and noticed a piece of rebar exactly the right length to fix my carrier. I picked it up and was very happy. So happy that Bram wanted to take a photo.

Cycling in the alps

I hadn't smiled so much the entire vacation.

In the store they didn't sell many nice things. The only thing rigid enough to bring home and with 'Galibier 2645 m' on it was a small metal plate, which I bought. Bram wanted to buy a hat of every big mountain we climbed. He already had ones of the Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, and Alpe d'Huez. They didn't have any in this store, but maybe the one on the other side of the tunnel did. While Bram went back towards the other side of the mountain (through the tunnel), I again set out to fix my bike.

fixing luggage carrier

The repar with two pieces of rebar

fixing luggage carrier

The broken piece I had fixed the day before

Bram had found a hat in the other store. Together we descended. Afterward, it was only a small climb to reach the top of the Col du Télégraphe.

col du telegraphe


col du telegraphe


The descent from the Télégraphe was nice. This year there were few mountains where we could cycle downhill and easily reach 65 km/h. After the descent we reached a busy road, it went uphill so that we couldn't go fast. In the next town we bought some food. After the town followed two more climbs, it stayed hilly. The plan for today was to get over the Galibier and then find the nearest campsite. However, climbing the Galibier didn't take as long as we anticipated and it was still early. We only had one choice for tomorrow's campsite. Otherwise we needed to cycle very little or extremely far. That meant we had to decide to cycle a bit further today or do that tomorrow. We decided to stop early today, it had been a tough day with 50 km of climbing. Just before we reached the village an oncoming car nearly drove us off the road.


We quickly found the campsite, which had a funny owner. He told us there would be a mobile bakery in the morning, that supposedly sold delicious chocolate buns. In this part of France they sold more chocolate buns, while in the Pyrenees they were raisin buns. We didn't have much cash left, just enough to pay for the campsite and two beers. There was only half a spot left on the campsite, all the way in the back. Around 20:00, we had everything set up, which was not super early but sooner than usual. As the beer was still cold we drank that before showering. The campsite was right next to a river, which meant there were many mosquitoes. The battery of my phone was almost empty. Fortunately, I could call for 10 minutes; then I heard some beeps and it switched off.

At 22:00, we crawled into our bivy bags to sleep. An hour later, two loud bangs. Then more. I was completely shocked. What could there be on a campsite that can explode this loudly? I looked outside and saw some green stuff in the sky. Fortunately, they were only fireworks. At night it was cold again.

Distance cycled : 124 km.

bottom of page