Les Karellis & Col d’Albanne

Amazing Alpine Adventures – Day Six, St Jean de Maurienne.

Having enjoyed every minute of our stay in Hotel Les Grillons in Talloires, today was time to say ‘Au Revoir’ to our hosts Aurelie & Sebastien & head to our new base in St Jean de Maurienne, the Hotel St Georges, which is run by Martine – we’ve stayed here twice before & it was great to wander into Reception at 11am, be recognised immediately & offered un tasse de café on the terrace!

Our rooms were ready for us within 20 minutes of arriving, so we were unpacked, bikes built & ready to roll out for a leg loosener by 12.30. The Maurienne Valley is home to 5 of the top 10 cycling climbs in France & we plan to climb some of the Tour de France classics, as well as explore a few lesser known climbs, as we did today. Slightly west of Col du Telegraphe & Col du Galibier is a purpose built road up to Les Karellis ski station & the Col d’Albanne. I’m an avid follower of Will Davies (no relation), who’s set up the Cycling Challenge website & I found this ride on there. In fact many of my Alpine Adventures owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Will for sharing his exploits.

The first 4 ½ miles took us from St Jean de Maurienne, to the foot of the climb at Le Bochet – the fun began here! For the next 8 miles, we cycled switchback after switchback as we climbed at gradients of between 8 & 10%. As we rose ever higher, the views along & across the Maurienne valley became ever more impressive.

After 5 miles, the road splits, with Les Karellis heading right & Col d’Albanne heading left (both continue to climb, so no easy options here!). We carried on towards Les Karellis, a purpose built ski station, some 3,000 feet above the valley floor below. We didn’t see anywhere open for lunch, so we were pretty desperate for something to eat & drink by the time we reached town. We found a café where we stopped long enough to enjoy an espresso & lemon meringue tart – the food of champions!!!

We descended 2 ½ miles to the turning for Albanne & then started climbing a single track lane through a pine & silver birch forest, which provided some welcome shade from the heat of the sun. After a couple of miles of twisting & turning past small streams, we exited the forest & found ourselves in an alpine meadow with views of the high mountains in every direction! Across the valley we could make out the cliff road up to Mont Denis (a challenge for another day), while directly in front of us was the Fort du Telegraphe & the descent from Col du Telegraphe into Valloire. So much incredible scenery on our first day in the Maurienne valley!!

All that remained was to drink in the views, capture some photos for posterity & then descend the single track to the Karellis junction, before diving back to the valley below. Once we arrived back in Le Bochet, we took a short but scenic diversion past the beginning of the Col du Mollard – hopefully I’ll share more about it later in the week.

What a great first day in the Maurienne Valley – here’s to four more action packed adventures!!

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