The pass of the Col du Galibier (2,645 metres) is located in the southern region of the French Dauphiné Alps. The tunnel at 2,556 meters used to be the only through road until 1976 – when the tunnel was closed for restoration, a loop around the summit, similar to the one over the Bonette, was constructed, reaching the ‘official’ summit of 2,645 meters.
With this loop included, it claims 9th spot in the highest paved European roads list and is listed as 5th highest mountain pass. – without it, it’s ranked 11th and 6th respectively.
Like all passes in the area, it’s closed during winter, roughly between October and June. I cycled up the Lautaret side June 9th, 2012 and found the final loop closed from the Valloire side – luckily, I could still cycle up from my end. When I tackled the other side in 2014, it was two weeks later and the road was free of snow.
What makes climbing the Galibier hard, is the distance. It can only be reached via the Col du Télégraphe from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne and via the Col du Lautaret from either Briançon or Bourg-d’Oisans (Le Clapier).
I originally planned this trip to follow the route of the Marmotte, but then changed my mind and plotted a ‘shortcut’ down the Croix de Fer towards the Télégraphe / Galibier.
After all, the passage from the foot of the Glandon in Saint-Étienne-de-Cuines, through the valley to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne and onwards to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, is basically just adding (a lot of) miles to the trip.
In the end, I changed this stage to not include the downhill and / or side trip over the Mollard, and I transferred from the top of the Croix de Fer to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne by car because it would save us (valuable) time.
Besides, arriving at the summit of the Croix de Fer, I was already tired, with the Galibier still to come and the triple on the Ventoux planned for tomorrow…