Col de Rousset 1254m

The Col de Rousset is the gateway to the beautiful Vercors plateau from the south. Firstly, a map: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4464631 – this gives the stats of the ascent as 11.3 miles long and 2849 ft of ascent (that’s 18.1 km +868 m for metric folk). You’ll also notice 124 ft (34m) of descent too – more of that in a moment.

I suppose this is really a quiet little promotion for the climb itself: quite apart from it being just fifteen minutes from the house, it is not only a great introduction to Alpine hills (it’s about an hour up and 25 minutes down), but also extremely beautiful, with ever changing views as you ascend, but also through the seasons. For this posting, I’ve used photos taken in April, and the mixture of Spring light and foliage (or lack of foliage, for many of the trees) is in stark contrast to the bleakness of winter or the lushness later in the year.

The character of the climb is that it is very benign, and as long as you can keep pedalling for an hour or so at moderate effort, you will get to the top and have the reward of the breathtaking view. In the series of photos below you’ll see features from the climb from just outside of Die on the D518. From the inconspicuous ‘DEPART’ post lurking by a large information sign, you start with a gentle climb towards and through the Forêt de Justin; before the road levels out, and indeed then makes a little descent towards the bridge just before the picturesque village of Chamaloc, and its much-photographed lavender fields. If you keep an eye on the kilometre posts, they helpfully give the elevation, distance to next notable place, and percentage gradient: the only one that does not have a percentage is the one just before Chamaloc, as it would be a negative one!

At Chamaloc the climbing recommences, and from here you have the prospect of a continuous climb to the top, round the eight hairpin bends. One of the thrills of the ascent is that, just after Chamaloc, you can see virtually the whole climb open out before you: ahead, just to the right of the apex of the valley, you can just make out the entrance to the tunnel at the col, and either side of the apex you can see the road carved out of the side of the valley, and the hairpins themselves. None of the climb is more than 10%, and much of it nearer 5%, so it does not necessarily favour the lightest riders: as long as someone can put out decent power, they can keep up with the specialist climbers, as shown by two of the Exeter Wheelers who were with me this week: despite a 15kg weight difference, there was only about 20 seconds difference in their times of slightly under 50 minutes. I was a more sedate 56’20. Taking in the views, of course.

At the top, the view is outstanding – not of Alps themselves, but the pre-Alps stretching south from the plateau: on a good day you’ll see that characteristic sight of lines of outlines getting fainter the further away they are.

I returned to the climb later in the week to take these photos, and to do a video of the descent, in which I tried to give a few views out to the side, as well as staying on the bike despite the strong gusting and swirling winds.

The road to the Col de Rousset from the main road west out of Die
The easily missed ‘Départ’ post
One of the very helpful km markers. The distance actually is to the far end of the tunnel at the col.
The bridge after the short descent into Chamaloc
The place where you get your first proper view of the top of the ascent
And here you get the ascent laid out in front of you, winding across the valley
Hairpin No.1
Hairpin 2
Hairpin 3
View of hairpin 3
Hairpin 4
Hairpin 5
Hairpin 6
Km marker at hairpin 6
Hairpin 7
Hairpin 8 – the last one!
The well-earned view from the top.
The end of the climb

And lastly, a video of the rather windy descent, as far as Chamaloc.

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