Col de la Chau (1337m)

Col de le Chau is a bit of an odd one. It stands above Vassieux-en-Vercors, the long climb leading to it being clearly visible from Vassieux.

Firstly, although that visible bit of climb doesn’t look very high (the col is only about 300m above Vassieux), it seems to take quite a long time to get there. Turning left at the ‘Nécropole’ (a stark and moving reminder of the wartime slaughter at Vassieux), the climb is a simple there-and-back effort, with one hairpin, and I think that the straightness and slight extra steepness of the road in comparison with others make it that bit harder.

Secondly, once you get to the col, you might be surprised to find that you then carry on climbing: in fact you’ll carry on climbing another 100m to the ski station at Chaud Clapier. The reason for this is that Col de la Chau is another of those where you pass along the ridge between two valleys either side of the road (see Col de la Machine for another example).

If you approach from the west (from either Col de la Battaille or Lente) you’ll have a pleasant but unremarkable ascent to Chaud Clapier of about 300m before dropping down to Col de la Chau, and you’ll be forgiven for not stopping (or even noticing) the col.

However, once past the col, and the Mémorial de la Résistance, if it’s a clear day, there’s no way you’ll be able to resist stopping on the descent and taking a photo of the quite breathtaking view that opens up: for there you will see the whole of the majestic eastern ridge, from La Moucherotte in the north, to Le Grand Veymont in the south, and down below you the beautiful Vassieux plains, where such horrors happened just over seventy years ago.

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