Below is a list of cols around Die, the Drôme valley and the Vercors plateau, in no particular order. Please follow the links to see descriptions and photos. There is an enormous variation in the types of roads these cols cover, from wiggly, gravelly country lanes to major fast roads with impeccable surfaces, and every one is enjoyable in its own way.
A few notes…
Firstly, on a safety note, cols vary enormously in their ease of ascent and particularly descent. Ones on main roads (such as the Col de Rousset and Col de Cabre) have mostly good surfaces and good sight lines, those on back roads (such a Col de Pennes) less so. On all cols look out for minor rock falls leaving debris on the road – although roads such as Col de Rousset are pretty regularly cleared, I’ve been down Col de Rousset when there have been rocks lying on the road big enough to damage a car seriously – always keep your wits around you, even when you know a col well. With corners and safety barriers, especially if you don’t know a road, be careful at corners, as safety barriers are often absent except on the most vertiginous drops. My theory is that they are mostly only placed where, if a car went off the road, the passengers would undoubtedly die – if the outcome would be only possible death or serious injury, then there is unlikely to be a safety barrier. And remember, the French do not generally salt roads, so if there is any chance of ice (remembering how cold it can get up high, even at just 1000m), don’t go col-bagging: from April to October (roughly) is the sensible season for this pastime.
Secondly, clothing – up to you, really, but none of the descents round here are hour-long epics like the ones in the high Alps, so if the weather’s warm and dry, though the tops might be cool, I don’t bother with loads of extra layers, though a gilet and/or base layer and gloves can ease the first bit of descent when you’re likely to feel the cold. But be aware, the weather can change very quickly, and if you’re caught, for instance, in between Col de la Battaille and Col de Rousset when a storm comes in, you might get very cold and wet, whilst it’s still 35C down in Die. Always better to take an extra layer and bring it home unused than to end up with hypothermia.
Lastly, a little game of mine. I’d like to introduce you to my measurement of col climbing: the Haytor (abbreviated to Ht). At 335m, the climb from Bovey Tracey to the top of Haytor in Devon, takes me about 20 minutes, and I find this a useful way of gauging how long long (Alpine) climbs will take me. So, for instance, Col de Rousset is about 850m of ascent, so is about 2.5Ht, and takes me about 56 minutes, Col de la Chaudière about 700m and 47 minutes. The big daddy in these parts is Mont Ventoux at 5Ht, and that was 1h52 for me. So, you see, there is surprising consistency, all things being equal. So, when you see the Haytor accepted as an SI unit of measurement, don’t be surprised. You heard it here first.