Cols du Télégraphe & Galibier Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Cols du Télégraphe & Galibier


Famous ascent out of the climbing Mecca of France that has appeared 20 times in the TDF since 1947

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Climb Summary


Col du Galibier - one of the world’s scenic cycling climbs.

World Top 10 Most Scenic Bike Climb

One of the world’s great cycling climbs.  Col du Galibier is located in one of the great climbing areas of the world and is a must if one is in or near France’s southeastern Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Region or Savoie Department.  Of course, a 5-7 day climbing trip to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is an experience of a lifetime and would of course include this exceptional Col.

Col du Galibier is part of the Route des Grandes Alpes, a tourist itinerary that begins in Thonon-les-Bains and travels over many of the most spectacular passes in France and Europe, including Col de L’Iseran, Galibier, d’Izoard, and Bonette; alternate route includes Croix de Fer and Madeleine.

Bartali handing Coppi a water bottle on the Galibier in the 1952 TdF . . . or

Coppi sending it back to Bartali - the debate rages . . .  


Haute Route quotes Henri Desgrange in his praise of this climb:

The Galibier became a legend at the very first time it was used by the Tour de France, in 1911. This is how Henri Desgrange, creator of the Tour de France, introduced it to his readers: “Oh ! Sappey ! Oh ! Laffrey ! Oh ! Col Bayard ! Oh ! Tourmalet ! I will not fail in my duty in proclaiming that next to the Galibier you are as weak as dishwater: before this giant there’s nothing one can do but doff one’s hat and bow down low.” - Henri Desgrange (translation Marvin Faure). - Col du Galibier

When first crossed in 1911 by the Tour de France, no tour rider had ever ridden higher.  


Climbing Col du Galibier - from Valloire by bike - roadway sign, roadway and elk statue in Valloire

Climb begins in the ski resort of Valloire

Valloire is a commune in the Savoie Department, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.

Population 1,132 (2014), elevation 735 m.

Stunning scenery the entire route

Great bike climb Col du Galibier - from Valloire - sheep on roadway

Livestock aplenty on the climb.

Bike ride up Col du Galibier from Valloire - La Ferme du Galibier - cafe

La Ferme du Galibier

Km 13 of Col du Galibier from Valloire

Km 30.5 Col du Télégraphe + Galibier

Best climb in Alps - Col du Galibier from Valloire - cyclist at Col du Galibier Col sign


The more scenic and difficult approach to Col du Galibier is from the north.  At 10.8 miles/3,930’/6.9% the north is the shorter but more challenging climb versus the south at 9.7/3,180’/6.2%


Cycling Col du Galibier from Villar-D'Arene - bike at fountain in square at Villar-D'Arene

Southern climb begins in Villar-d’Arene

Bicycle climb of Col du Galibier from Villar-D'Arene - mountains and road

15.6 km at 6.2% gaining 981 m


Spectacular views and scenery throughout the southern approach

Climbing Col du Galibier from Villar-D'Arene by bike - Col du Lautaret sign and bike

By way of Col du Lautaret - 8.5 km at 6.8% from here.

 The true southern approach to Col du Galibier begins at Col du Lautaret.


If you have only one shot at Galibier and cannot do both sides in a day, consider Col du Telegraphe to Col du Galibier South which is a very challenging and scenic one-two punch with and the longest bike climb in France.   Staying in the ski resort town of Valliore is a good launch point for Telegraph/Galibier if one preferred to be closer to those climbs during a climbing trip to the area. Otherwise, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is your best bet as it is centered among at least 12 of the greatest climbs in France and the World (PJAMM Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne Climb Area Page)

Bicycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - start of climb - road signs

Start in Saint Michel de Maurienne

Climbing Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier by bike - km marker for Col du Telegraphe

Col du Télégraphe is 11.7 km, 825 m ascent at 7.1%

Bicycle ride up Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - altitude sign at Col du Telegraphe

Télégraphe-Galibier:  33.5 km, 2,391 m gained at 5.7%

Cycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - John Johnson and PJAMM with bike at Col du Telegraphe.    


Cycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - John Johnson and PJAMM with bike at Col du Telegraphe.

Andy Schleck Stage 18 2011 Tour de France

Col du Galibier - highest mountain top finish ever


As with many of the challenging and beautiful climbs of France, Galibier is fabulously famous because it has been blessed by the Tour de France justifiably many times (34 times since its first post WWII appearance in 1947 which was the first TdF since 1940 due to WWII).  Most recently (as of 2017) Galibier was featured in The Tour in 2017 when debutante Primoz Roglic became the first Slovenian to win a TdF stage.  

Cycling Col du Telegraphe and Col du Galibier - John Johnson and PJAMM with bike at Col du Telegraphe.

Primoz Roglic - Stage 17 Tour de France

First Slovenian to win a TdF stage.


Of Galibier and the Tour de France, Wikipedia writes:

The Col du Galibier was first used in the Tour de France in 1911; the first rider over the summit was Emile Georget, who, with Paul Duboc and Gustave Garrigou were the only riders not to walk.

Emile Georget, Col du Galibier, 1911


The original summit was at 2556 m.; while the tunnel was closed from 1976 until 2002, the tour route went only over the pass closer to the mountain peak at 2645 m. In 2011, the Tour de France went through the tunnel for the first time during the 19th stage from Modane Valfréjus to L'Alpe d'Huez.

At the south portal of the tunnel, at the edge of the road, there is a monument to Henri Desgrange, instigator and first director of the Tour de France. The memorial was inaugurated when the tour passed on 19 July 1949. Whenever the tour crosses the Col du Galibier, a wreath is laid on the memorial. The "Souvenir Henri Desgrange" is awarded to the first rider across the summit of the highest mountain in each year's tour. In 2006, the prize of 5,000 euros was claimed on the Col du Galibier by Michael Rasmussen.


Since 1947, the Col de Galibier has been crossed 31 times by the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used in 1996, but was left out at the last minute due to bad weather. As a result of snow on both the Col de l'Iseran and the Col du Galibier, the scheduled 190 km stage from Val-d'Isère to Sestriere in Italy was reduced to a 46 km sprint from Le-Monetier-les-Bains which was claimed by Bjarne Riis, resulting in him taking the yellow jersey which he retained to the finish in Paris.

In the 2008 Tour, the Col du Galibier had been crossed on 23 July in the 210 km stage 17 from Embrun to Alpe d'Huez.

The 2011 Tour climbed the Col du Galibier twice to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of the pass in the Tour de France, including the first ever summit finish, won by Andy Schleck after a 60 km solo breakaway. This was the highest ever stage finish in the Tour de France. It was scheduled to be used again in stage 20 of the 2015 Tour, but was left out nine days before the race start due to landslides in the Chambon Tunnel, situated towards the bottom of the descent of the climb.”

The Telegraphe and Galibier is the scene of the greatest racing day in the life of Marco Pantani - it is here and in this Stage 15 of the 1998 TdF that Pantini attacked on the Galibier and ultimately turned at 3 minute deficit into an 11 minute lead against Jan Ullrich.  Pantini went on to win the Tour de France that year.  

Pantani attacks 4.2 km from Galibier summit


From Valloire

Steepest kilometer is last km  (10.1%)


Steepest kilometer is last km (9.5%)