Col du Telegraphe

This pass feels like a shoulder point to Col du Galibier. But there is a 175m descent on the west side, which is more than enough for a real summit. Using unpaved roads on the other side of the Valoirette Valley, you can make the approach from this side yet larger. Even though this pass often gets minor billing, when compared with what comes afterwards - Telegraphe is the "lowely" catgory 1, Galibier is the super "above" - hors categorie, 50 percent of the total net elevation gain between Saint Jean de Maurienne and the top of Galibier belong to the Col du Telegraphe approach.

the elevation profile for this summit is included on the Col du Galibier page.


From East.
In St Michel the signed turnoff to this pass crosses the railroad line and the river Arve. Then the road climbs into St Martin, with a great view onto the opposing slope and the houses of upper St Michel. The mountain Croix de Tetes (2497m) behind St Michel has such an impressive face, that it looks impossibly steep. The wide road soon disappears into forest and makes steady progress in gaining elevation. Approaching the last few hundred meters of climbing, windows in the forest open up periodically onto the two great landmarks of the climb, Croix de Tetes, and also the optical telegraph, standing on a protruding ridge over the pass. At one point you can also survey the valley of the Arve upstream. The top of the pass is in a forested curve, with a picnic area on one side and an restaurant on the other.

the most imposing sight on this ride, and from the valley is the "Croix des Tetes". It is "only" about 2400m tall, but is a sheer vertical cliff down to Saint Michel.

From West. (described downwards) A slight slope lets the bike roll downwards along a traverse over the Valoirette valley, its bottom disappearing below in a deep U shape. Across the valley a dirt road can be seen connecting villages on the others side of the gorge. I did not get a chance to try this. But it looks like this would make an interesting loop on a mountain bike, leading over an additional pass back down into the valley of the Arve.

Historical Notes:

The transmission towers on the Fort du Telegraphe are cleary visible from a large area. That is actually the reason that they are there. This is still an occupied military fort. But the location was first chosen as a prime spot to send messages with articulating arms on a signal tower. In 1809 this was state of the art communications, and much faster than the customary horse rider between Lyon and Milan.

The fort was also in a second backup line of the "Alpine Line" of defenses during WW2.