Col de Vars

The Col de Vars is near the center of a whole series of high paved passes, that spend a majority of their asphalt above treeline. Many bicycle tours cross this pass. Weather coming from Izoard to the north and heading for Bonnette or Cayolle to the south, or coming from Col du Larche and heading north, Col de Vars is on the route. Finally it can also be part of a partially, unpaved day loop over the Tunnel de Parpaillon s(u).
 

01.(00.0km,890m) START-END NORTH ALT: jct N94 - road to Guillestre
02.(03.3km,1000m) START-END NORTH: Guillestre
03.(13.5km,1630m) Marcelin
04.(18.0km,1864m) Station de Vars
05.(22.5km,2109m) TOP: Col de Vars
06.(27.4km,1660m) Melecen
07.(30.9km,1468m) START-END SOUTH: St Paul sue Ubaye and turnoff to upper Ubaye valley on left
08.(39.5km,1282m) la Condamine and turoff to tunnel Parpaillon on left
09.(44.7km,1228m) Jausiers
10.(53.0km,1135m) START-END SOUTH ALT: Barcelonnette, bridge over Ubaye south west of town

Approaches

From North. Guillestere is already located substantially higher than the main highway in the valley of the Durance. But once past the rondel south of Guillestre, the climb really starts. A steep and fairly busy road climbs a forested ridge, that at times has views on the surrounding region in three directions. The snow draped peaks of the Ecrins National Park to the north vividly illustrate, that this is region is now part of the "high alps", not the "high Provence Alps". But in afternoon light the view is often obscured by thick clouds.

Once on top of this ridge the road descends into the high valley, where the ski town of Vars is located. The first one is the old, more picturesque Vars. Further up the road climbs again steeply between closed ski hotels and lifts. After passing two natural lakes, the surroundings go back to their natural appearance again. Near the refuge Napoleon a sign promises that the top is near. After leaving the last vestiges of the ski infrastructure behind, the pass is less than 5km away.

On top is a souvenir shop. This becomes an increasingly common occurrence north of here. South of here tops of passes tend more often to retain a more natural appearance. The tooth like mountain to the south is Tete de Valon Claous at 2945m. The pavement is way too smooth on this side, bringing out the worst in motorcyclists.

Col de Vars

From South. But the surface deteriorates quickly (ie improves - depending on your point of view) on this side, keeping speeds more manageable. Long switchbacks above treeline give a great view of the upper valley of the Ubaye. The road leading up this historic region dead ends. The peak separating it from the strategic route up Col de Larche is the magnificent Aguille de Chambeyron at 3412m. Further down, the traditional metal roofs on the village houses give off a nicely rust textured appearance.

As the road turns right and enters the forested part of the lower Ubaye valley, it passes through a gallery of tunnels. St Paul and la Condamine are picturesque settlements, and Fort Tournoux above a sentinel to the strategic importance of this junction through history. The first thing, resembling a grocery store, that is actually open sometimes, and be useful to cyclists is in Jausiers. But if you want an actual supermarket you have to continue into Barcelonnette.

 Col
                                      de Vars
approaching the summit of Col de Vars from north


A Dayride with this point as intermediate summit is on the Tunnel de Parpaillon s(u) page.

Col de
                                    Vars

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