Col de Champex from Les Valettes
The stats - 10.5km - summit 1,489m - 900m of climbing at an average of 8%
This climb is easily one of the favourites in the area but it does cause some discussion, which way around do you prefer to do it! Our preferred side is to climb from Les Valettes. The climb is not too long, fantastic for training on, with great views, it’s challenging but with a great reward at the summit!
The climb officially starts in Valettes, twisting its way up through vineyards and fruit orchards before entering numerous small hamlets and chalets nestled in the alpine forest. The gradient is constant, but steep, and kicks up in a few places, before levelling off (a little) near the summit for a ‘sprint’ finish.
The reward comes in two parts, firstly a beautiful Swiss village surrounding Lac de Champex. The village is full of lakeside Café’s, patisseries, restaurants and shops which are all over looked by stunning mountains. The second reward, is the descent down the other side. Smooth, sweeping with panoramas to dangerously distract the rider! Once you’ve descended, why not turn around and try it the other way!!
Col de Planche from Martigny
The stats - 10.2km - summit 1,415m - 915m of climbing at an average of 9%
Col de Planches from Martigny is a personal favourite. It’s beautiful but also brutal, and a lot of people gets fooled the first time they ride it by a sneaky section of false flat two-thirds of the way up… it’s not over yet!
The steepest part of this climb is a big 16.4% with an average of 9%... this is one for the cyclists who like steep climbs. The climb starts very abruptly (12%) in the town of Martigny. From most places in the valley you can see the climb and its obviously steep gradient, which depending on your confidence can be motivating or demotivating… be strong!!
This is a climb of contrast - starting in a busy town, passing through orchards and chalets but ending in a peaceful forest at the top of the Col. The views start with buildings and factories before finishing with orchards, forests and mountains! Stunning!
Col de Lein from Saxon
The stats - 13.5km - summit 1,658m - 1,155m climbing at an average of 8.5%
Col de Lein is again another climb that can be taken from both sides - our preferred climb is the longer side coming up from Saxon in the Rhone Valley.
You start in the small town of Saxon, climbing immediately, passing old buildings, the imposing church and ornate water fountain. Fill your bottles here because there is nowhere to get water until you descend the other side. Once out of Saxon and into the vineyards and orchards the panoramic views across the whole of the Rhone valley kick in. The produce from the orchards help to make the local and deadly local Eau de Vie, Willamine and Abricotine, a must if you’re eating a lot of cheese!
Once out of the orchards you pass through a short tunnel cut into the rock, then entering the alpine pine forest which takes you to the top. On a warm day the shade from the trees is very welcome. The gradient eases off a little as you enter the top part of the forest. Two long straight sections bring you onto a gravel forest road, it’s quite smooth and perfectly fine for road tyres. This is the last 1km to the summit! Go for it. Before descending enjoy the lovely picnic area and giant sized bench, great for a comedy photo!
Le Chable to Mauvoisin dam
The stats - 18.5km - summit 1,965m (on top of the Dam) - 1,100m of climbing at an average of 6% with the final climb up to the dam reaching 12%
The Mauvoisin climb is a quiet, tough but manageable climb. From the village of Lourtier you have the option to take a road either side of the valley, we prefer ascending on the north side and descending on the south side.
If you want to be in nature this is the ride for you, at certain times of the year it is possible to see more Marmottes and Bouquetin (a form of alpine Ibex) than cars.
The road it follows was built to help support the construction of the dam in the last century. With huge dominating mountains flanking either side of the road, passing through small hamlets and the interesting supporting infrastructure of the dam. The route is an out and back ride, with some short flat section which allows for some recovery. However, the sting is most definitely in the tail! Once at the base of the dam you have a tough final section onto the top of the dam, popping out of the final tunnel you arrive magically on the dam. Time for your reward!
Col de la Croix de Coeur from Riddes via La Tzoumaz
Stats - 22.3km - summit 2,172m - 1,690m of climbing at an average of 7.6% (max 11%)
This is a big tough climb from whichever side you take it.
Our preferred side to climb it is the La Tzoumaz side because the roads are quieter.
The initial slopes are on a main road passing through villages and tunnels at a steady 8-8.5%. Easing off a little just before La Toumaz. It’s worth refuelling in La Toumaz as once you leave the route becomes beautifully quiet, full of nature and feels very remote… but also tough as the high altitude and earlier efforts start to hurt the legs!
Awaiting you at the top are some of the most spectacular views in the area. Looking across Verbier village, Val D’Bagnes to the Glaciers and 4,000m peaks of the Combin mountain range! Take time to have a drink at the restaurant and soak up the views before a nice technical descent into Verbier.
The Verbier side starts in Le chable climbing to Verbier on the same route as one of the 2009 Tour de France stage summit finishes, see if you can beat Alberto Contador’s time! Once through Verbier carrying on up to the summit of Croix de Coeur.
Introduction to the author :
Adam Sedgwick, is an exiled Englishman who has been living and working in Verbier for over 15 years. His favourite cake is anything with Rhubarb on or in. Adam and his business partner, Jonas Sundstedt, set up the first Road Cycling specific holiday and guiding business in Verbier called Haut Velo. They are both qualified and experienced road guides who have a passion for riding biking and sharing their rides with like-minded people. At Haut Velo they organise, deliverer and guide road cycling holidays and tours in Switzerland and across Europe.