This Hors Catégorie climb is a lesser-known gem of the Haute-Savoie Region in the French Alps.
It has appeared in the Tour De France as recently as stage 20 in 2013 when Nairo Quintana gapped Chris Froome for the stage win. The pros actually took the western side that day, which is slightly less direct, slightly longer and so not as steep.
This route is not for the faint hearted and starting from Annecy itself it ascends a whopping 1200 meters over the course of 10 miles. The final height is 1670 at the summit making it a very serious HC climb.
As soon as you leave Annecy on the D41 it the road kicks-up onto steep switchbacks and into the forest. This pretty much sets the tone; most of the ride is in a wooded area, which on a hot day (I tackled it on such a day) provide very nice on-off cool shady patches.
The route straightens-out later for an almost dead run up the mountain with the gradient yielding in the middle from a harsh 10% to a more bearable 5-6%. This middle part is hard going, but manageable.
For the final quarter the switchbacks return and so does the gradient, but worry not as you now have summit fever, and for the first time you can view Lake Annecy in all its clear beauty. At the top of the final turns you reach the Semnoz ski resort and the summit itself. The restaurant Les Rochers Blancs is waiting for you, which is a great place to grab a drink before you descend.
Its a daunting climb, and be prepared to commit the thick end of a couple of hours if you aren’t in shape or have a heavy bike (I had the later on this trip). Take two bottles minimum in the summer; there is no were to refill on the way up. The roads here are exceptionally quiet, and quite apart form the ones down at the lake, which is an added bonus.
Descent: A whole heap of options here. Descending down via the Col de La Leschaux then down into Saint-Jorioz is a very attractive and picturesque option, but I chose to come straight back down the way I came. The descent is fast, challenging and varied. Even at 30mph this took 20minutes, there is nothing quick or easy about this Mountain, even when you have gravity on your side.
A GPS route of this route can be found HERE