At the extreme southern end of the Aravis range, the col provides access from the south to the high mountain pastures above the Arly valley. There is a refuge on the col. From the col it is possible to walk or mountain bike to the col des Aravis, skirting around the Mont Charvin.
Climbing the Col de l’Arpettaz
The Col de l’Arpettaz is a real gem, unknown to all except the locals. It is one of the most beautiful climbs we have ever done, and it is virtually traffic-free. On top of that, there’s a fantastic refuge at the col for hot drinks and apple tart! It is a tough climb, comparable to the Colombière, harder than the Saisies and any of the other shorter climbs in the area such as the Aravis, the Croix-Fry or the Forclaz, but well worth the effort.
There are two ways to the summit, both starting in Ugine. The direct climb is our preferred option, shorter, steeper and with many more switchbacks. We reach it in a 99km loop from La Clusaz that includes 2,45m of climbing for a grand day out.
From Ugine (direct)
A short climb through the town of Ugine brings us to a left turn off the main road. From here on the road narrows, and after passing the last few houses and a few scattered farms the chances of meeting traffic are almost non-existent. The first part of the climb is through fields and orchards. A fantastic view progressively opens up of the valley below as you turn around the first few of the 40 hairpin bends before the summit.
Five turns later, you enter a beech forest, mercifully cool on a hot day. The road is narrow, steep and the bends come in very quick succession. Every now and again you come out of the forest, but not for long. The condition of the road varies but is sometimes quite poor. This doesn’t affect the climb but it is better not to descend this side.
The gradient changes all the time between 3% and 10% but remains pretty constant around 8% when measured kilometre by kilometre. It’s not easy to get into a rhythm. You have to alternate standing and sitting while frequently changing gear.
The final 10 bends are spread out over the last 5km in the alpine pastures. In mid-summer you can expect to see plenty of the local brown cows enjoying the splendid views at 1500m.
From Ugine (via Hauteville)
For this variant the route follows the secondary road to Flumet and Megève, via Héry and the Balcons d’Arly. This is normally a quiet road, but can be busy when the main road at the bottom of the valley is blocked by roadworks (this has happened a lot over the past few years). The gradient is an easy 4% to 6% over the first 10km before the turn-off to Hauteville.
From here on the road narrows and steepens: the real work begins. There is no shade so the climb is seriously tough on a hot day. The road winds up 6km at 7% to 9% through steep pasture and farms before the tiny village of Hauteville. From here it levels off and the last 5km to the summit are straightforward.
If you climb from this side, go back down the same way. The direct descent to Ugine is dangerous and best avoided.