On two wheels to explore the Col de Galibier

The ups and downs on an overnight cycle journey in the French Alps from our friends at Enselle Voyages

Ashley relied on kora Bamboo base layers and a yak wool mid layer top for her epic adventure in the French Alps

9% - the sign announced the next kilometer of the climb would have an average grade of 9%. Yet, here I was, standing up in the danseuse pose, inching up a section of road that was far steeper than 9%. Sweat beaded up and dripped down my forehead, nose and chin. “This is supposed to be hard,” I told myself. “That’s why cyclists come to ride the Galibier - it’s the challenge.”

If the average grade for this kilometer was 9%, I imagine the average bike weight was around 10kg, not my heavier 25kg. But I knew most cyclists who came to this mythic col, or mountain pass, did not come with their tent, sleeping bag, clothes and cooking gear attached to their bikes.

I’m out of juice. I want to camp now.

A motorcycle blared past, breaking my concentration and rhythm. A few hairpin turns below, I can see my partner Quentin pedaling up; his rhythm is slower, and he stops more often to take photos of the mountains than to catch his breath. A case of the tortoise and the hare, by the time we reach the cheese farm that sits only three kilometers from the pass, he caught up to me. We shared the extreme disappointment you can only feel when you’re hungry from doing sports when we found the shop shut only 15 minutes before. There was not a mouse in sight to sell us a wedge of cheese.

Ashley is wearing the Women's Yardang Yak Wool Jersey.

“I’m out of juice. I want to camp now.” The challenge then becomes where to camp quietly and away from the road. Ages ago we left the tree line behind, and presently were surrounded by sunburnt, end-of-summer pastures. If we climb much further, we’ll trade the grass for rocks and shale; beautiful in a mineral type of way, but not ideal for camping.

Sprawled out on the ground, I lay listening to the rumble of passing cars while Quentin wanders down a cowpath across from the cheese farm. Upon his return, he confidently announces, “I found the perfect spot. We won’t be out of view, but no one is going to bother coming to move us.” And he was right, in the middle of a stunning pasture, there was a campsite extraordinaire. Halfway up the hills, 400m away we could see the road, but we didn’t risk any human visitors. Encircled by the Cerces massive, the sun set ablaze the peaks around us. A small herd of cows grazed 100m away, on what we quickly designated as “their side,” of the pasture, the tinkle of their bells carried over to us by a soft, cold, breeze.

The heat of the climb vanished, and the sweat on my back began to feel cold. Kicking off my stiff cycling shoes, I stripped down, and stood naked for a few minutes, air drying. The ground was cold — a sign that despite the day’s heat, the nighttime temperatures would not be balmy. I pulled on my kora Bamboo base layer bottoms and long sleeve top; I find that they regulate my temperature and keep me warm without getting hot.

Ashley is wearing the Women's Bamboo Base Layer LS Crew and Women's Base Layer Bottoms in Deep Purple.

The setting sun dipped low, casting long shadows across the alpine pastures. With practiced hands, we unpacked our gear. Quentin's nimble fingers worked efficiently, securing the tent while I set up our mattresses and sleeping bags. Dinner was a simple affair: pasta on a portable stove. The tendrils of steam rose into the crisp night air. The hot meal was a stark contrast to the plunging temperatures of the Alpine night. The mountains, in their stoic silence, whispered tales of forgotten adventures and the courage of those who'd challenged their heights. Then stars emerged, ancient and unyielding. They formed constellations above us, their distant light telling stories of their own.

Morning broke with the soft hues of dawn painting the mountains in shades of purple and pink. It was time for us to break camp and continue our journey, with our sights set on the famous Col de Galibier.

Setting up camp

We gathered our belongings, dismantled the tent, and packed our bikes for the road ahead. I stayed in my base layer which I had double up as pyjamas because the sun had yet to hit our camp. The winding path lay in front of us, promising a challenge, but with fresh legs, it felt more reasonable than the night before. As we set off, the sun warmed our backs, gradually erasing the night's chill.

The road led us higher, unveiling vistas of beauty at every turn. Each pedal stroke brought us closer, and the switchbacks became tighter and tighter, until we finally reached the signpost: Col de Galibier. It’s all downhill from here, in the best way possible.

On the descent wearing a Yardang Yak Wool Jersey in Copper Orange

Our Bamboo base layers for men and base layers for women are skin friendly and great for multi-day adventures. kora fabrics help to keep your body temperature regulated and their natural breathability and wicking properties mean they can be worn without washing for several days at a time.