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by Alain Hoffmann

Ratings(1-5, 1=easy, 5=extreme):


Difficulty: 2
Danger: 2
Views: 3-4
Interest 3-4
Is it worth doing? Definitely.
Suitable for: Any Landrover, any driver

 

It lies south of Grenoble, roughly between Briançon and Gap. The closest city is Embrun. There's a good number of campgrounds around and we choose the "Le Verger" at Baratier, some 3km from Embrun for it's silence.

The next fuel station is at the supermarket "Les Mousquetaires". Coming down from the campground at Baratier direction Embrun, go straight through at the roundabout and it's only 100m. Cheap fuel.

Possibilities for camping near the track: Not many and not appreciated by the landowners. Also very cold due to altitude.

Time for the crossing: Count 2 hours as a minimum. 3-4 hours for the return trip.

Directions for the Col du Parpaillon

Full lenght: 48 km, 2 hours. Max steepness: 14%

From Embrun which lies on the north side of the Durance river drive onto the south side. You will fall on the D994b, an small tarmac road. Drive this a bit to the east than take the road D39 to the right at N44.56450 E6.52262 (all GPS datas in h.dd.ddd format).

Follow it for some kilometres until you find another road going right after a bridge at N44.55587 E6.53073. Point #008. This is signposted to Crévoux.

At N44.54948 E6.61052, point 009, you will find another intersection near a bridge. Here the Parpaillon is signposted for the first time. To the left it reads Parpaillon via La Chalp and to the right over the bridge it reads Parpaillon via Crévoux. Drive right and cross the bridge. The left one is tarmac only.

Inside the village of Crévoux keep left, pass the houses and after a right turn you will see the following signpost at your left, pointing up a gravel track at N44.54732 E6.60852, point 010:

Take that track and follow it through some nice lush mountain forest. After one and a half kilometre at N44.54389 E6.62609, point 011, it will end on a stretch of tarmac which you take to your right and uphill. Soon tarmac ends though at N44.53808 E6.63763, point 012. If you encounter signs that say "Road closed" you can safely ignore them.

Soon the road comes out of the forest and you have an wonderful view at N44.52050 E6.64825, point F01 (below). You are now already at over 2150 metres.

Now the gravel track leads up all the time. No problems are to be expected other than other road users. The stretch is very popular with mountain bikers but I met an surprising large number of normal cars and motorbikes. So take great care in the bends.

The northern end of the Tunnel du Parpaillon

The southern end of the ParpaillonAt N44.49098 E6.64369 point PARP NORD, you will arrive at the north end of the tunnel under the summit (above). Often there's snow around and it's a definite possibility to find ice inside the tunnel even in summer. The doors can be closed to prevent this. When I visited it in 2001 there was a new roadsign put up near the entrance prohibiting any trafic to enter the tunnel for it's condition. However the bad condition dates back to my first visit here in 1985 and has not improved yet. I suppose the sign is put up for reliability reasons. I don't see much danger in crossing it but this is definitely up to you. Dozens of cars cross it every day without much damage. But beware if you drive an 2WD or an street bike: There's mud inside as well as shallow water. Once in 1992 I met an ice ridge half an metre high which was quite an obstacle in the pitch dark hole.

In some places rocks have fallen from the roof and you have to careful manoeuvre around. You can't see the other end from each entrance as the summit lies inside the tunnel so beware of oncoming cars- there's no place to get out of the way once you are engaged. But you can hear any car coming up. You may also meet mountain bikers coming up without headlights. So be careful on the 500metres lenght.

Left: The southern end of the tunnel ends at N44.48653 E6.64706, point PARP SUD, in an moonlike landscape. Surprisingly there was no closure signs on this side. In front of the waiting Landrover you can see ruins of old military baracks. It was already an cold and harsh place on this bright summer day of late August 2001 as bitterly cold winds swept the area. Imagine the poor guys living in those uninsulated stone barracks in the midle of the winter to protect an dark hole in the rocks!

On the south side the track winds its way down in an barren valley. It's a bit worse on this side as the gravel is coarser and there are some narrower places but nothing even an beginner couldn't handle. The biggest danger is the oncoming trafic.

After some more kilometres you will come to an small hut after a bridge at N44.48329 E6.66835, alt. 2038m, point BUVETTE. It's called "Cabane du Parpaillon" and the owner sells snacks, drinks and postcards. I strongly advises anyone to stop here and have a chat with the guy. He's also an 4-wheeler and knows every track around.

Further down the road improves and the last 6 km up to the main road near Condamine-Châtelard are on tarmac. But beware that any road you take for your return trip will take a long time. Or you can backtrack the col and let your passenger drive.