The Forbidden Road of the French Alps

By

3rd Oct, 2013

forbiddenroad

It might look like a traveler’s paradise, but this picturesque road is counted amongst the most dangerous in the world. Known as les Grands Goulets and built between 1843 and 1854, the legendary route is carved out of the cliffs of Vercors, a massif of mountains in the Rhône alpes region of France. After 156 years of leading travellers through the mountains by its winding and narrow road, the French government were forced to permanently close the historic road in 2005 after a series of fatal accidents.

The above photograph was taken before the road’s closure in 1994.

In the early 19th century, without any passable roads for horse-drawn vehicles, the 5,000 strong residents living in Vercors were feeling increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. The decision was made to build a road that would connect Vercors with the South, a mind-boggling investment of man-power, time and money. Without the technology we have today, the construction of such a road seems inconceivable. A short video re-enacts the perilous methods used to build the road, involving hanging down the side of the mountain on a rope ladder and throwing dynamite into the rock, swinging out of the way just in time to avoid being blown up. (It has to be seen to be believed).

Ten years after construction began, the road was finally ready; a breathtaking but daredevil journey with sharps turns and blind curves.

Archive image sources: 1, 23

The space between two mountains is unnerving at points and the road is often so narrow that squeezing past an oncoming car was a dangerous and time consuming ordeal (if you were lucky enough to even see it coming around the corner). Often very steep and high up in the gorge, the road had no guardrails.

After its eventual closure in 2005, a modern 1.7 km tunnel was built to replace the route from Pont-en-Royans to Les Barraques. Today the old road sits abandoned and untravelled. Not even cyclists or hikers are allowed to venture its long and winding route. While there are rumours that it might re-open for such purposes, the tourism office maintains that les Grands Goulets and its spectacular sights are closed forever and closed to all.

Luckily we have those crafty urbex explorers willing to bend the rules! French photographer Baptiste Ales gained access to the road in 2012 and snapped these awesome shots of the empty road. It appears to remain in good condition, if not a little eerie and slightly overgrown. For 2km, he ventured alone to immortalise this legendary but forbidden road in its magnificent setting…

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Les Grands Goulets

Photography by Baptise Alex of L’Empreinte Photographie

Update

Baptiste recently revisited the forbidden road this Autumn and taken some fantastic new shots, all of which can be found on his Facebook page.

lempreinte

lempreinte2

lempreinte3

See more on L’Empreinte Photographie.

Archive image sources: 123

You might also like

Comments

More in Conversation StartersEditor's PicksFoodaholics anonymousLife is MessyNostalgiaObscure historyTime travel

Hot Off the Press

Editor's Picks

mobile-phone_1644184a

Calling on her Cell Phone in 1922

Found by a researcher in the Pathe vaults, this clip from 1922, possibly filmed in New York, shows that 90 years ago, the idea mobile phone technology was not only being thought of, but being tested...

Trending 358
nightclimbers4

The 1930s Secret Cambridge Club of Rooftop Climbers

As night fell on Cambridge University in the 1930s, a dapper gang of undergraduate students regularly met in secret to climb up historical buildings, illegally exploring their campus via its roo...

Trending 1,872
cocaevolution

How a Wine and Cocaine Cocktail became Coca Cola

I think by now most of us have heard the story about our world-famous soft drink, Coco-Cola, once containing a significant dose of cocaine until it was removed from the recipe in 1903. But lesser...

Trending 16,580
Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

5 Hidden Paris Enclaves

If you stay in Paris long enough, you'll no doubt end up with your own list of urban secrets. This city is full of them. All Parisians lay claim to favourite hidden spots which they unexpecte...

Trending 15,987