From Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne it is a full 36 kilometres to the top, where the first 12 kilometres are up to Col du Telegraphe before the actual climb up Col du Galibier starts in Valloire, 18 kilometres from the top. The first half up to Plan Lachat at 2000 meters altitude is relatively easy. After that, the increase changes markedly with hairpins and sharp ascent percentages right up to the top. Especially the scenery of the first few hairpins just after Plan Lachat, as well as the last few bends before the top, are extraordinarily spectacular.
From the south, Col du Galibier can be climbed from the top of Col du Lautaret, itself a Deux Mille mountain connecting Briancon in the south with Grenoble in the north. The climb is just over eight kilometers with a steady gradient up to the tunnel just before the top. From here, the gradients really takes hold by up to 12 percent.