The road between Villard Notre Dame and Villard Reymond in the French Alps west of Grenoble and south of Vizille is the scariest road I have ever driven, period, and I have driven some very scary mountain roads (to say nothing of driving on a bridge in Costa Rica in the late 1990s that we had to help repair first in order to get over it).

Just getting up to Villard Notre Dame was hair-raising: an extremely narrow road with scary overhangs...



... and especially having to get through a single-lane, poorly-maintained, dark, rock-strewn tunnel:


The death road itself hadn't been maintained in years:


There was at least—at least!—at thousand-foot sheer drop to our right for a significant stretch, and more than once I was sure that our right-side tires were not 100% on the roadway. But we couldn't back up, couldn't turn around, could only press forward hoping that the road would not get any narrower because of rockslides and all. Had there been any further obstruction, we would have had to hire some kind of heavy-duty helicopter to airlift our car to a safe place. Or abandon it forever.

The moral is, if you arrive at a road with a gated entrance, and there's a sign there that says “if you take this road, your auto insurance is not applicable,” you should really, truly take a different route, no matter how much you hate the thought of back-tracking.


(Photo: Another of the roadsigns that should have been a clue to reconsider our route: "Uncertain viability. Travel at your own risk and peril.")

Note: A shorter version of this story was posted as a comment on Dark Roasted Blend on 2007-08-16 (World’s Most Dangerous Roads, part 4). Photos are stills taken from this video.