Article originally written by Guus Duijvestijn ( which I took on our 1998 tour ) but is no longer available on his website where I got it from.


Alpine Passes


The anatomy of an Alpine pass can provide quite some lyrical proze. The definition of a Pass is that it connects two valleys each side of a mountain chain, allowing you to pass. In actual fact going up from sealevel to ca 400m will also form a Pass. Well, how complete can you be......
I restricted myself to the +1500m Passes in the Alpine, Dolomite and Pyrenees mountains. The descriptions all come from personal experience, but for one or two exceptions.....

SWITZERLAND

Grimsel (2165m) Amazing scenery, impressive granite rockformations, three lakes and excellent cornering on the north side. Coming down on the south side you have an amazing view on the Rhone Glacier halfway up the Furka pass.
Furka (2431m) The pavement is being improved, what will lose it's last charme. The Rhone Glacier hanging over the cliff on the Valaisian side is the attraction. The pass itself is somewhat gloomy.
Nufenen (2478m) Very enjoyable, the Ticinese side is lovely, grassy meadows, too bad the swiss military hosts here. The Valaisian side is the steeper part.
Susten (2222m) Colorful and spectacular, especially later in the season. You pass the Susten Glacier shortly before the top on the Bernese side.
Oberalp (2044m) Favorite pass for long sweepers, I once ended up in between a flock of Lancia Stratos (13!)
Gotthard (2108m) The classic swiss pass. Visit the museum on top, it explains a lot about the local folklore, geology and history. Try the old cobblestone road on the Ticinese side. (Tremola)
Lukmanier (1916m) Driving up from Disentis you pass some impressive gorges, the pass is not so high, and shows southern influence.
Splügen (2113m) Up from Chiavenna it a major experience, you can even witness cars reversing in the hairpins! An amazing 1800m vertical. A true challenge. Quickly tightening valley, with a desolate atmosphere on top. I love it!
Julier (2284m) The Julier is maintained as a winter passage for the Engadin, I find it less interesting.
Albula (2312m) Spectacular scenery, with large erosion slides. The surface gets a bit bumpy. The west side is very lovely.
Bernina (2328m) You have it all, although the road and surface is somewhat too easy. Drag the pegs! Brilliant snowcapped mountains to enjoy.
Fluela (2383m) Another winter passage to the Engadin, I find it rather gloomy.
Ofen (2149m) Leads through the swiss national park. beautiful scenery, and not so much traffic. In wintertime a true postcard.
Simplon (2005m) Yet another winter passage, the pass is really a main `fast road', I consider the Simplon as boring, especially after reconstruction of the beautiful Gondo gorge. Points of interest are the huge eagle top and the bridge at the swiss side.
San Bernardino (2065m) Pretty colorful pass, recently surfaced on both sides. The south side gives excellent cornering, both on the main road (fast sweepers) as the old road (more tight corners). The north side is a mere drop to the tunnel entrance.
Gd. St. Bernard (2469m) Besides the first run up the pass on the swiss side, where you travel through galeries, quite beautiful. A nice and cozy old hospice on top, lakeside.
Maloja (1815m) Only half a pass, but it counts as a whole! 1500m vertical.
Umbrail (2531m) The last unpaved major pass in Switzerland mostly very nice forest brilliant scenery. Usually taken up in conjunction with the famous Passo della Stelvio.
Klausen (1948m) Venue for the famous ancient Klausen hillclimb in the '30s. Very rough and edged scenery on the east side. Tacky road conditions, one of the last true swiss passes.
Forcola di Livigno (2315m) Bare dry scenery, a bit up and down. typically Italian infrastructure.
Foscogno (2291m) See above.
la Croix (1727m) Sweet little pass in the Vaudoise Alps. Almost guaranteed to run in to some (mostly 4) wheeled exotica here.

FRANCE

Izoard (2463m) Taken from the South (from Guillestre), this is the most stunning site, with immense erosion slides. Rolling down on the other side into Briançon gets the adrenaline level skyhigh.
Galibier (2647m) The classic French Alpine pass, coming up from the Col de Telegraphe, it goes on forever, looping around widespread meadows. An absolute must.
Lautaret (2058m) South side of the Galibier, it forms the connection between Grenoble and the Vallee de Durance. Too wide to enjoy. WFO!
Glandon (1924m) Round grassy meadows, more a passage than a real challenge with something to offer.
Granon (2413m)
la Croix de Fer (2068m) With its rough and narrow road it demands a great skill of the driver. It's in a basin full of passes, so you're likely to cross it if you're stationed in the area.
Madeleine (1984m) Ragged mountains, and a long haul to traverse.
Mont Cenis (2083m) Border passage to Italy with a pretty lake on top. Nice forests.
Montgenèvre (1850m) Quick passage into Italy, nothing spectacular.
Pt. St. Bernard (2188m) You enjoy excellent different views on the Mont Blanc coming from Aosta. The cornering is quite good. Visit the ruins and the statue of St. Bernard on top.
Iseran (2774m) A true high Alpine pass, but the view down on Val d'Isère is too ugly for words. Excellent cornering. I always enjoy the south side. Very desolate and mystic atmosphere.
Cormet de Roselend (1968m) A much underrated pass, a bit unknown. Very lovely scenery.
Cayolle (2327m) The atmosphere here gets already more southern, towards the Provence. With a little care very nice for wild camping!
Vars (2111m) Grassy meadows. The south side is excellent for kayaking. Boring.
Allos (2240m) Follows the valley line for a long time, therefore less interesting. Very narrow, bumby and difficult road. A pretty little medieval village on the south side called Colmars.
Bonnette (2802m) One of the all-time classics. Very desolate and rough. Europe's highest continuing paved road.
Agnel (2744m) Amazing pass, with classic Alpine peaks to enjoy. (Pain du Sucre) The French side was not paved when did it last.
Larche (della Maddalèna) (1991m) Straight forward, wide road, really great to hammer it! Some very pretty small churches along the way.
Lombarde (2350m) The French side is mainly occupied by the ski lift installations of Isola 2000, offers great cornering. The Italian side is very pretty, lower down a quite narrow gorge.
Moutière (2454m)
Tende (1871m) The travel up the valley from the south is most spectacular. When you reach the tunnel passage, the pass itself is unpaved.
Turini (1607m) Classic Rallye de Monte Carlo venue, `the night of the long knives'. One hairpin after the other. Typical Provence scenery.
Mt. Ventoux
(des Templetes)
(1829m) You can see the peak already for miles away, screaming at you: Come and attack me. A nightmare for bicyclists. Totally bare yellowish rock on top. Serves it's name right: 'The Windy Mountain' Very impressive!
Peyresourde (1569m) I don't recall too much, so it must have been not too interesting....
Aspin (1489m) Rather low pass, which received recognition in several Tour-de-France races. Typical lovely Pyrenées scenery. The town of St. Marie-de-Campan below is cute. Do it in one go with the Tourmalet.
Tourmalet (2115m) The most interesting pass in the Pyrenées. An average climb of 10 %. It seems to get steeper the higher you get. Incredible desolate atmosphere. I spent a few days wild camping up here.
Somport (1632m)
Aubisque (1709m) Haven't seen the Aubisque without fog, so..... Must be very beautiful.
Pourtalet (1794m)
Port de Larrau (1573m) Fun passage to Spain, much less traffic than most passes. Watch for goats in the tunnels!
Port de Paillières (2001m) Memories of rainy and foggy weather which frequents the Pyrenées quite often. You end up in a beautiful gorge on the north side.
Vergio (Corse) (1418m) The most impressive playground I came across on Corsica. Large pinewoods, and looping bends.
Bavella (Corse) (1216m) The top shows wind bent spruce, a really weird sight. The Mistral blows here fiercely.

SPAIN

Bonaigua (2072m) Wide open territory, unlike the much narrower and rocky parts on the french side. Towards Seo de Urgell you get reddish rocks.

ANDORRA

Puymorens (1915m)
Port d'Envalira (2407m) Although it's very high it's easy. Mostly 3 lane wide looping bends. For fast bikes fun, because of the good pavement.

ITALY

Stelvio (2757m) The ultimate pass everybody knows, and those who do not, should! 92 hairpins total, if you come out of the forest on the east side, you're faced with the wall of another 900 m vertical.
Gavia (2621m) The south side is unpaved. Brilliant pass, where you're mostly alone. Very pretty scenery.
Karer (1745m) Half the world is passing here on the way from Bolzano to Cortina, especially touring cars. Too bad, because the Dolomites are beautiful, and the roads excellent and twisty! Lovely view of the 'Rosengarten'
Pordoi (2239m) Most famous Dolomite pass. Venue for all sorts of fun. Wintertime skiing is excellent. You will meet many motorcyclists here. Excellent fluent corners.
Sella (2213m) The south side is very southern, dry vegetation. Brilliant in early summer, because of the colour. You are in between the impressive Sella Group and the Sasslungo.
Gardena (2121m) With the Sella, Pordoi and Campolongo it makes the famous Sellaronda, which is a skitrip in wintertime. In summertime just as interesting. The villages in the Alta Badia valley are cute. Very cozy and good cheap food!
Falzarego (2105m) Again impressive ragged rock formations in red Domomite style. I found it the most impressive pass in the Sella area.
Campolongo (1875m) More a connection between the two parts of the circle, relatively short and easy.
Giau (2233m) The Giau made the most impression on me of all the Dolomite passes, but I saw it in June with still 2 meter high snow walls on the side of the road. In late summer still very pretty, with views over the Marmolada Glacier. The roads are a bit narrower, but very fluent.
Rolle (1970m)
Valparola (2192m) Continuation of the Falzarego pass, in great style. Big boulders on top tossed like a giant playing dice!
Fedaia (2057m) Coming from the east, do not mis the Sottoguda gorge from Palue, leading on to the pass. From the top you have a beautiful view on the Marmolada glacier.
Tre Croce (1805m) Access to Cortina d'Ampezzo from the east. Mostly in the forest. Good surface and superb turns.
Tonale (1883m) A bit changing pass, partly very narrow, recently surfaced so a motorcyclists ball. Quite a lot traffic, so careful, especially with motorhomes.
Vivione (1828m) I immensely enjoyed the Vivione, a small and a bit hidden pass. Lonely and pretty scenery, great for a picnic.
Jaufen (2099m) The Jaufen has something threatening. It still has those old big square stone blocks instead of a guard rail. The south side is very bare. Very narrow road, in bad condition, watch for traffic.
Penser (2215m) Somwehat similar to the Jaufenpass.
Staller Sattel (2052m) Only saw the pass itself on backcountry skis.... The valley on the Italian side is quite narrow, beautiful mountain ridges. Coming from the Val Pusteria it's like entering a juwelry box.

AUSTRIA

Timmelsjoch (2491m) A most incredible ride. One of the best passes I ever rode, because of the variation. The Ötztal is known for all sorts of outdoor sports. One of the best kayaking spots in Europe. Long sweepers make it a very fast decent, after Gurgl. The Italian side shows changes from a lovely forest to huge bare rough rock faces, the pass itself is a cut out passage at a spot you least expect. There is a toll charge to pass.
Gross Glockner (2505m) Why do you have to pay to pass....
Impressive glacier on top, make the extra trip up there!
Arlberg (1793m) Quite pretty scenery, but well traveled. One traverses the large skiresorts of St. Christoph / St. Anton, so a lot of 'chairlift-pollution' on the scenery. Not difficult.
Radstädter Tauern (1739m)
Turracher höhe (1763m)
Bieler höhe (2036m) Again, an amount of Toll is necessary to pass. The road and views get interesting once you've passed the tollbooth. Wide grassy rough mountains, two dam lakes on top. Pretty!