Morcles and Above to Rionda

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I don’t want to “bury the lead,” so I’ll start with the profile for this gigantic climb – one of the toughest in Switzerland. But don’t let the difficulty discourage you as this quiet route is at least as beautiful as it is steep.

There are more than 50 hairpins on this ride, including 29 numbered hairpins on the first 6 kilometres or so to the village of Morcles. This stretch is a well surfaced narrow paved road generally in the shade. It’s superb, with plenty of views of the valley below. The hairpins start at #29 and I found counting down as I progressed allowed me forget how steep it was. Fun.

Note: only the first 10 kilometres are paved – it then become a good quality gravel road. I had a mountain bike, but narrower tires would work.

A long way to go

Enjoying the hairpins

After the village, the paved road continues for another 4 kilometres, passing a Swiss military base – still in operation. Soon (roughly half way up) the goal comes into sight. Still a long way to go!

View of the goal from half way up
The hairpins are no longer numbered, but there are still plenty to enjoy.

Nice hairpin

Nice hairpin

As the paved road ends, the route somehow gets steeper. It winds itself ever higher as the tree-line begins to thin.

Nice Hairpin

It’s the final few kilometres, above the tree-line, that has the fewest hairpins. But it’s definitely the most fun of the entire route. Cliff stretches, magnificent views in all directions. My legs began to complain loudly, but I could still smile: It’s a magical place.

Making progress

Making progress

Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) far in distance

Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) far in distance

Great cliff stretch

Great cliff stretch

As the map below shows the road splits near the top. First it’s a flat (flat!) little traverse to Rionda (2156 metres). There used to be an old barracks here but they seem to have torn it down. But there is a picnic table. A perfect place to recover from the climb as the views are Swiss perfect.

Rionda

Rionda

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc

Next, I returned to the intersection and a wide trail that heads up to La Tourche (2196 metres). Not too far, and definitely worth the ride.

Woohhoo

Woohoo

Heading to La Tourche

Heading to La Tourche

Any normal biking ends at La Tourche, but there is a nice refuge/restaurant as the Via Alpina hiking trail passes by. A friendly hiker offered to take my photo there.

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As I prepared to descend, I realised the road was blocked. Another Swiss Alps traffic jam.

A Donkey Leading His Sheep

A Donkey Leading His Sheep

I was glad to have a mountain bike on the descent, but again, I think a thinner tired gravel bike would do fine here, it’s a good surface. My brakes were well adjusted and even as I descended in my usual hyper-cautious fashion it took far less time going down than climbing. 🙂

This is not a very well known climb, but it’s fabulous. If you’re a road biker, the first 10 kilometres with the signed hairpins is definitely worth visiting. But bring thicker tires as this challenging route gets better and better the higher it goes.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

1 Comment

  1. This is a great climb and I can attest to the fact that it is rideable on a gravel bike (30-32 mm tires), but just make sure that you have super-low gearing so that you can keep a decent cadence on the dirt so that your rear tire maintains traction – the common 34-32 combo probably won’t be sufficient.

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