Passo della Novena (Nufenenpass) and Griessee

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Nearing summit south side

Nearing summit south side

At 2478 metres, Passo della Novena (Nufenenpass) is the second highest paved mountain pass in Switzerland (Umbrail Pass is the highest at 2503m). This was the first of two rides this day, so I only climbed the south side, briefly heading over the top of the north side to visit the beautiful dam/lake below the Gries Glacier.

I have included the profile for both sides below. Here is an old post where I climbed the north side as well as the west side of Furkapass.

South Side North side

Many of the highest Swiss north-south passes have centuries of history – Grand-St-Bernard, Gotthard, Simplon, for example, all have hospices dating from the middle ages. But the road over Nufenen wasn’t opened until 1969, helped by a road built in the early 1960’s to a new hydro-electric dam at the Griessee.
I used the Italian name of this pass in the title as I climbed the Italian-speaking Ticino side. The north side is in the German-speaking Wallis canton.

Two names

Two names

Of course, this is a beautiful climb, but relatively speaking, it is perhaps not as stunning as some of its high Swiss neighbours. In his great book Mountain Higher, author Daniel Friebe describes the south side:

“At its halfway point, though, this face of the Nufenen alters suddenly and for the worse. The course of the climb is now traced by the ghastly outline of 20, maybe more, electricity pylons. As though recoiling at the sight, the vegetation gives way to rockier, menacing terrain. The road steepens. Distinctly unlovely, at least compared to, say, the the west sides of Susten of the Furka, the landscape does at least possess an austerity in keeping with the challenge.”

Electricity Pylons

Electricity Pylons

But don’t despair, the top few kilometres are fun, with plenty of hairpins. Beauty is relative.

Nice Hairpins

Nice Hairpins

There is a nice small lake (pond?), and a restaurant at the summit as well as great views of the Valais Alps beyond.

The summit.  Nice views

The summit. Nice views

I descended a couple of impressive kilometres down the north side and took a side road up to the Griessee. This is an easy detour, but worth the visit.

North side, Gries Glacier and Dam in top left

North side, Gries Glacier and Dam in top left

Griessee: 2386m.  Gries glacier behind.

Griessee: 2386m. Gries glacier behind.

Nice Lake/Dam and Glacier

Nice Lake/Dam and Glacier

View from Dam of side road

View from Dam of side road to Griessee

The Dam

The Dam

Electricity Pylons on north side too

Electricity Pylons on north side too

Anyone that follows this blog knows that I love rides to high Alpine dams/lakes. The detour to the Griessee helped transform a good ride into a great ride

8.8 Great

The second highest pass in Switzerland and a detour to a beautiful dam/lake below a glacier. Not bad. Shame about the electricity pylons.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.