Passo Gavia! (both sides)By Will • Sep 1st, 2010 • Category: Climbs, Cycling, Favorites
One of the greatest days ever on a bike. I’ve dreamed of doing Gavia forever, one of the most famous climbs in Italy (and Europe) – and it didn’t disappoint.
I am staying in Bormio, which is at the bottom of the easier, less famous side. Who knows if I’ll ever be here again, so the plan was to do both sides. Yep, I had a huge breakfast.
It’s cold here. Really cold. So I wore booties, leggings, full-fingered gloves, warm hat, sleeves, etc. And carried balaclava, glove liners, jackets, etc. Yep, I over-dressed again – but barely.
I started up the Bormio side before 9 am, and it took me a while to get warmed up – cold but sunny and clear – perfect day. Luckily the easiest climbing of the day is the first part of this side. It’s a lovely ride, so quiet and beautiful that I laughed out loud a couple of times.
A climb of three parts: flat to start, then steeper with hairpins through the woods, finally above the tree line — in the high mountains – awesome.
Near top is a great WW1 memorial (I deciphered the Roman Numerals, ha!) – my Italian is non-existant – perhaps a battle here?
The last couple of kms before the summit are easy ….. what a great feeling to be flying to such a famous Pass. Just short is a beautiful lake:
It was freezing at the top, and I congratulated myself as I put on 2 jackets and a couple of Dutch guys in shorts looked on longingly.
The descent of the south side is a little crazy. Steep, narrow, beautiful, occasionally badly surfaced. A few % grade signs including a 16% and a 14%. The tunnel 3 kms from top is truly terrifying. Dark, steep, gravelly, scary – I held my breath when a car passed me. I wasn’t looking forward to climbing it (see below for my elegant solution).
The only thing going through my head as I raced downhill was “this will be hard work on the way back!”
The south side is legendary, the site of several snow filled Giro stages – the restaurant at the top has a great set of pics of various Giro visits (photo at left).
I took my time climbing it – but was pleased at how my legs responded on the narrow, fun(!?) 14% and 16% stretches.
As I approached the much-feared tunnel, I noticed the old cliff road on the left. Collapsed cliff roads replaced by tunnels are a fairly common thing in the Alps, but they are usually fenced off. This looked open, so I explored.
A terrible surface, so I pushed my bike. But unbelievable cliff views. As I continued I came upon several memorials for a military truck that fell off the road in 1954 killing 20 or so young soldiers.
Amazingly the road was still passable. And as I neared the main road, three mountain bikers came flying down:
Above the tunnel, the last 2+ kms are steep, but superb. Hairpins, views, cliffs, etc. How can one not enjoy suffering here?