Swiss Giants: Nufenen Pass and Furka Pass

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A pretty epic day!

North side furkaW250

There are loads of truly great climbs in central Switzerland which I have yet to explore. But today I rode two of the highest – amazing.

Cycling Nufenen Pass

I started with the Nufenenpass – 2478 metres (over 8,100 feet). It’s pretty steep throughout, and just keeps getting more interesting. Hairpins galore! The other side goes into the Italian part of Switzerland so there was an Italian Col sign (Passo dell Novena) on the other side along with the German Col sign. Lots of cyclotourists on the road – English, Dutch, German, Italians and a few Swiss.

Nufenenpass Nufenen Pass Passo della Novena Nufenen Pass

I descended back down and after a close inspection of my puny legs decided I had enough energy to also do the Furka Pass.

Furka Pass in distance Furka Pass Rhone Glacier Rhone Glacier

This is a pretty famous climb (2436 metres and just under 8000 feet) and was thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a fair bit easier then Nufenen – which suited me fine.

Gimsel Pass

Part way up the road splits with the route to the Gimsel Pass on the left. Unbelievable views of Gimsel – (a future project?!).

Nearing the top of Furka is the Rhone Glacier. This is the source of the Rhone river – that goes through Geneva and all the way to the Mediterranean. Just beautiful!

Above the glacier, clouds started rolling in so I got out of the saddle and rushed to the Pass. A quick photo and back down again – a very fast descent (even for wimpy me)!

I have ridden a lot of great climbs – and both of these rank right up there – a great day.


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Happiest while cycling uphill. More enthusiastic than talented, my 2014 Challenge is to cycle 50 great rides, slowly.

16 Comments

  1. Now that is an amazing view. It must have been very gratifying (and maybe a little bit frightening) to look back on that climb and be met with that vista.

    Keep up the climbing!

    Mark

  2. Riding in Central Switzerland has to be among the highlights of my cycling, although, oddly enough, I have not ridden these two passes. Many more wonderful rides await, and you can even practice your time trialling skills on some of them with a punch clock at the bottom.

    Excellent photos, by the way. I guess Eric was not with you.

  3. Easy, easy sprocketboy! lol
    Sure I wished I could have joined you on that one Will. And I would have kept my hands on the handlebar and off the camera.

  4. Hi Will, I was there on 28th, let me say: you missed the best, that is the 3rd Pass (round trip 100km ) that Pass is the old Gothard called La Tremola ,one of the last cobbelstone road in the Alps : astonishing ( it’s better to climb it than descend ). A next time you can try also that other 3 Passes round trip in the same area ( but harder, 130km & more elevation ) From Meiringen you climb the Grimsel and after the Furka and back by the Susten. Good luck

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  6. well done will-i cycled from andermatt to gletch over the furka last june 2008 it had been open 2 days -i had full panniers as i toured swizerland and france from besancon to bellegard-the furka is very impressive but it must have been harder for you as i had granny gears not 2 cranks -this year i am doing the nufenen-lucmanier -thanks for the page

  7. Great stories. I will try to add something for everyone:

    From Andermatt, I climbed the Susten, Grimsel, Nufenen and Gotthard passes in June 2010 – in that order. It is one of the most spectacular and varied loops that I have ever done in the Alps. This is a very hard loop for one day as the vertical climb is 5,150 meters over 160km. A real challenge. The counter-clockwise direction of the loop is unquestionably the best as road to the north from Andermatt (which descents) is very busy and would not be pleasant to climb. Also, the Gotthard is best done south to north. With stops it took us 9.5hrs. Both of us live in the Alps and have considerable experience doing cyclosports over a similar distance/vertical climb.

    Two options for shorter rides from Andermatt (or anywhere along) would be to half the above mentioned loop with the first day being Susten, Grimsel and Furka. The next day would be Furka (the other direction), Nufenen and the Gotthard.

    Susten from the east. This is a wonderful climb that is relatively car free. The climb starts off hard and rarely gets easy. The final 6 kms or so are spectacular with a very long approach finishing with some outstanding switchbacks. One of the best climbs around.

    Grimsel from the north. This is a very long climb that is busy with cars. The combination of cars, length and grade makes this a less attractive climb which is better done in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, for any loops from Andermatt, you really need to approach this climb from the north or suffer a more unpleasant climb up from the north of Andermatt. When coupled with the balance of a loop, it is really not that bad and is spectacular as you approach the top.

    Nufenen from the west (bottom of the Furka). This col is relatively unknown to cyclists; however, it has a greater vertical gain than Alps d’Huez over the same distance and, at 2500m, is much higher. The climb is quite hard when you consider the vertical gain, grade, altitude and, most likely, location of this climb in a loop from Andermatt. However, it is relatively car-free and is spectacular both up and down. It is great from either direction and is well worth any trip to climb.

    Gotthard from the south. This is really the best approach as you can experience a car-free, cobbled ride – one of the few in the world. The grade is hard but the vertical, at 900m, is manageable. There are two col roads on the Gotthard so just find the small one and start riding. Initially it will be paved then cobbles will come and go, finishing with full-on cobbles that are in good condition but may rattle the tired body if you started from Andermatt. This is a once in a lifetime climb that should be ridden if you’re in the area.

  8. Hi Will,
    Just wanted to say thanks for your idea. I live in Valais, but oddly enough, have never been to those passes, just believing they had nasty long tunnels along them somewhere. I also had some bad weather looming, and maybe only one of my days was promising some sun, so climbed the Nufenen first, as you’d said it was steeper, then went up to the mind bogglingly stunning Furka. Wow!
    I think I was so taken in by the scenery, and the fact that I wasn’t going to get to camp and have a day two, that I couldn’t resist climbing the Grimsel on the way out!!
    I promise you. If you think you have puny legs….you should see mine! Those roads are so nice, that you just seem to keep rolling along.
    Keep up you good work, and good luck with your 100 cols!

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  10. Andrew Burford on

    I cycled over the Nufenen Pass from the Italian side to the Swiss side in April or May 1983, on a touring bike with a full load in front & rear panniers (would that I could show you a photo of the bike). There was still about 2m of snow near the top, which formed a cutting for the road. I was living in Zermatt at the time, skiing and working in the winter and riding my bike in the summer. On the way up I was given several friendly toots by passing cars and in the restaurant one car load that had stopped there bought me coffee and cake, so you could say it was worth the effort. I totally ran out of brakes on the descent (not the greatest brakes I must admit). I am now 57 and sitting in my office in Sydney, Australia, wishing I could still do this stuff. Without the panniers, maybe…

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  12. Hi
    I am riding the Nufenen Pass in June 2012. Can any one tell me if you can get down into Italy via the Gries Pass, I do not want to go via the Furka Pass. Thank you

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