Col du Sanetsch


Barrage du Sannetsch

To become a famous climb in a pro Tour usually means the pass is either a key road linking different regions or the top is a major ski station. Col du Sanetsch is neither (thus lessor known), but is more difficult and more beautiful than many of its more famous counterparts (and far quieter).

The climb (map at bottom): 25.7 kms (16 miles); Ascent: 1770 metres (5800 feet)

In the Valais region of Switzerland, Col du Sanetsch is one of the toughest climbs in Swiss Romande (French Switzerland). Starting near Sion, this quiet, well surfaced road just climbs and climbs, leading finally to a glacier lake and dam four kms over the Col.

The road stops here although hikers can arrive from the other side by taking a little cable-car from Gsteig.

The road is solely for hikers/tourists, farmers, dam maintenance …… and cyclists!

The beginning of the climb winds through beautiful, typically Swiss, vineyards. The middle of the climb passes through light forest and past a nice waterfall, and the top of the climb reaches above the tree line with spectacular views in all directions including the nearby Diableret glacier.

The entire route is superb.

Unfortunately, at the top, the Col sign was missing, so I used the bus stop (!!) as a substitute (yellow sign in photo above) – the Swiss are just great at public transport to beautiful tourist sites.

For tunnel fans (not me!) there is an 800 metre dark tunnel up high … luckily there is a little bit of light inside … not too bad.

While I struggled a little in the heat, in summary, let me say that Eric and I thoroughly enjoyed this huge climb. It is definitely a hidden gem.

We descended a slightly different way, via Chandolin – see map. This adds a couple of great cliff kilometres through the gorge as well as an alternate vineyard descent.

Below, Some nice hairpins:

Highlight of the day? We shared a tasty assiette Valaisienne at the barrage:


Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Will,

    This was a great ride indeed, which I will also remember because of your high-tech “GPS-aid” to find back the road at the end. 😀


  2. ha! For anyone curious, as we searched for the last few kms back to the car…. I noticed (smelled?) the bridge where I had peed at the start of the route. Beware, I have marked my terrain! 😉

  3. Will, unfortunately I have to stop reading your blog. The description and the pictures just make me want to come over and ride those climbs so much that it hurts. LOL

  4. Will, Eric, While the climb looks like fun and makes my legs twinge…… the plate and two beers looks awesome and makes my mouth water! I’ll have to put this one on my list of to-dos!

  5. Brian Tomlin on

    I rode this one 5 years ago, nice to hear it has not changed.
    I don’t like going back the way I come, but the descent on Gsteig was unthinkable on a road bike with panniers. So I took the cable car down. The attendant insisted on hanging the bike from the front wheel, I tried not to think about quick releases and concentrate on the view.

  6. Will, Thanks for the comments. Internet access was pretty limited at the last 2 hotels. The second night at diner, all the spanish I don’t understand, I hear “cycling challenge” over and over. I learned that almost everyone on this group has seen your web sight!
    Wow. You certainly live close to heaven in the alps. Pete

  7. Pingback: 10 Great Cycling Climbs to Alpine Dams/Lakes : Cycling Challenge

  8. I feel so gutted.

    I was there this year, but rode south from Sion up the Col du Grand Dixence instead. A great ride none the less but these pictures (and the food) looks absolutely stunning

  9. Simon Murrell on

    This is a really great climb, congrats Will. I like it so much I have now done it three times. But boy is it a killer: it’s long, long, long and steep, steep, steep. If you try to go too fast, you get bitten!

    Today was very hot. This area of the Valais is one of the warmest regions of Switzerland: 28c down in Conthey when I started and 34c by the time I finished a few hours later, although at the top there is a fresh breeze coming off the glacier on even the hottest days.

    The best bit of this climb is the changing scenery: from the hot vineyards to the warm, green, wooded area, then above the tree line to dry grass, and finally the col itself with the glacier and the bare mountains above. And all of that with views of some of the finest Swiss peaks on the other side of the valley.

    And some good news: the nasty, long, cold, wet, dark tunnel near the top is now simply a nasty, long, cold, wet tunnel: lights have been installed so now you can more or less see how cold, wet, long and nasty it is, once your eyes have adjusted.

  10. Great stuff Simon,

    I LOVED this climb …… only done it once, but it was a very pleasant surprise. Stunning, but as you say: a killer.

    Well done

  11. I rode this in September (the day after completing the Gotthard Challenge + Grimsel Pass!). This climb (described as ‘the finest pass you’ve never heard of’ on was stunning & hasn’t changed a bit from the descriptions above…still no Col sign at the top!

    A truly memorable ride and as mentioned above a proper hidden gem.

    I’ve done a photo book on this (& the Gotthard ride) so if anybody fancies looking at them let me know and I’ll email you a link.


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