September 1st and snow already?

At 2,429 metres, Furkapass is the fourth highest paved mountain pass in Switzerland. Both sides are wide, well engineered roads, but in the remote high Alps with very little development beyond the occasional old hotel or farm-house.

furkaE250 furkaW250

This region is cycling heaven: beautiful mountains, well surfaced roads, and hairpins everywhere.

Furkapass can be included in two challenging three-pass loops:
1. Furkapass-Nufenenpass-Gotthardpass (best counter-clockwise)
2. Furkapass-Grimselpass-Sustenpass (best clockwise)

Here is an old photo I took from Grimselpass showing Furkapass in the distance:

View of Furkapass in distance, from Grimselpass

Hairpin Heaven

I did the first loop above (but clockwise) as part of the Alpenbrevet cyclosportive a few years back. Details here. And here is an old post where I rode up the west side of Furkapass and also visited the gigantic Nufenpass nearby.

The road over Furkapass was built in 1867. Fifty years ago it featured in the James Bond film Goldfinger. The below Bond video clip starts beside the Belvedere Hotel. 140+ years old, it looks the same today as 50 years ago:

Above Belvedere hotel and Rhone glacier

Above Belvedere hotel and Rhone glacier

My original plan was to ride the second loop listed above, but it had snowed the night before up high and the weather was appalling in the morning (and I’d need a lot of time to finish that loop).

So instead, I decided to cycle up the east side of Furkapass (my first time) and play things by ear.

Beautiful early stretch on the east side:
Friendly stranger

Me in good spirits

Me in good spirits

As I got higher, I soon reached the snow line. It was cold, very windy, and lots of threatening clouds, but staying warm is easy when going uphill.


Plenty of unhappy cows:


I descended down the other side but only as far as Gletsch. At this intersection I could either continue descending or turn up the amazing hairpins to Grimselpass. It was raining here but sunny atop Furka. I stopped for some caffeine and hoped the weather would move. But Grimselpass remained covered in fog, drizzle, and dark clouds so I decided to play things safe and pedalled out of the rain and back up to Furkapass again.

Rhone, Glacier, Furka hairpins, and a cow

Rhone, Glacier, Furka hairpins, and a cow

Friendly stranger

Friendly stranger

Even though I had to shorten my plans, this was a fun ride on a day that could have been a complete wash-out due to the weather. But just Furkapass alone will always be worth a visit. As I descended the last few hairpins I saw a little rainbow. Nice.

A rainbow

A rainbow – taken from near where the sniper stood 🙂

8.8 Awesome

I'd hope to visit some more cols, but a great ride considering the weather.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. I stayed in Andermatt one month ago, and rode the Susten/Grimsel/Furka loop counterclockwise. I’d originally planned to continue from Gletsch to Ulrichen and ride Nufenen and then Gotthard back to Andermatt, but I was unprepared for the demands of cycling in the alps. I’ll be back next year with better fitness!

    I was surprised by how cool it was last August. I’m coming from Colorado, and the passes above 12,000ft are not so cool this time of year. Locals in Andermatt told me the weather had been unusually cold this summer.

    Fantastic cycling…can’t wait to return.

  2. Pingback: The Ten Highest Paved Cycling Climbs in Switzerland

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