Stelvio Unpaved!

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Forty kilometres from Bormio to the Cima Garibaldi just above Passo dello Stelvio via four mountain passes (one even higher than Stelvio). The last 26 kilometres completely unpaved. One of the most fun rides I’ve ever done. And the descent of Stelvio wasn’t bad either.

This post will walk through the various sections of the route. I was with my old Aussie friend Bazza – a road biker. It was only his second Alps mountain bike ride ever. Me being me … there will be lots of photos. Sorry.

I Torri di Fraele (0 – 14 kilometres)

The first 14 kilometres from Bormio are paved and worthwhile for any road cyclist visiting Bormio. We cycled the 17 hairpins to I Torri (the towers) di Fraele.

Torri means “towers” and there are the ruins of two old square towers first built in 1391. They were fortified in the 15th century then mainly destroyed in 1513 when the Grisons invaded. There was apparently some fighting here and below the cliff is called “burrone dei morti” – ravine of the dead.

Lago di Cancano (14-19 kilometres)

After the towers, the road becomes unpaved. It leads to a beautiful plateau with several lakes/dams.

Last year, I explored this plateau with a mountain bike. Full details here.

Lago Scale

Lago di Cancano Dam

We would cross the dam of Lago di Cancano and head up the far side to an intersection. My previous visit I went right and descended an insane road down to a lower Stelvio hairpin. This time we would turn left and head up.

Bocchetta di Pedenolo (19-29 kilometres)

The next 10 kilometres climb to a mountain pass called Bocchetta di Pedenolo at 2703 metres. It features perhaps 40 hairpins split into two amazing sections. The first section climbs up to a plateau called Piano di Pedenolo. During this stretch the “road” soon ends and becomes a decent trail. It’s steep but perfectly rideable. But a few cliff sections I found slightly scary and briefly walked.

Near Piano di Pedenolo

After surviving these hairpins we reached the plateau. Here the trail becomes an old road again (we would pass two old farm buildings and see a few cows and sheep). This section is beautiful and not scary: no cliff ledges.


Road to Bocchetta di Pedenolo – 2704m

The sign (see above) says 2760 metres, but I believe the Bocchetta di Pendolo is “only” 2703 metres.

Bocchetta di Forcola 29-32 kilometres

The next three kilometres are a technical down/up to another mountain pass, Bocchetta di Forcola. At 2766 metres, it is 8 metres higher than Passo dello Stelvio!

Can you spot Barry ?

From the pass we had our first view of the distant Passo dello Stelvio.

Descent to Umbrail Pass 32-36 kilometres

The next four kilometres are thankfully downhill. It’s a single track hiking trail.

Descending to Umbrail Pass

Single Track. Umbrail below. Stelvio in distance.

Umbrail Pass is the highest paved road in Switzerland at 2501 metres. It is exactly at the Italian border and joins the Bormio side of the main road roughly 3 kilometres from Stelvio’s summit. Here we would cross the paved road. (Note, on the map, we made a quick detour to get some food at a restaurant just inside Italy, on the main road).

Umbrail Pass to above Stelvio 36-40 kilometres

This next stretch is the one part of the ride where we walked a lot. You might want to take the main road, but I enjoyed it. Exactly at Umbrail Pass we jumped onto an old trail/road with more than 20 hairpins.

Umbtail pass below/behind. I am at almost 2800 metres

The trail climbs to the Piz da las Trais Linguas (peak of the three languages) also know as the Cima Garibaldi. At 2843 metres, it is directly above the over-developed paved summit of Passo dello Stelvio. Wooooohooooo, success!

Cima Garibaldi – 2843 metres

Cima Garibaldi – 2843 metres

In the photo below is a view of the Cima Garibaldi (the castle thing at very top) and the summit of Stelvio taken from the far side after we had ridden down:

Piz da las Trais Linguas – the castle above Stelvio

Beers and photos

We descended from the Cima Garibaldi to the busy pass below:

Barry

I highly recommend the Tibetan restaurant/hotel several hundred metres off the main road from the col. Amazing views.

Barry

A summit beer:

Passo dello Stelvio

A Hairpin-Filled Descent

We were tired but pleased so we kept things simple and descended the main road back to Bormio. I won’t go into any details here as I’ve already posted too many photos. But see here for details of the paved Stelvio climbs. All three sides are truly special (two Italian sides, and the Swiss side).

But we did enjoy the 40 hairpins descent back to Bormio:

Hairpin Heaven – paved descent

This …. was …. a fantastic route. So quiet and beautiful. In fact, one striking aspect of the ride was how noisy things became once we reached Umbrail Pass – mainly endless motorcycle droning. I was euphoric as I wasn’t certain we would succeed with this challenge.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.

3 Comments

  1. Wow, just Wow!!

    Looks like a great day out Will, fantastic!!

    Can I just say what a fantastic resource your blog is. I used your experiences to plan some great rides this summer while on a family holiday road trip: Finestre, Gran Serin, Sommeiller, Nivolet, Schwarzee plus a few Swiss Road climbs. The photos and descriptions you provide are priceless.

    Looks like Bormio is going to be one of our stops next year. This will definitely be on my to do list next summer.

    Thanks again
    Pete

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