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This 2019 trip is under construction. All the information, text and photos will be added gradually.
Rhaetian Alps: Around the Stilfserjoch
669 km / 16600 EG
The giants of Graubünden, the South Tyrol and Lombardy. A week of high passes and alpine highlights awaits us. Over seven stages starting from Chur we explore the Rhaetian Alps together. Crowned by a mountaintop finish on the Stilfser Joch, the Queen of the Alpine Passes. Routes may be altered!
20 passes cycled
, Passo di Gavia
, Forcola di Livigno
, Passo di Foscagno
The opening stage takes us across Graubünden from Chur to the Engadine. It includes two passes, the Lenzerheide and the Albula – with the latter, in particular, offering wonderful scenery.
From our starting point in Chur we head directly south, where the Grison Alps soar before us. The Lenzerheide Pass is semi-tough, so an ideal starter. But many will view it as just a gentle loosener prior to the Albula Pass which, rightly, is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the Alps. From the start of the climb in Tiefencastel, we first ride along the slope as it falls steeply away, but then we're into the barren, high alpine landscapes of the Albula Alps, accompanied by the impressive Rhaetian Railway. The descent into the Engadine is only short, and we only have to get through a few, slightly uphill kilometres before we get to our stage destination of Pontresina.Option:
From Lenzerheide the Alp Lavoz is a lovely road. It would take today's total up to 93 kms and 3200 m elevation gain.
On day two, once we get over the Bernina Pass we cross the border into Italy. Then we need good legs on the Passo del Mortirolo before taking a high road to our day's goal of Aprica.
The Bernina Pass is at 2330 m, but given that we begin at 1800 m in Pontresina, it puts the climb into perspective. This is largely a climb for the rouleurs, so we should find it easier to appreciate the high alpine scenery than to unnecessarily waste energy that we might need on the Mortirolo. The descent from the Bernina to the Veltlin is lengthy, and only just before the end do we cross the border into Italy. We now ride a little way up the Veltlin, but we want to scale the Mortirolo on the famous/infamous road up from Mazzo which even tempts the Giro guys into low gear ratios. It's steep, no question. On the other hand, we're lured by the glorious, remote road along the ridge southwards from the Mortirolo Pass via Guspessa and Trivigno. The stage ends in Aprica.Option:
On the Mortirolo you can also initially ride the high road in a north-easterly direction to the Col Carette di Val Bighera. The stage would then amount to 112 kms and 2800 m EG.
The third stage is entirely dedicated to the Passo di Gavia, as its spectacular southern approach absolutely merits.
We face a short stage today, but it will definitely not be dull. The south ramp of the Passo di Gavia, which is one of the most impressive ascents in the whole of the Alps, will guarantee that. First, though, we drop down from Aprica to Edolo and ride up the Val Camonica to Ponte di Legno. This is where the road up the Gavia, often carved spectacularly into the cliff side, begins. After descending to our stage destination of Bormio people might like to add on another little road or two – but you'll probably have had a good enough time to call it a day.Option:
After the Gavia you can also ride up to the Passo Torri di Fraele - a lovely, lonely dead-end road. That would make a stage of 101 kms and 2800 m EG.
We cross the Umbrail Pass to return to Switzerland and the Ofen Pass takes us back to the Engadine, where we overnight in Scuol.
The Ortler massif hails us from the east, and the Stilfser Joch hails us even more vigorously. And, in fact, its towards the Stilfser Joch that we head initially from Bormio. But around 300 metres before the pass we turn northwards and cross the border into Switzerland. Anyone who wants to can finish off the Stilfser Joch ascent and turn back again. We have to make time for that! But then we drop down from the Umbrail Pass into the Val Müstair – the old gravel pass has now been properly asphalted. We then turn to the west where we head up the Ofen Pass, right through the Swiss National Park. In Zernez we each the Engadine again, and follow it downriver to our stage-end in Scuol.Option:
If you have already ridden from Bormio to the Umbrail turn-off, you can also, of course, go all the way up the Stilfser Joch. This variant would bring you to 100 kms / 2700 m EG.
One stage, three countries. We ride over the Norbertshöhe to Nauders in Austria, over the Reschen Pass back to the South Tyrol, and finish off the stage with a monumental mountaintop finish on the Stilfser Joch.
The Stilfser Joch – the Queen of Alpine Passes. Anyone who had good legs might well have been up here yesterday from the Umbrail. It's difficult to find a more prestigious pass and today we make it the mountaintop finish of all mountaintop finishes and simply spend the night at the pass. Of course, there has to be a bit of skirmishing first. So from Scuol we ride further on down the Engadine and head to Nauders over the lonely Norbertshöhe. We then climb up to the Reschen Pass, where we can marvel at the famous church tower, not quite covered by the reservoir. After a swift descent into the Vinschgau we come to Prad – and then things really kick off. We face 48 hairpins – the legendary eastern ascent of the Stilfser Joch. We won't come down until tomorrow, as today we'll spend the night at 2757 m altitude on the pass itself.Variant:
Riding into the Samnaun Valley is a very nice detour. But that would tot up to a stage of 124 kms and 3500 m EG.
A long, but not too difficult, stage six takes us over five passes in all to Chiavenna.
It will probably be chilly in the morning – we'll need to dress up warm for the early descent from the Stilfser Joch to Bormio. To get warm again, we immediately begin the longest climb of the day up to the double pass Foscagno/Eira, which delivers us the first two pass signposts in a twin-pack, as it were, with just a short descent in between. We then drop down a bit to Livigno, which is particularly known for its tax-free tourism. We ignore the cigarette and booze stores, pass through quickly, and notch up pass number three with the Forcola di Livigno. And, because it was so lovely, we immediately add on the final kilometres to the Bernina Pass. The first half of the day is over, four passes have been ticked off, and the lion's share of the elevation gain too. The north-west side of the Bernina is already familiar, but today we ride it downhill. We roll along the flat upper Engadine to the Maloja Pass, which we are gifted, as it were, since it involves no climbing. At this point only a long descent separates us from our day's target of Chiavenna, in Italy.
Today, to finish off, we ride over the Splügen Pass, and then down the Hinterrhein Valley back to Chur.
The final stage, since today we say our farewells. But we have one more task to accomplish and it's yet another highlight. Alongside such venerable names as the Stilfser Joch and Gavia, the south ramp of the Splügen Pass may seem like a secret tip, but it's a secret tip that is worthwhile. And the precise bends on the north face are a curiosity worth seeing. This takes us to Splügen in the Hinterrhein Valley, and it's downhill all the way to Chur. However, the scenery gets spectacular once more with the Viamala Gorge, and we can roll very happily into Chur.Option:
From the Hinterrhein Valley you can cycle to Juf, the highest permanent settlement in the Alps. However, this would make the final stage really hard, at 140 kms and 3300 m elevation gain.