When you think of cycling and Switzerland, you might first think of Tony Rominger or Fabian Cancellara. Or maybe you think of the beautiful stage races such as the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de Romandie, where every year the world’s top riders line up at the start. For many who like cycling in the mountains, Switzerland is not the place to be. However, this country has so many beautiful and especially challenging climbs. But what are the highest mountain passes you can climb in this country? Frank van Dam figured it out, here is the list from 10 to 1:
10 Grimselpas (2165m)
The Grimsel Pass is often ridden in combination with the Furkapass and Sustenpass. Together, they form the, among cyclists, popular three passes route. The Grimsel Pass has been on the Tour de Suisse ten times so far: in 1937, 1953, 1956, 1962, 1973, 1986, 1996, 2002, 2007 and 2011. It was the arrival point for the seventh stage in 2007.
9 Sustenpas (2224m)
The Susten Pass road was only opened in 1945 and is the first pass road to be purpose-built for vehicular traffic. The architecturally spectacular Susten Road mainly serves tourism and is therefore one of the last to be cleared of snow, often remaining closed from the beginning of November until June.
8 Julierpas (2284m)
While the parallel Albulapass and Flüelapass passes are closed for long periods in winter, the Julierpass, like the Maloja Pass, is accessible all year round.
7 Albulapas (2312m)
If you ask a cyclist with experience in high mountains what his favourite pass in the Alps is, after some thought, the name Albula comes up surprisingly often. At first, one might think of the “classics” such as the Col du Galibier, the Stelvio, the cobbled route over the Gotthard pass or the Grossglockner Hochalpenstraße. The Albula pass, on the other hand, is more inconspicuous and seems more untouched. Anyone who has ever conquered it on a racing bike will surely have marked it down on their list of the most beautiful Alpine passes.
6 Berninapas (2330m)
If you want to conquer Bernina Pass over the South Ramp you need to have a good deal of stamina. You will be rewarded with majestic views of the Piz Bernina. Time to enjoy the view, you have enough. As an alternative to racing bike you can reach the Bernina Pass sitting on the famous Bernina red train, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
5 Flüelapas (2383m)
Together with the Susten Pass, the Flüela Pass is one of the two northernmost 2,000-metre peaks in the Swiss Alps.
4. Furkapas (2429m)
You may know the Furkapass from the famous scene in Goldfinger. In the 1964 film, James Bond drives the Aston Martin DB5 for the first time. The famous hotel and the Rhone glacier can be seen in one of the scenes. The photogenic Hotel Belvédère is built in 1882 amidst the many hairpin bends was once a busy establishment. Since 2015, Hotel Belvédère has been closed to visitors. In front of the windows, the landlords carpentered wooden boards and it has been a ghostly sight ever since. The pass was not fully tarmaced in the 1960s.
3. Col du Grand St. Bernard (2473m)
The route was already an important trade route in Roman times. Charles the Great crossed the pass in 773 in his fight against the Lombards, and in 1800 Napoleon crossed it with 30,000 men to push the Austrians out of Lombardy. The pass is also known for the St. Bernard dog, they were originally bred for rescue work by the hospice of the Great St Bernard Pass. Both Giro and Tour regularly passed by.
2. Nufenenpas (2480m)
The Nufenen Pass is the highest Alpine crossing in central Switzerland and one of the youngest passes, having been built only 30 years ago. Due to its high average gradient, its countless serpentines and its susceptibility to wind (in both directions), the Nufenen is one of the toughest climbs.
1. Umbrailpas (2501m)
The road is entirely asphalted since 2015. On the Italian side, it connects to the Stelvio Pass road and was climbed in the 2017 Giro d’Italia, Umbrail Pass was reached during the stage from Rovetta to Bormio. This stage is especially known for Tom Dumoulin losing more than two minutes because of intestinal problems at the bottom of the this climb.