Tour of the Alps 2013 – Day 3

We did this trip in September 2013. We are Einar on a BMW R 1200 RT and me on the Yamaha FZS 600 Fazer. The goal was the Alps and some of the highest passes Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France have to offer. The first pass is Timmelsjoch on the boarder between Austria and Italy. Today we will ride the Oberalp Pass, the Saint Gottard Pass on the Tremola and over the Nufenen Pass, up to the topp of the Simplon pass and end the day with the ride over the Grand Saint Bernard.

We wake up to another day with clear blue sky. It is a bit chilly early in the morning. After a good breakfast we are on our bikes at half past nine and the sun has allready found its way down to the valley floor. We start todays trip with some nice riding towards Andermatt and our first mountain crossing over the Obelap Pass. While the Rhone glacier at the Furka pass in the west is the source of the river Rhone, is Tomasee in the mountains south of Oberalp Pass the source of the river Rhine. On our way up the valley towards the climb to Oberalp Pass (2044 m.a.s.l.) we have the river Vorderrhein to the left. After som entertaining riding up to Oberalp Pass we have a short break. The red lighthous is fascinating and is a 14 meters high copy of a lighthous originally placed at the Rhines entrance to the ocean at Hoek in Netherland. For those who likes to take a mountain walk the walk to Tomasee is recommended and takes about two hours each way.

We have planned to do several mountains today and continue our ride towards Andermatt. In the beginning on straight roads, then on beautiful long curves down to Andermatt. We have spent less than an hour riding when we enter det town and as we have petrol and have no other needs we keep on towards our next mountain, the Saint Gottard Pass at 2106 meters height. I have ridden over there several times, but never on the Tremola, the old brick road on the south side.

There are many interesting roads in this area and when leaving Andermatt the Furka Pass is also tempting. However, this time we are heading for Gottard and Tremola and take exit number two and Road 2 in the roundabout outside Andermatt. The road ascend steady and at the Gottard Pass we take the exit by the Lago della Piazza. We have a short break before heading to Tremola where we stop and make some photos. The Tremola was built between 1827 and 1832 as an important section of the main road between Basel and Chiasso and is the longest road monument in Switzerland. The road has been unchanged since 1951, but have had less importance since the new National Route 2 opened in 1977 and in 1980 the motorway tunnel.

San Gottard Pass
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I have ridden and driven over the Gottard Pass several times, but this is the first time i ride th Tremola. Det road with its spectacular hairpins is visible from National Route 2 and is an impressive sight. Coming close and riding it makes it even more impressive. The road is well maintained, and the brick road is in very good condition. A couple of cyclist pass while we are here, other traffic than that we can’t see. After some photos we ride towards Airolo and it’s chaotic roads in search of the road to the Nufenen Pass.

Tremola San Gottard
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When approaching Airolo you should know where you are going. Several roads meet here and you may have to make desicions very quickly and to avoid a detour. The road to the Nufenen Pass have no number, but the direction is very well signed and this time the Garmin Zümo makes no mistakes. The road over the Nufenen Pass (2478 m.a.s.l.) was opened i September 1969 ans is one of the newest roads crossing the Alps and the second highest paved mountain road in Switzerland. The road from Airolo is easy to ride and the modern architecture makes the ride very easy compared to manye of the older roads in the Alps. After an entertaining ride we reach to top and is greeted by a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains.

After a short rest we ride towards Ulrichen and the Rhone river. The road starts with very nice curves and we enjoy the nice ride down. I never get tired of curves and especially when it is combined with views like this. Some years ago, I was stationed near Ulrichen with a tyre company testing winter tyres. This was in the winter and the road was closed so it could be used as a test track.

But today there is nothing reminding us of winter, we re still at about 1300 meters but it is getting a bit hot. We decide to take a detour and by Brig we follow the signs to the Simplon Pass (2008 m.a.s.l.) and lunch. The ride up to Simplon is well maintained and the ride is easy. The view going up is not very spectacular, but after a nice lunch we enjoy a much nicer view going down to Brig again.

På vei opp til Simplon pass. On our way to the Simplon pass.
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Back in Brig we continue westward and ride through Sion and head on to Martigny. Here we aim at the Grand Saint Bernard pass. We want to take the road over the mountain to the Aosta valley. The trick is to get off the main road before we enter the tunnel. I order to ride over the mountain you have to take the exit after the lake Lac des Toules. Here are many and big signs for the Gdst Bernard tunnel, but only a small sign with the inscription “Col” guides you to the mountain road. If you miss the exit you will exit the tunnel in Italy 5,8 kilometres later. I know of some who have experienced this.

We exit the tunnel and start the climb up to Grand Saint Bernard (2469 m.a.s.l.) and arrives way to soon. The ride is exiting and at some points challenging because of other traffic but the 6,5 kilometres from the tunnel exit is done in 10 minutes. The top of road is as always coming as a surprise. As you ride between the buildings in the Pass and the view to the Lac du Grand Saint Bernard lays in front of you. We stop at the first parking on the left and enjoy the after noon sun before we ride down and cross the Italian border at the other side of the lake. From the hill beside the restaurant we have a nice view to the road ahead to the Aosta valley.

Outside Aosta I take the wrong direction, but after a involuntarily detour we are back on track and head towards Courmayeur. We would probably have saved some time by riding through the city of Aosta. We are riding into the sunset and are looking forward to finding a hotel. I have a hotel i Courmayeur I like very much, but today there were no vacancies so we head down the valley again to Hotel Beau Sèjour in Pré-Saint-Didier. Here we have a perfect base for tomorrows leg. The hotel is quiet and after the dinner we just prepare for tomorrows adventures before going to bed. Tomorrow will offer higher mountains than todays!

Todays leg was 406 km and we rode these mountains:
Oberalp Pass 2044 m.a.s.l.
Saint Gottard Pass 2469 m.a.s.l.
Nufenen Pass 2478 m.a.s.l.
Simplon Pass 2008 m.a.s.l.
Grand Saint Bernard Pass 2469 m.a.s.l.