Stelvio Or Bust, September 2002
Participants from all over Europe converge at the Stelvio Pass (second highest road in Europe and scene of the early tests of the Elise S1) on Friday 13 September.
No one was quite sure how many cars turned up on the day - it must have been around 100 though.
See Tony Churly's "Official" Stelvio Site- the man whose idea it all was!
The complete route can be found here (Google Map), but for a day by day breakdown:
For my trip, I had originally planned to join the group at Pontresina and then drive with them upto Passo dello Stelvio (Stilfser Joch) for lunch, then onto Obergurgl. At the last moment however, I realised that I could leave the previous day and join the BEND group in Airolo for an addition days playing in the passes :-)
So Wednesday I blasted along the German autobahns towards Lake Constance (Bodensee) and then across Switzerland to the Passo del San Bernardino and to Airolo.
At a height of 2065 meters, the San Bernardino Pass is a high mountain pass across the Swiss Alps that connects the towns of Hinterrhein and Misox. The pass also features an impressive 6.6 km long tunnel with a limited speed limit of 80km/h (50mph).
Thursday was a complete joy. The BEND guys had worked out a lovely circular route of passes: Passo de San Gottardo (2108m), Furkapass (2431m), Grimselpass (2165m), Sustenpass (2259m), Oberalppass (2044m) and onto the final pass of the day, the Julierpass.
The St Gotthard Pass is the scenic alternative to the 10 mile long Tunnel, heading from Switzerland to Italy, take the well signposted spur off the autoroute. There's a museum, restaurant and hotel at the top, which is a useful rest stop. There's also an old cobbled road that branches off, then rejoins, the modern road at the top.
The Grimsel Pass is 2165 m high and is a mountain pass between the valley of of the Rhone River and the Haslital valley. In the summer months, the Oberalp Pass provides an important link between Central Switzerland and the Graubünden Oberland and is popular among both car and truck drivers, as well as being a Mecca for motorcyclists. In winter, the Oberalp Pass is closed to road traffic and the road itself used as a ski slope, toboggan run and hiking trail.
Delores Weber was waiting to greet all Elisers crossing the Julierpass. After a short break there to pick up the stragglers (like the infamous tut :-) it was off to Pontresina.
Pso di Gavia (2621m)
Pso d. Stelvio (2757m)
Pso del Rombo (2474m)
Starting from Pontresina, Fridays route meant crossing the Bernina Pass to Tirano, then heading north towards Bormio, but turning right over the Passo de Mortirolo (Passo della Foppa), and then onto Incudine and over the Passo de Gavia (Gavia-Pass) to Bormio.
This picture of Gavia had me questioning my sanity before I had even left, but it was a joy!
The Passo di Mortirolo is a small road that doesn't even appear on many maps, so here it is in all its glory:
Passo de Mortirolo (Passo della Foppa)
Technically it is the Passo di Foppa, the true Mortirolo pass being a rough crossing to the north-east - but all the road signs are for the Mortirolo. For a cyclists view of the pass click here. For another cyclists review of both the Mortirolo and the Gavia pass, click here.
Quote from Tony:
Mortirolo is a little turning on the right about 5 K out of Tirano on the Bormio road. It serves 3 purposes.
1. Its a nice little pass - very twisty and narrow.
2 There is a nice little lake at the top which makes a good spot to stop, take pics etc. (you get there by turning right at the top of the pass at a T junction with a parking place in front of you).
3. It allows you to do the Gavia which is one of my all time favourite passes (rough as hell but spectacular beyond belief).
Gavia Pass was longer and higher. I was rather glad that cloud cover meant that I couldn't see the sheer drops that I knew must be there. About halfway up, I paused for a rest and to let a biker past - and was surprised to see an Italian registered Yellow Elise come thundering past me too. I was well impressed - I hadn't thought there was room for a car to pass at all there.
And as if that wasn't enough it was onwards and upwards to Stelvio for lunch. The Stelvio Pass is the second highest paved mountain road in the Alps (2757 meters). Regarded by many as being one of the most challenging roads in the world, the Stelvio Pass offers its visitors 60 hairpin bends with 48 of them located on the northern/eastern ramp. The northern side of the Stelvio Pass is by far more challenging, with the steep ascent offering little to no visibility for oncoming vehicles. The southern/eastern ramp in comparison is far more gentle. Offering drivers wider, and faster hairpins with a more comfortable road surface.
Somewhere in the vicinity of Stelvio, I became aware of the sound of screeching of tyres from somewhere behind me. A short time later I was greeted with the sight of a familiar face grinning from behind the wheel of a Stelvio Or Bust stickered rental Peugeot! I'll mention no names in case the rental companies read this (needless to say, the car was a bit of a wreck by the time it was returned)
And just to prove I was there, here's a still from the Stelvio webcam on the day itself (that's my car in front of the yellow one in the foreground).
Pic © Liam
After lunch it's a quick blast (well insomuch as the traffic would allow) east to Merano then north over the Passo del Rombo (Timmelsjoch) to Obergurgl. Phew!
See http://www.tourenland.de/paesse/timmel.htm for more info on the pass.
Passo de Rombo
By the time I had crossed the Pass I was convinced that my brakes were about to pack up (they were whistling in a complaining sort of way) and that my gearbox was going die (it felt like it was about to seize up), but after a short pause the car was happy again.
What a great little car! :o)
Tony Churly, additional route suggestion:
We did a massive day on S2K starting early at St Moritz and doing the Simplon Pass to Tirano then the Passo di Moltirolo for breakfast; then two further passes (the Gavia and one I have forgotten) to the foot of Stelvio then up Stelvio for lunch (long) followed by a blat down the other side and down to Merano (near the cable car hotel at Lana (99)); then over the Passo de Rombo to stop for the night at Obergurgle. It was the most mental day bar none on any Stelvio