Cols of the Swiss Stage

Tour de Suisse logo smallIn June last year, at the end of my Giro d’Italia 2015, I rode an entirely ‘Swiss Stage’ including the Gotthard (Tremola road), the Furka and the Grimsel.

You can read a report on that stage here – it offered some of the most stunning views I have encountered so far and I am determined to get back there for more, during a longer stay.

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Grimsel Pass


The Grimsel pass (2,164 m, summit sign 2,165 m) connects the cantons of Valais to the south and Bern to the north; it crosses the continental divide between the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea.

It’s part of the most famous routes – or round trips – of the Alps and is combined with the Furka pass, which it ‘meets’ in Gletsch in most of those.

There’s a loop with the Susten pass (north), or with the Nufenen and Gotthard passes (south).

Depending on where you start, Andermatt, Airolo or Wassen, and which direction you go, clock- or anticlockwise, you can combine them in several ways, in different order of appearance for each.

More info on the various loops is to be found on for instance the pages of the Alpenbrevet.

I did the Silver version, or north loop, of that in 2019, albeit that I started in Wassen and finished in Andermatt, forfeiting the descend back from there to Wassen.

(These routes do change to start in either Andermatt or Wassen, so the Silver Tour may well be with the south loop some other year…)

I cycled the Grimsel from Oberwald as part of the ‘Swiss Stage’ at the end of my Giro d’Italia 2015 – report here, pictures here (Google+).

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Furka Pass


With a summit at 2,429 meters (summit sign: 2,436), the Furka Pass ranks as 4th highest pass in Switzerland.

It connects the cantons of Valais and Uri.

It’s part of the most famous routes – or round trips – of the Alps and is combined with the Grimsel pass, which it ‘meets’ in Gletsch in most of those.

There’s a loop with the Susten pass (north), or with the Nufenen and Gotthard passes (south).

Depending on where you start, Andermatt, Airolo or Wassen, and which direction you go, clock- or anticlockwise, you can combine them in several ways, in different order of appearance for each.

More info on the various loops is to be found on for instance the pages of the Alpenbrevet. I did the Silver version, or north loop, of that in 2019, albeit that I started in Wassen, but finished in Andermatt and forfeited the descend back from there to Wassen.

(These routes do change to start in either Andermatt or Wassen, so the Silver Tour may well be with the south loop some other year…)

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Gotthard Pass


The St. Gotthard Pass (Italian: Passo del San Gottardo) connects south and north Switzerland.

Other than traversing the Gotthard tunnel, you can travel the new Tremola if you want to enjoy some of the views from within your car or on your motorcycle, while not losing too much time.

However, that also has some (long) tunneled sections and the far more interesting – and better cycle-able – road is the old Tremola between Airolo in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and Hospental in the German-speaking canton of Uri.

With a summit at 2,106 meters*, the Gotthard Pass doesn’t earn a high ranking in the European list of ‘highest passes’, but the old Via Tremola is a more than fair compensation.

The Tremola road is Switzerland’s longest memorial road construction. It snakes up the slopes of the Val Tremola as a light-coloured ribbon from Airolo and offers impressive views.

In the most spectacular section, the road climbs up 300 meters over a 4 kilometer stretch, incorporating no less than 24 hairpins, each with its own name. The Tremola road today still largely retains the appearance of the reconstruction completed in 1951.


* When you arrive at the Guex memorial, you’re not quite there yet. There’s a sign to be found, reading 2,091 meters, but it’s not the summit. Follow the road past the Lago della Piazza and keep left to bump into the official sign…

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Umbrail Pass

At 2,501 meters it earns a top 10 spot in the list of highest paved passes in Europe and it is the highest paved pass in Switzerland.

The Umbrail was a side-trip into Switzerland during the Giro of 2011 and the start of my Giro of 2020.

I started the climb in bad weather during my Tour de Suisse 2019 too, but found it was blocked by a landslide some 5 or 6 kilometers in.

The Umbrail from Bormio is actually (all about) the Stelvio, so short of visiting the summit sign, I’ve done that four times 🙂

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