Another dreaded, steep climb: the Mortirolo (or Passo della Foppa) with a summit at 1,852 meters. It used to be the favorite mountain of Marco Pantani.

“If you want to die, this is where you go” – encouraging words, often found when reading reports about this climb…

However, I think the Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina, labeled the most difficult, is not much worse than the Gerlitzen – sadly, the latter is hardly known to anyone, but I can assure you it’s as tough as the Mortirolo, especially the climb from Tschöran…

Described here are the three “most famous” alternatives, but there are quite a few ways to the top of the Mortirolo, many of which no more than goat paths and/or hiking trails.

This means that with a mountain bike, you have some more options to exhaust yourself. One alternative that is used in at least one gran fondo, is the one from Tovo with grades up to 26%…

I climbed the Mortirolo in 2011 from Mazzo and in 2015 from Monno – reports here (2011) and here (2015).

Mazzo di Valtellina

Mortirolo - profile from Mazzo

This most frequently traveled ascend is almost 12.5 km long from Mazzo, in which you’ll gain 1,300 meters – that’s an average of 10.4% and you may “look forward” to stretches of 18, 19, 20%…

However, this climb is rather constant in its steepness – the last kilometer is a little less intense, so you have the chance to recover a bit and look “fresh” when you take a picture / selfie at the summit.

It’s during this climb that you will pass the Pantani monument – it is located in turn 11, about four kilometers from the summit.

The summit is quite desolate – like the Zoncolan, there is nothing to do. But if you would like to raise a glass on your accomplishment or eat a snack, then ride on down towards Monno – about one kilometer past the summit, you will find the Albergo “Passo Mortirolo”…

Video from the Col Collective on the Mazzo ascend here.


Mortirolo - profile from GrosioDeemed a slightly easier alternative on the west flank, is the climb from Grosio, which is located just north of Mazzo.

This climb is 14.8 kilometers long, with an altimeter gain of 1,222 meters. I’ve seen this end twice as a downhill, never have I climbed it.

From what I was able to assess – as far as possible in a descend – this climb seems a lot more irregular, which also corresponds to what you can see on the profile card of CBB.

Despite the deceiving 8.3% average, many stretches are possibly even steeper than the ones found in the climb from Mazzo, but there are “easier” parts to recover a bit.

This climb joins the one from Mazzo at turn 8, some 3 kilometers before the summit…


Mortirolo - profile from EdoloFrom the (south) east you can tackle the Mortirolo from Edolo – this is the road towards the Tonale (Ponte di Legno) and the first couple of kilometers from Edolo until the Monno turn, can be used as a good warm up.

From there you need to overcome an 900 meter elevation gain in approximately 11.7 kilometers – relatively speaking, this may be considered easy.

And while I do not, I did find this climb considerably less difficult than the one from Mazzo. Which, depending on other factors, like weather, probably means it could still break you…

In particular the stretch from about two kilometers from the summit – starting just before San Giacomo – might make you swear: under shelter of the trees, you’ll grovel you’re way up as the grades rise to 16%…

A good indication of the steep nature of this part, is the fact that it has no less than 10 hairpins; numbering starts at 12 just outside Monno, about 7 kilometers down the road…

Coming up this end, you will pass the only tavern near the summit – about a kilometer before you arrive there, you’ll pass the Albergo.

Picture gallery (2011 and 2015) on Google+

Colle Fauniera

General Info

The Colle Fauniera, a.k.a. Colle dei Morti (“Mountain of the Dead”) is part of the Colli di Cuneo, a range of high mountain passes in the Cottian Alps, Piedmont, northern Italy. The rather ominous name Colle dei Morti stems from a fierce battle which occurred in the area during a 17th century clash between Franco-Spanish and Piedmontese troops.

The road was fully asphalted in 1999, to allow the Giro d’Italia to pass over it, after which it became more popular to the (cycling) tourists. I doubt that a lot of maintenance has been done on it since, as I’ve experienced first hand that the roads in the upper part of the pass are – besides narrow – in bad shape and possibly “deadly” too if you’re not careful, especially during a descend…

Generally speaking, this pass is not very much traveled – it is not that widely known and thus not (overly) popular to motorists, and the state of the road doesn’t attract as much as for instance the Stelvio.

However, while it may lack attractive hairpin sections, the views are spectacular and the green meadows, filled with a variety of alp flowers, are home to a large population of marmots.

With its summit at 2,481 meters, it also owns a top 10 spot in the list of highest paved passes in Europe.

Pantani Forever

The Pantani monument on the FaunieraAt the summit you will find yet another monument dedicated to the late Marco Pantani, in memory of his epic climb during the Giro of 1999.

I’m not sure how many “Pantani Forever” monuments there actually are, but I’ve cycled passed four of them so far: on the Mortirolo, my favorite, on the Galibier, on les Deux Alpes and this one.

It’s a little ‘creepy’ if you’re all by yourself on a gloomy day, like me during my trip up this beautiful mountain – the statue really fitted the wild desolation of the summit…

The Communal Council Castelmagno also wants to rename the mountain pass and give it the official name “Colle Pantani.”

However, at the time of writing, ratification from the Institute of Military Geography of Italy has not been given yet and it may never come to that either.

But, it would be an unprecedented event if it did – and fitting tribute? – since there is no known cyclist in the world that has a mountain named after them…


There are 3 possible routes to climb the pass on a road bike, all of them with an average grade of 7% or more.

Fauniera - profile from DemonteStarting from Demonte, the ascend is 24.7 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1,721 meters, which puts the average grade at 7%.

This is the road I took during my Tour de France 2014 – the views higher up were overwhelming and because the passage at the summit turned out to be blocked by snow, we had the road even more to ourselves than usual…

Report of my trip here.

Link to ClimbByBike

Fauniera - profile from Ponte Marmora


Starting from Ponte Marmora, the ascend is 22 km long and the elevation gain is 1,567 meters, which means the average grade is 7.1%.

Link to ClimbByBike




Fauniera - profile from Pradleves

And starting from Pradlèves, the ascend is 22.4 km long, with an elevation gain of 1,689 meters, which – at an average grade of 7.5% – makes this the toughest climb, looking at the grades anyway.

During the Giro’s of 1999 and 2001, the Fauniera ascend from Pradlèves was included in a stage – in 2001 it was also Cima Coppi.

Link to ClimbByBike

Picture gallery on Google+

Tour de France 2014 – Stage 10

The beautiful Fauniera

Stage 10 involved a side trip to Italy: after a car transfer over the Larche to get to the start of the Colle Fauniera, I got on my bike in Demonte.

Why this col is more aptly referred to as “Colle dei Morti”, I found out very quickly.

With a length of nearly 25 kilometers and an elevation gain of some 1,700 meters, the average is a healthy 7%.

The start is irregular, with frequent ups and downs, where the “ups” are basically close to and over 10% – there is no easing into this one…

Read moreTour de France 2014 – Stage 10