Motoroutes

Great St. Bernard Pass greg Hot

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Written by greg     April 11, 2012    
 
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Warnings

This road may be seasonally closed

Directions
Begin Destination

Rue Principale 27, 1921 Martigny-Combe, Switzerland, Valais

Galleria Signayes, 11100 Aosta, Valle D'aosta, Italy, Aosta

Location

Address
Rue Principale 27, 1921 Martigny-Combe, Switzerland

General Route

Route Type
Mountains
Distance
71,935
Duration
3,923
(Partial) toll road
false
This road may be seasonally closed
true
One of the most famous passes in the world and the 3rd highest in Switzerland at 2469 meters. It is closed for most year, usually opens mid June and closes in October.

Great St. Bernard is the oldest pass through the Western Alps, with evidence of use as far back as the Bronze Age and surviving traces of a Roman road. In 1800, Napoleon's army used the pass to enter Italy, an event depicted in Jacques-Louis David's Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass and Hippolyte Delaroche's Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, both notable oil paintings.

The pass can be ridden either way, but for purposes of this listing we are riding south towards Italy. The first 40km carries a fair amount of traffic up to the Great St. Bernard tunnel. The road is in good condition and has many passing lanes- so if you are on a bike you can still make good time and have a pleasant ride. From Martigny, the road follows a river canyon- most of the corners are wide and flowing. About half way you can make a side trip to Verbier if your skiing inclined. After the Verbier turnoff, you start to come out of the canyon and start the climb for real with some beautiful wide turns and superlative views. About 10k up from the Verbier turnoff the road becomes covered, just before this are about 3 petrol stations, tank up here as fuel is generally 20% less in Switzerland.

The covered road continues into the tunnel and the last exit is for the Great St. Bernard, don’t miss it or you will suffer a dreary and expensive journey though a very long tunnel. You emerge from the covered road into what you hope is bright mountain sunlight and a clear pass. From this point the road becomes far more narrow, the surface challenged, and the corners are quite tight- but what a road....

The summit has several buildings, the most famous is the hospice used by travellers using the pass for centuries. There is a nice little lake up at the top and some great views. If it is really clear and you are up for a bit of scrambling one of the best views in the world is only 30 minutes up- (warning- only for the fit, not vertically challenged and ambitious). Park at the top, where the St Bernard kennels are- walk behind them and up the mountain behind them- there are remnants of an old ski lift that you can follow for the 1st half of the walk- after that, your on your own, but then paths are marked there are cables to help you get to the top. Once there the Vista of the Mt Blanc massive is as good as it gets.

OK, back on the road. For some reason the Italian ramp is in much condition the Swiss side- they have been working on it for the last 10 years (and still are), so I guess it should be. The road above tree line is generally very good in all respects. Once you hit the tree line, they still be working on the road, but on a bike you advance to the front of the line at the lights.

You rejoin the main road form the tunnel just below Saint Leonard, from here the traffic is back, but there is some good passing available all the way down to Aosta.

Fun fact- the original Italian job opening sequence was filmed going up the Italian ramp, yes the one with the Lamborghini Miura.

Editor review

This is a true bucket list route!
Overall rating 
 
4.4
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4.0
greg Reviewed by greg April 11, 2012
Last updated: November 19, 2012
Top 10 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews (10)

Great St. Bernard Pass

This is a true bucket list route!

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