The worlds toughest climb


Pushing the bike up the Rafensteiner Bergstrasse - Bolzano (average 33%)- too steep to climb

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Van:David Welton
Onderwerp:Second meanest climb in Europe?
In spite of this topic's religous flame war potential, I'll bite:-) Which
is the 'meanest' climb in Europe?  During last year's Giro, the
commentators mentioned that Ugromov had something like a 39-25 for Il
Mortirolo.  This climb is certainly in contention for the title...  The
Gavia, which the riders had crossed earlier that day is pretty epic
itself.  It is a narrow little road with quite a few GRAVEL sections that 
goes up really quite high.


David Welton   
Van:Ron Archer
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
It is not only the number one meanest climb of them all,
but it is by a bunch.  This, at least, was the opinion
of 4 of the winners of Los Lagos de Covadonga this 
decade.  Lucho Herrera (1991) referred to Mortirolo as
being the "Queen climb of Europe, surpassing all by 
far.  After it, Los Lagos de Covadonga is probably 
the next hardest.  Although Tourmalet and Alpe d'Huez
come close."  Note, of course, that all of these comments
referred to the meanest climbs IN A MAJOR CYCLING RACE.
Not the 22% final 2 miles up Grandfather Mountain in
North Carolina's Bridge to Bridge, for instance.  Grin.
Van:Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
Pace means everything when you are racing.  A very fast pace on a relatively
easy climb can be much more difficult than a slow pace on a steep climb.

Having said that, if you just look at the steepness and length of a climb and
disregard the pace, the two hardest climbs in the Western European Alps appear
to be the Passo di Mortirolo (last year, Olano said the person who planned this
road should be hanged!) near Bormio and the San Pellegrino in Alpi near Pisa,
both in Italy.

Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
Though I have never seen the Mortirolo, I know a good many of the Alps.
There is one that was very mean to me, and I would like to know your expert
opinion about it. It is the Col de la Forclaz going up from Martigny.
Did you really enjoy it?
Pisa (near San Pellegrino in Alpi)
Van:Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
You must mean the old road up the Forclaz.  This climb has been used in
the Tour of Romandie and has about 3 or 4km of 13-15%.

Bruce Hildenbrand

ps - the new road is pretty difficult as well, but it is not nearly
as steep as the old road.
Van:Tom James
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
I went over the Col de la Forclaz 5 years ago on a touring holiday, and 
remember it as being hard (it was a very hot day, for a start) but not 
super-hard. Certainly I would have rated it behind the north side of the 
Galibier, the Queyras side of the Izoard; the Stelvio, Gavia or the road 
over the Gross Glockner in Austria.
	Having just come back from a touring holiday to the Pyrenees, I'd 
say that there are some pretty hard climbs there. The French side of the 
Port de Larrau (the way the TdF went this year) averages 10% for 8km, and 
is on a pretty narrow bumpy road (we went down it, since we were coming 
from Spain). The western side of the Col de Marie Blanc just suddenly 
gets very steep for about the last 5km or so, and it more or less just 
goes straight up the side of a hill (like an English road) rather than 
taking a more gentle zig-zag route.
	Nonetheless, the climb I thought was hardest by a long way 
(harder even than the Tourmalet or the Aubisque) was the Col de Soudet. 
We went up via the Col de Suscousse, and after 10km or so of steady 
climb up a valley to the village of St. Engrace, it suddenly just gets 
very steep - something like a 10 or 11% average for the next 6km to the 
Suscousse. This includes getting on for a kilometre near the top that is 
flat or downhill, so the remainder is back-breakingly steep. Then, from 
the Col de Suscousse there remain about 4km to the Col de Soudet at an 
average of 10% or thereabouts. (I haven't got my maps with me to check 
the exact heights and distances, so this is from somewhat painful memory!)
The descent to Arrette (the way the TdF came up this year has sections 
marked at 15% on the descent, but at least is on a very good surface).
	Having not climbed the Mortirolo, I can't say how it compares 
with the Soudet, but this climb was definitely the hardest climb we did 
in the Pyrenees (harder than, for example, either side of the Tourmalet) 
and, unless my memory is faulty, harder than the Stelvio or the Galibier 
or -whisper it quietly! - the Izoard.
Van:Roger Hughes
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
Just a couple of other contributions, proabbly not top 10 really but:

1) Province of Ancona, in the Italian Marche: the climb (unmarked on the 
TCI map) directly from Moie to just above Monte Roberto. It's only about 
a 2km climb, and it climbs well around 350m, an average of 18% or so, 
but the gradient is seriously uneven. There's a double hairpin that I 
have been known to bail out before reaching on a descent to avoid a 
quick flight onto the rooves of the houses below. Must be 40%+ there. 
Can't really be used in a race because it's too narrow and there's a 
level crossing at the bottom.

2) North Yorkshire, UK: ROsedale Chimney Bank. Had a lot of people off 
their bikes in the Kelloggs a few years back, although I got up it in 
the 17 sprocket in the 87 National Hill Climb champs (not telling what 
the chainring was, though ...). Has a double hairpin that isn't - the 
second half turns 90 degrees and just keeps going up at the angle of the 
inside of the climbs.

Roger Hughes
Van:Jobst Brandt
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
David Welton writes:
>  The Gavia, which the riders had crossed earlier that day
> is pretty epic itself.  It is a narrow little road with quite a few
> GRAVEL sections that goes up really quite high.

It's a long steep climb but race organizers have done worse things.  I
have pictures of the Giro ascending the Muro di Sormano with all but
one rider of the elite walking their bikes, none to happy.  Roofs of
houses (top view) make the backdrop.  There are essentially unridable
roads all over the mountains and picking one is not good for a bike
race.  I for one don't recommend running the Giro up the Road to Tiers
in the Dolomites either, with its 24% sections.  I assure you the Road
to Tiers (The west ascent of the Passo Nigra) is a greater challenge
than the Mortirolo, but then the Giro hasn't gone up it either.
Austria is full of such roads.  I suspect they were short on civil
engineers when they built these things.

Jobst Brandt      <>
Van:Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
Obviously, we are only talking about opinions here, but, I would be
interested in the reasons why you think the road to Tiers presents
a greater challenge than the Mortirolo.

The steep section of the Mortirolo climbs 3800' in 5.5 miles for an
average gradient of 13%.

The old road to Tiers climbs 2300' in 5 miles for an average grade of
8.7%.  I have never ridden this road, but by your own description, the
"steep" section is 200 meters of 20% followed by 200 meters of 24%
followed by 200 meters of 20%.  That gives 600 meters of 21 or so
average percent which is steep, but relatively short and makes the
overall average of the remaining 4.6 miles in the low 8% range.

With modern gearing, the pros are able to handle 24%.  One only has to
see a picture of Edwin Van Hoydonck attacking on the 18% grade of the
Bosberg in a 53x15 gear to realize that 20+% is not that tough for the pros.

The San Pellegrino in Alpi near Pisa has multiple stair stepped sections
in the mid 20% range and the pros were not walking it when the Giro passed
there in 1994.  They were riding 39x25's and 39x26's but they were riding
and not walking.

Bruce Hildenbrand
Van:Robert Michael Tobin
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
On the subject of steep climbs I would like to know how steep Flagstaff
is just outside Boulder Colorado particularly the bit just after the
turn to the picnic/camp site? I discovered recently that the Mogul
Bismark is 15%, I rode most of that on the big ring only droping down to
a 39*19 nearing the top. Flagstaff was the only climb I suffered on
while I was riding around Boulder. Maybe it was just the 99F in the
shade temperatures but it felt tough to me.

Bob Tobin
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
It all depends on how you define mean, I suppose. I've got a few ideas,
based on painful experience;

If steep is the criteria then Wrynose Pass in the Lake District of England
(33% in places) would take some beating. The bottom part of Alpe D'Huez is
a bit of a killer too, but it flattens out, and the whole climb is only
14km, so it shoulddn't come into contention for meanest.

The Col du Galibier from the Telegraphe is is 32Km, with a short downhill
in the middle. The hairpins at the top are real bitches.

Steep and long
Col du Tourmalet, 20km ish (I've forgotten the exact amount) and a real
steep one from start to finish, but especially the finish. The Col de
Madelaine, 28km and steep all the way, averages about 9%.

One other that springs to mind that I have not ridden on and cannot vouch
for is the Grossglockner in Austria.
Van:Steven Cappoen
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
About all the steep climbs in Europe have been measured by a French 
engineer Guy Bodoin.  He developped a (pretty complicated) method to 
compare climbs. This is his ranking:

   Name			Starting point			Height	Points

1. Galibier		St. Jean de Maurienne		2646	1632
2. Grossglockner		Bruck				2509	1549
3. Stelvio		Prato				2758	1532
4. Nigra			Prato Isarco (near Bolzano)	1688	1520
5. Umbrail/Stelvio	Glorenza			2758	1519
6. Mortirolo		Mazzo 				1852	1478
7. Tre Cime Lavaredo	Auronzo				2320	1474
8. Monte Bondone		Aldeno				1654	1456
9. Bernina		Tirano				2328	1436
10.Rombo			San Leonardo			2483	1428
29.Port de Larrau
87.La Plagne
104.Alpe d'Huez	

There are other very steep climbs which are not in his list, because 
it's almost impossible to organise a race on it (e.g. large dark 
tunnels, no room on top to set up a proper finish), like Monte 
Zoncolan, Lac de Moiry etc.

Some interesting numbers:
Monte Zoncolan: 9.7km long, averages 12.7%, max.22.7%
Grand Colombier: the steepest kilometre in France: 19%
Mortirolo: 12.4km, averages 10.5%
And finally, die Rafensteiner Bergstrasse (somewhere between Bolzano 
and San Genesio): about 2.5km, averaging 33% !!!  I know somebody who 
tried it with his race bike with 39x26...he failed.

Steven Cappoen
Van:Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
It would be nice to actually see the formula used to make these calculations.
Something has to be missing from the formula for the Galibier to be rated
#1.  There is quite a significant downhill and flat section at Valloire
which really makes this 2 climbs and not one.

I think this is a misleading statistic on the Mortirolo.  The first
9km(5.5 miles) is where the pass is really steep(13%).  The last 3 km
are pretty darn easy.  So we have another factor that somehow didn't
make it into the equation.

We could argue the subtleties of each pass till we are blue in the face.
The pros I have talked to name the Mortirolo and San Pellegrino in Alpi
as the hardest passes they ride in a major tour.

Bruce Hildenbrand
Van:Daniel Connelly
Onderwerp:Re: Second meanest climb in Europe?
I already asked this question of Steven, and the answer is that
the formula used is:

rating = sum over each km of (grade/1%)^2.

Thus, a 10% climb for 10km is rated 1000.
A climb which gains 15% for 5km and 5% for 5km is rated
	(5 x 15^2 = 1125) + (5 x 5^2 = 125) = 1250,
	despite gaining the same altitude in the same distance.

The lack of uniformity of the Mortirolo is thus captured.  The intermediate
descent on Galabier, however, doesn't degrade its rating.

All I lack is the data from Atlas des Alpes or equivalent to run my

Van:Denis Grehan
Onderwerp:The worlds toughest climb
Hi all,
        Can anyone out there who knows the route of stage 8 of this years
vuelta please e-mail it to me. I saw it on Eurosport and may visit it when
in Spain later. It is said to be the worlds toughest climb.

Van:Per Ellefsen
Onderwerp:Re: The worlds toughest climb
As far as Europe is concerned there are three excellent candidates for the title
'hardest climb' and, very likely, they are all harder than the Angliru:
1-The climb between Berbenno (Valtellina, around fifty kilometers down the valley
from the Mortirolo) and the Pra(to) Maslin(o): 9,5 km at an average gradient of 14,4%
(1362 m/4470 ft of climbing in just 9,5 km/6 miles). 100% tarmaced.
2-3-Any of the roads that leave Bolzano and climb towards the village San Genesio
and then to the Stella Alpina/Edelweiss inn. These are not only extremely steep roads
but are also substantial climbs (heigh difference 1100 m):  Along the infamous Rafensteiner Bergstrasse,
7,5 km at an average gradient of 15% with the first 3,2 km at 20%, protracted maxima
at 33%; or the old road that runs parallelly to the funicular for the first 2/3 of it's
length, 6,6 km at an average gradient of 16%, maxima at 30% and the first 2,6 km at 21%
(average gradient). Many excellent climbers have tried to climb these roads on standard
road bikes (i.e. with a lowest gearing combination of 39-26 or 42-28) but I doubt anyone
has ever succeeded [there's a classic account of an attempt on climbing both of these roads
to be found in the mailing list archives of the KOM-website:; an Italian,
D.V., approached them both head-on at great speed (gear: 42-28), made three attempts on
each of them, but came to a stand-still after 70 and 150 meters respectively; then, to 
prove a point, he proceeded to climb the 1400 meters between Prato and the Nigerjoch, along
the old road with its 24% sections. He remained seated all the way and didn't need any lower
gears than a 42-25]. Bring a mountain bike.

Roy Ellefsen
Van:Jim Quinn
Onderwerp:Re: The worlds toughest climb
Anybody that can do a 24% grade with a 42-25 gear is a lot tougher than me.  I did the Mortorolla last year
and used a 39-25.  Even using that gear I had a lot of trouble.  In some places you had to either do it
standing up or you had to lean all your weight against the front tire.  Otherwise you had so much weight
against the rear tire that the front tire kept comming up in the air.  And the grades on that climb were
only 20%.
Van:Peter Appel
Onderwerp:Re: The worlds toughest climb
Oh, oh, oh, - are you sure that this is true??? 
I don't think that this is possible expect for top pro climbers. I would
be interested to know the power you have to supply climbing 24% with 42/25
and 60 U/min. 500 watts? 700 watts? Who is able to do this?

Remember: Nobody in the peleton of this years Vuelta used the 42-teeth
chainring during the Angliru stage (max. 23.6%). The strongest guys
(Jimenez, Tonkov, Ullrich, Olano etc...) who arrived at first all used the
39 chainring with 23 or 26 (or even 28?). Ullrich said after the Angliru
stage that he never before did such an extreme climb, and that he missed
an extra-gear. And a large number of riders used the third 30-teeth
chainring during the Angliru-climb.


Peter Appel
Van:Ans Post / Jos Tusveld
Onderwerp:Re: The worlds toughest climb
There used to be an extensive (about 100 items) listing of (according to the
writer) Europe's toughest  climbs. I've printed it out, a while ago, and the
six hardest climbs listed are:

1    Monte Zoncolan, Ovaro, Italy
2    Alto de Gamonal (=Angliru), La Vega (Oviedo), Spain
3    Rossfeldring- with Kehlsteinstrasse, Berchtesgaden, Germany
4    Halltal, Absam, Austria
5    Passo del Mortirolo, Mazzo, Italy
6    San Genesio, Bolzano, Italy

When (if) I find a new URL, I will post it.

Van:Isidro Labrador Rodríguez
Onderwerp:The toughtest climb in Europe

I didn't know anything about Monte Zoncolan or the other two climbs
you speak about. If the data you give are right it
could be harder than Mortirolo or Gamonal. Speaking just about this two
last cmountains I think is harder Gamonal because of
the 6.5 last kilometres (with a medium steep of 13.3%). The reason that
Bruce gives to say Mortirolo is hader are not good
for me because most profesional racers haven't climbed Gamonal, sadly (I
agree with you Roy) is not included in any
profesional race.

Onderwerp:Re: The toughtest climb in Europe
Yet again have we come to the point where we are discussing which is
Europes's hardest climb. By it's very nature that's a question with no
final answear. However, we can shed some light on it by giving the names
of SOME of the toughest ascents, as I've done below. These are not
necessarily the hardest European climbs, there might be others that merit
inclusion, but some of them are obvious candidates. The data are from
my collection of profiles and rumors. Of course any of the numbers given
could be wrong, even though generally they are correct.

Roy Ellefsen


** Söldener Gletscherstraße (2803 m) from Pitze (Austria), 13 km,
average grade 10,5%, maxima 13%. This road is of relatively recent
date, gives access to a summer ski area on a glacier above Sölden
and is the second highest paved road in the Alps, although it's not
a transitary road. From a roadfork three kilometers below the summit
another road, the Ötztaler GletscherstraBe, leads to 2780 m (15 km
from Sölden). Curiously this road goes through a tunnel at a height
of 2822 meters before dropping down, which means it's the highest
paved road in the Alps.

** Blockhaus (2140 m) from Roccamorice (Italy), 19,2 km, average
grade 8,6%, maxima >20%. This ascent was used in one of the first
stages of the 1972 Giro d'Italia, a lot of star riders didn't make
the time cut back then and Merckx collapsed completely, ceding the
pink jersey to Spanish lightweight climber Manuel Fuente. Ramps
towards the back end of the climb have grades of more than 20%.

** Il Ciocco (Italy), averages more than 10% for the last 10 km,
once or twice included in the Giro (yet again with Fuente victorious),
lies in an area close to the infamous San Pellegrino in Alpe.

** San Pellegrino in Alpe (1617 m) from Campori (Italy), 12,5 km,
average grade 9,6%, maxima 25-30%. The climb continues for a little
while past it's namesake village (1524 m). The last four kilometers
averages close to 13%, several ramps in the 18-22% range and at one
point a roadsign even warns of a 30% grade, though that might be
an exageration. Among professionals rated second only to the Mortirolo.
Climbed in the Giro 1989 and 1995.

** Pico Veleta (3365 m) from Pinos Genil (Spain), 38,0 km, average
grade 6,8%, maxima 13%. By far Europe's highest paved road and, indeed,
the highest European road whatsoever. The first 26 kilometers leads
to the ski resort of Sierra Nevada, a fixture of the Vuelta a España.
Never really steep, but a elevation gain of nearly 2600 meters means
it is brutally hard.

** Furggen (2451 m) from Grengiols (Switzerland), 13,6 km, average
grade 10,7%, maxima 15%. Mostly an unpaved road, something that
should have merited it's exclusion from this list. Only the first
three km are paved, the last 10,5 km averages nearly 13%, although
with a fearly even gradient. An old Swiss military road close to
the Italian border.

** Rifugio Bárbara (1732 m) from Bobbio Péllice (Italy), 10,0 km,
average grade 10,2%, maxima 18%. A Piemontese climb that gains little
altitude for the first four km, then steepens dramatically and
averages nearly 13% over the final six kilometers.

** Monte Crostis (1934 m) from Comeglians (Italy), 15,5 km, average
grade 9,0%, maxima 18%. The last fourteen km of this Friulian
climb averages just a bit under 10% (9,9), have a relentlessly
even grade, a couple of kilometers at 13%. The same gradients even
on the eastern approach from Ponte di Sutrio, although a bit shorter.
Situaded only some 20 km from the horrifically steep Monte Zoncolan.

** Roque de los Muchachos (2410 m) from Garafía (La Palma, Spain),
24,0 km, average grade 8,7%, maxima 12%. An elevation gain of
nearly 2100 meters for this climb that twists and turns on the side
of the massive volcano of the Caldera de Taburiente. From a junction
the road leads to an astronomical observatory, continuing past this
roadfork it will lead back down to Sta. Cruz de La Palma and the

** Colle di Sampeyre (2284 m) from Ponte Mármora (Italy), 14,3km,
average grade 9,8%, maxima 15%, climbed in the 1995 Giro.
Averages 12% for the last six kilometers.

** Großer Oscheniksee (2319 m) from Außerfragant (Austria), 16,3km,
average grade 9,9%, maxima 15%. From Außerfragant to the site of
Innerfragant grades are moderate. From there on the road gains almost
1200 meters in height by way of 42 switchbacks over 9,3 km, implying
an average grade of 12,8%.

** Großglocker-Edelweißspitze (2577 m) from Fusch (Austria),
21,6 km, average grade 8,2%, maxima 14%. One of the first modern
Alpine roads constructed essentially for car traffic, predominantly
moderate, but constant grades. The last seven kilometers of the
Großglocker High Alpine Road up to Fuscher Törl and including the
deviation to Edelweißspitze averages more than 11%.
Frequently climbed in the Tour of Austria.

** Alte Jenesier Straße/San Genesio (1087 m) from Bolzano (Italy),
6,3 km, average grade 13,2%, maxima 30%. A very narrow road in
Südtirol, short maxima at 30%, lasting ones at 22%.
Has been replaced by a new and less steep road.

** Rafenstein (800 m) from Bolzano (Italy), 2,5 km, average grade 22%,
maxima 33%. A narrow road - at points only two meters in width -
with no guard-rails and substantial ramps at 33%.

** Alto de la Gamonal (1570 m) from La Vega (Spain), 17,3 km, average
grade 8,2%, maxima 22%. A quite recently paved Spanish road in the
Cantabrian mountains. The climb averages 10% for the last thirteen
skilometers and even 13,3% for the last 6,5, with 300 meters at 22%
and one steep kilometer averaging 17,5%.

** Halltal (1482 m) from Absam (Austria), 7,2 km, average grade 13,5%,
maxima 32%. An almost abandoned mountain road close to Innsbruck,
has ramps at 18%, 24%, 27% and 32%.

** Kitzbüheler Horn (1970 m) from Höglern (Austria), 11,3 km, average
grade 10,7%, maxima 16%. A panoramic road leading to some TV towers
above Kitzbühel.

** Monte Zoncolan (1730 m) from Ovaro (Italy), 10,2%, average grade
11,8%, maxima 23%. The meat of the ascent is six kilometers at 15%.
The last 8,0 kilometers averages 13,5%, steepest kilometer >19%.
The hardest Italian climb, even harder than the Mortirolo.

** Passo del Mortirolo (1852 m) from Mazzo di Valtellina (Italy),
12,3 km, average grade 10,8%, maxima 18%. The most feared climb in
a major tour, included in the Giro d'Italia in 1990 (as a descent),
1994, 1996 and 1997. Describing it as a 10% average would be unfair
as there are 11 straight kilometers at 11,3% or even nine at 12,7%.
Four ramps have a grade of 18% and another dozen lie in the 13-15%

** Gerlitzen-Gipfelstraße (1909 m) from Arriach (Austria), 11,1 km,
average grade 11,5%, maxima 12% and the Gerlitzen-Alpenstraße
(1764 m) from Tschöran, 11,5 km, average grade 10,6%, maxima 13%.
The two roads do not connect.

** Roßfeldringstraße-Kehlsteinstraße (1720 m) from Berchtesgaden
(Germany), 8,7 km, average grade 13,2%, maxima 24%. The 530 meters
of vertical from Berchtesgaden to Obersalzberg are said to be covered
by a road that is only 2,2 kilometers in length (although it might
be as long as 2,5 km) which implies an average grade of 24% (or as
little as 22%). From Obersalzberg one can follow the Kehlstein-
straße to the Eagle's Nest, another 6,5 km at 10%; unfortunately
this last road is closed even to cyclists.
Normally the Roßfeldringstraße is done from Unterau, 11,0 km at
9,3%, recently included in the Tour of Bavaria.

** Zillertaler Höhenstraße (2040 m) from Ried, Aschau, Ramsberg or
Zell am Ziller (Austria). There are five different approaches to
this panoramic road that overlooks the densely populated Zillertal
and all are mightily steep.
From Ramsberg 14,1 km, average grade 10,1%, maxima 17%.
From Zell am Ziller 15,0 km, average grade 9,8%, maxima 20%. The road
rises steeply in the begining (>15%), however the maxima are reached
towards the back end of the climb.
From Ried 25,0 km, average grade 6%, maxima 20%. The first 10,5 km
average 11,3% (max 18%), divided into 7 km at 12% and 3,5 km at 10%
with a kilometer at 18%. The road then drops for 3,5 kilometers.
When climbing resumes the first 7,5 km have moderate grades (5%),
while the remaining 3,5 km are steeper, averaging 9% and having
maxima at 20%.
From Aschau: The road gains 800 meters of vertical in the first six
kilometers (~13,5%). From Zemmbach it's the same as the last part of the
approach from Ried.

** Poiso (1400 m) from Funchal (Ilha da Madeira, Portugal), 14,0 km, average
grade 10,0%, maxima 15%. A climb from sea level and across the inland
mountains of the island of Madera.

** Passo Nigra or Nigerjoch (1688 m) from Blumau (Italy), 18,2 km, average
grade 7,6%, maxima 24%. The real difficulty of this Südtirolian climb
reduces to the two kilometers immediately below the village Tiers,
average about 18%, grades frequently more than 20%, 250 meters at 24%.
Onderwerp:Re: The toughtest climb in Europe
Some people have mailed be about this complaining that the Bonette is the
highest paved road of the Alps.
With the recent construction of new roads it seems to have been degraded
to second or third place.
Just to get things straight I'm going to list the highest PAVED European
roads as they are given in 'Denzel's Grosser Alpenstrassenführer'. Alternative
heights in parentheses. This list should contain all surfaced roads >2500 m.
As you will see not all of them have been raced.

3365 (3375)     Pico Veleta, Spain
2822            Ötztaler Gletscherstraße, Tiefenbachferner, Austria
                The road ends at 2780 meters above sea level
2803            Söldener Gletscherstraße, Pitztaler Jöchl, Austria
2802            La Bonette, France.
                Col de Restefond (2678 m), Col de La Bonette (2715 m)
2770 (2764)     Col d'Iseran, France.
2758            Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
2750            Kaunertaler Gletscherstraße, Weißseeferner, Austria
2748 (2744)     Colle dell'Agnello/Col Agnel, Italy/France
                The highest paved frontier pass in Europe
2646 (2640)     Col du Galibier, France
2621            Passo di Gavia, Italy
2612            Colle del Nivolet, Italy
2577 (2571)     Edelweißspitze, Austria
2505            Großglockerstraße, Hochtor, Austria
2501 (2498)     Umbrailpaß/Giogo di S.Maria, Switzerland/Italy

Roy Ellefsen

Van:Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:Re: The toughtest climb in Europe
Even though the Bonette may be 2802 meters, the last 125 of gain
(from the Restefond at 2678m) is so contrived that it really should not
count.  Add to that that a dirt road crosses below both the Restefond
and the Bonnette at about 2500m and you have some major grandstanding
by the French which is totally unexplainable since before they "created"
the Bonette in 1962, they still had the highest continuous road at the
time in the l'Iseran (2770m).

Bruce Hildenbrand
Onderwerp:The meanest stage ever
    With winter season being well under it's way (at least in Northern
    Europe), and indoor training sessions being rather boring,
    what better thing to do than conjure up the images of legendary
    climbing feats.
    Since questions of the type 'Which climb is Europe's hardest?'
    has been posed (and possibly answered) many times, I decided one
    day to go a step further and asked myself the following question:
    'What is the hardest stage the organizers of a major tour can
    possibly envisage (if not realise)?' So I dug out a couple of my
    old Michelin maps and came up with the following four immaginary
    stages (which all look rather hard to me). In doing so I wanted
    each stage to be less than ~270km, since this seems to be the upper
    limit the organizers put on their stages. The only condition
    placed on these immaginary stages is that the climbs be connected
    in a natural way. The possibility or not of actually having a peloton
    climb some of the hills (or ending a stage there) has not been
    considered. Furthermore, I have obviously been forced to let only
    the length and steepness of the climbs be decisive in putting the
    stages together, thereby neglecting the fact that the speed of
    a stage and climatic conditions could be just as important.
    Lastly, I decided to overlook the following possibility:
    Make the riders climb the Mortirolo on the right side, then
    descend it on the left side. Let them repeat this 10 times in 250km.

    If anybody out there has done any of these stages, none-stop, by
    themselves, please let us know and we well make you eligible
    for one of those awards in masochism that surely must be around.


   1) Colle di Sampeyre(2284m)
      Close to the Franco-Italian border. A typical Italian climb:
      No more than 16km at an average gradient of 8,7%, which,
      incidentally, makes it equal to the hardest part of the
      Bedoin-Mount Ventoux climb. Substantial sections at more than 13%.

   2) After descending for about 18km to Sampeyre at ~900m, one has to
      face the climb up to the Colle dell'Agnello/Col Agnel(2744m),
      which stands out in more than one respect:
      In 33km the total amount of climbing is 2150m (including a short
      descent at about 1300m), it is the fourth highest col in Europe,
      there are ramps at 15% and, as if this wasn't enough,
      the average gradient for the last 10km is 10%...

   3) Past the border and into the Hexagon, the climbs, inevitably,
      become less step.
      There are about 20km of descending from the top of the Agnello
      to the foot of the Izoard(2361m), which is a bit of a drag for
      5-6km. The meat of the climb is 13,5km at 7,5%, with the steepest
      kilometer at 11,5%, as well as two more kilometers at more than

      After a tricky 22km descent we enter Briancon(1220m).
      Accumulated length ~130km. Total amount of climbing: ~4700m
      (in 62,5km).
      From here there are two alternatives:

  4a) Col de Granon(2413m). This climb (included in the 86 TdF) is
      situated some 10km outside Briancon. It is short,13km, but steep.
      In fact, considering the last 10km, this is the steepest climb in
      France, averaging 9,5%.
      Total length of stage: ~150km.
      Total amount of climbing: ~5600m (in all 74,5km of climbing).

  4b) Whereas the first alternative stage is a short and realistic one
      (all but the last climb was included in a stage of the 95 Giro),
      the second alternative stage is very long and, admittedly,
      rather unrealistic. Stil, it is less than 300km and it ends
      with l'Alpe d'Huez...

      After 28km of climbing from Briancon(1220m), one reaches the
      Lautaret(2058m). From here there are 7,5km at 7,8% to the summit
      of the Galibier(2646m).

   5) From the Galibier one descends for 33,5km and follows the valley
      floor for another 20km.
      Col de la Croix de Fer(2068m), 26,5km at 6,3%.
      This is an up-and-down affair. The length and the grade can give
      and inkling about it's difficulty. It is even harder.

   6) After the Croix de Fer one descends the southern side of the
      Glandon. (Alternatively one could make the descent on the
      northern side and finish off with the Madeleine(1993m(19,7km at
      7,7%)), but that's another matter).
      After 40km one is at the foot of the Alpe d'Huez(1860m),
      13,9km at 7,9% (with a very steep initial part).

      Total length of stage: ~296km.
      Total amount of climbing: ~9000m (in all 139km of climbing).


   1) The Passo dello Stelvio(2757m) from Prato allo Stelvio.
      28km of climbing with an average gradient of 6,7%.
      The last 15km are steeper than the rest.
      From an engineering perspective this is one of the most impressive
      climbs in Europe (and the second highest one at that).
      The ascent has 48 hairpin-bends, while the 22km long descent
      to Bormio has 44.

   2) To reach the next climb one has to follow the S38
      along the Valtellina for about 32km.
      Passo del Mortirolo(1852m).
      12,3km at 10,8%. A true wall. Nearly 9km at 13%. Long sections
      at 15-18%. In the central section the gradient rarely goes
      below 10%.
      Along with the Gamonal and the Zoncolan this is probably the
      hardest climb in Europe.

   3) After 900m of descending in 13km, there are 20 more kilometers
      to do before reacing the foot of the infamous Gavia-climb.
      Passo di Gavia(2621m), 18,4km at 7,6%. The last 9km averages
      11%. Sections that are unpaved and at 16%. An incredibly
      dramatic pass.

      Accumulated length: ~146km.
      Accumulated climbing: ~4600m (in all 59km of climbing)

      The descent to Bormio (hopefully done in nice and clear weather)
      is 26km.
      We are now faced with two possibilities:

  4a) The Passo dello Stelvio, this time from Bormio and
      the southwestern side.
      22km at an average gradient of 7,3%

      Total length of stage: ~194km.
      Total amount of climbing: ~6200m (in all 81km of climbing)

  4b) We whizz down the Valtellina (~32km) and do the Mortirolo
      once again. Hey, after all, they can't forbid us doing a
      climb twice.

      Total length of stage: ~217km.
      Total amount of climbing: ~5950m (in all 71km of climbing).

      On this second alternative route there are more than 35 individual
      kilometers each averaging over 10%...5950m of climbing in 71km
      would be equal to an average of ~8,4%.


  1a) The Col de la Madeleine(1993m) from the northern side.
      26km at 6,3%. A long and constant climb (but with no really
      steep parts). After a 20km descent, there are about 45km to the
      foot of the Telegraphe-Galibier.

  1b) The Col de Glandon(1924m) from the northern side is about
      22km at an average gradient of 6,5%. There are sections at
      13%. At least one former climbing ace (Thierry Claveyrolat)
      considers this climb (in either direction) one of the hardest
      in France. 2,5km of climbing to the Croix de Fer(2067m),
      then about 50km of descending/racing along the valley flor
      to the Telegraphe-Galibier.

   2) Col de Telegraphe(1566m), 11,8km at 7,2%, then a 5km descent
      to the Galiber-climb.
      Col de Galibier(2646m), 18,2km at 6,8%, with the last 8,5km
      at 8,5%. Whew!

      Accumulated length: 1a) ~127km  1b) ~110km.
      Accumulated climbing: 1a) ~3700m  1b) ~3500m.

   3) Descending for 35,5km to Briancon(1220m).
      Col d'Izoard(2361m), 20,5km with an average gradient of 5,6%.

   4) A descent for 14km and another 17km of riding to Guillestre.
      Col de Vars(2111m). About 19km at 5,8%. A 24km long descent
      follows. We are in Jausiers(~1200m).

   5) Col de la Bonette(2802m). 24km at 6,5%. A magnificent
      climb and the highest col in Europe.

      Total length of stage: 1a) ~281km  1b) ~264km.
      Total amount of climbing: 1a) ~7500m (in all 120km of climbing).
                                1b) ~7300m (in all 116km of climbing).

   6) Alternatively the stage could start with the Telegraphe-Galibier.
      From the summit of the Bonette there would then be 40km of
      descending to Isola(~900m).
      Isola2000-Col de la Lombarde/Colle di Lombarda(2350m)
      on the Franco-italian border. 19km at an average gradient
      of 6,95%.

      Total length of stage: 6) ~249km.
      Total amount of climbing: 6) ~7200m (in all 113km of climbing)

      The succession of climbs Izoard-Vars-Bonette-Isola2000 (180km)
      was part of a stage in the 1993 TdF.


  1a) Passo Nigra(1688m). Following the old road this climb is about
      18km at an average gradient of 8%. Those who know this road
      has informed us that there are nearly 700m of 20-22%.
      The new road to the summit is some 5 kilometers longer.
      After the summit there are 6,5km to the Passo di Costalunga(1745m).

  1b) Passo di Costalunga(1745m), 25km at 6%. The maximum gradient
      is 16%.

   2) There's a 16km descent, after which one has to do the climb up
      to Passo San Pellegrino(1918m) - 12km at ~6,5%.

   3) 27km of descending/racing along the valley to Agordo.
      Passo Duran(1601m), 12,3km at 8,1%. Maximum gradient 12%.

   4) A short descent(13km). Then the Forcella Staulanza(1773m),
      12,4km at 6,8% (max 11%).

      Accumulated length: ~122km.
      Accumulated climbing: ~4100m.

   5) A 15km descent towards Rocca Pietore.
      Passo di Fedaia(2057m), 13,7km at 7,7%.
      The last part of the climb is incredibly difficult, including
      the well-known 3 kilometer long straight section at 12%.
      The maximumu gradient is 15%.

   6) A 14km descent and then the climb to Passo Pordoi(2239m), about
      6,5km at 6,5% in this direction.

      Accumulated length: ~171km.
      Accumulated climbing: ~5600m.

   7) About 35km of desceding/level road towards Selva di Cadora.
      Passo di Giau(2233m). One of the steepest climbs in Europe.
      9,7km at 9,5% (max 14%).

   8) Descending towards Cortina D'Ampezzo.
      A short climb over the Passo Tre Croci(1805m).
      After the descent comes the last climb of the day:
      Tre Cime di Lavaredo(2321m), 21,2km at 6,1%.
      This is another up-and-down affair with the last part being
      the hardest. After more than 1500m at 15% comes a short
      descent, then the last four kilometers averages ~11%, with
      the steepest of them being 14%.

      Total length of stage: ~268km.
      Total amount of climbing: ~8200m (in all 125km of climbing).


   Roy Ellefsen

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© 2002 Luddo Oh