Grand St Bernard Pass

The weather here in Switzerland is beginning to get depressingly wintery with rain and, at one point, even snow down to about 1200m. A couple of weekends ago however, saw the return of some sun, so I dusted off the trail bike and headed for the high alpine for the first time since the Trans Savoie.

The famous Col du Grand-Saint Bernard in the South West corner of Switzerland was our destination and the plan was to ride up and down it, twice. Admittedly, I’m always the first to jump on a lift, bus or train to avoid spending hours grinding up impossibly steep climbs, so this was a little bit of a break from the norm for me. We took a bus at the beginning of the day to gain about 700m of vertical, but after that it was leg power all the way.

A rough route description is as follows:

  • We parked at the train station (free for the whole day) in Orsieres and took the bus up to La Fouly (the bus usually goes a bit further to Ferret but the Swiss were herding their cows down the road and making a big party of it).
  • We then climbed 1100m up road, fire road and then singletrack past the Lacs du Fenêtre and on to Fenêtre de Ferret at just under 2700m.
  • The first descent took us down and under Plan de Raye and taking the high line, we traversed around to above St-Rhémy and then dropped down the village for a planned lunch stop at one of the many Pizzerias that don’t exist and instead using up our rations of squashed trout sandwiches and Mars bars. 
  • The next climb was all the way up the road to the Col du Grand-Saint Bernard, which, I have to say, was somewhat depressing. 
  • The final singletrack descent back into Switzerland followed the road down the valley to Orsieres.
  • There was a bit over 2000m of climbing and we were in the saddle for almost 11 hours with a fair few stops for food and photos.

The pictures tell the story better than words so here they are. All are taken on an iPhone 5 because in my infinite wisdom, I left my Nikon D7100 battery on charge in my bedroom and in doing so made my day that little bit harder by carrying around 1kg+ of useless plastics and electronics in my backpack.

Lacs du Fenêtre.

The pass – Italy to the left, Switzerland to the right.