Great Saint Bernard Pass Succumbs to Roughstuff's Strength

The Grand climb comes to a snowy end.

Perhaps no pass is more identified with the Alps than the great St. Bernard, the mighty climb through immense valleys in Switzerland and Italy. The main part of the pass feature sweeping switchbacks as you ascend to the rocky, chilly summit. But this final portion if reached only after lengthy approaches thru valleys that are, in themselves, major climbs. One of the things that passes such as the St Bernard do to me is make me amazed, even after all my miles of riding, of just how MUCH effort goes into crossing one of these passes. How efficient a machine the bicycle is! And of course, you begin to appreciate, even thru the often false facade of modesty, just how powerful your legs and cardiovascular system must be to push you up such a grade for so long a time.

The pass has had some of its teeth drawn with the opening of the Great St. Bernard Tunnel, which saves cars and trucks a couple thousand feet of climbing, or so it seems to me!! But the old road, battered and chuckholed in places as are all alpine crossings, still recalls the days when climbing these passes was a major effort and one needed a hospice--food, drink, and a night's bed-- at the top. You can have your picture snapped at the top with any number of St. Bernards, but the smell of the Kennel is staggering. Better to step into the chapel--always a feature of most alpine passes-- and say a prayer to your Lord, especially when you realize the descent that awaits you. Pray for the integrity of your brake cables! If you, as I did, climb the pass from South to North, a long, long, long sheltered descent leads into the swiss Valleys below. The road is in good condition once you get below the final approaches to the pass. 1