Stelvio Pass (Passo dello Stelvio, 2757 m) is one of the greatest passes in the world. It is located in the northwest part of Italian Alps, and it is the second-highest in the Alps (after Col de l’Iseran, 2770 m). In this post, I give some important information about access roads and mountain climbing in the area.
[Ludwig van Beethoven – Moonlight Sonata]
If you search the Internet for something like ’10 greatest roads in the world’, you cannot avoid getting to the Stelvio road. I have passed it several times and can say it is indescribable. So if you have a chance, do not miss it.
The pass is closed in the wintertime. But there is a camera directly at the pass so you can always see conditions there, throughout the year. When I was writing this text (May 2, 2015), I checked the link and the picture here shows what I saw, the pass was under the snow and obviously closed for the public even in the mid-spring time.
The Stelvio road has 75 turns, 48 of them on the north side and it is 49 kilometers long. The road connects Bormio in the south with Vinschgau valley, and farther with Austria, in the north.
The road passes at a stone throw from the Swiss-Italian border. When you descend the pass towards Bormio, you will see border stones directly by the road on your right side.
The borderline above the pass comes to Dreisprachenspitze (2843 m), where you can spend a night in the Garibaldi hut. The hut is directly above the pass, some 200 meters short steep walk, you can see it in the photo here on the right, the building in the distance above the road.
The name of the peak (which means ‘Three Language Peak’ describes the point where three regions meet, i.e., Lombardy, South Tirol, and Graubunden, with three languages, Italian, German, and Rhaeto-Roman (Romansch).
The pass and the nearby border you can see on the map below [Source: Federal Topographical Office]:
Below you may see a few photos which depict the beauty of the area.
The road over the pass was built in the period 1820–1825 on the order of the Austrian emperor. And the main engineer was Carlo Donegani. Later, Emperor Ferdinand awarded him the titles ‘Knight of the Austrian Empire’ and the ‘Nobleman of the Stelvio’.
Italy is a beautiful country and it is full of great landmarks. I would say that the Stelvio pass is one the greatest they have.
Climbing around Stelvio pass
There are several nice mountains which you can climb from Stelvio pass within just a couple of hours. You will need no climbing equipment, except for some sport or hiking shoes.
The closest to the pass is definitely Monte Scorluzzo (3095 m). It is in the southwest direction, directly above the pass, you cannot miss it. You can climb it within 90-120 minutes from the pass. More details you can find if you follow the given link.
Next in the list is Roetlspitz (Rötlspitz; Punta Rosa, 3026 m) and you can climb it within 2 hours as well. You can see it in one of the pictures above.
Some maps show it as Piz Cotschen. The summit of the mountain is in the Swiss territory, in the north direction from the pass, so to get there you will be walking along the border in some sections (do not worry, there are no guards or passport control around, this is past now).
Yet another easy summit is Piz Umbrail (3033 m). To climb it you will descend from the Stelvio pass and go to slightly lower Umbrail pass (2505 m), just a few kilometers in the northwest direction. Details about the climb and the mountain you can find in this post within the site.
There are many more peaks which you can climb, but for those, you will need some equipment, like crampons and ice axe. These peaks are a bit more distant but still doable directly from the pass.
They include the following: Hohe Schneide (Italian name Monte Cristallo, 3434 m), Punta del Naso (Grosse Nagler Spitze, 3272 m), Geisterspitze (Punta degli Spiriti, 3467 m), Payerspitze (3446 m), and Tucketspitze (3462 m). A convenient place to stay for the night is the Livrio hut (3174 m).
Stelvio and Giro d’Italia
Stelvio pass is a sacred mountain for cyclists, as some claim in the same manner as Mount Fuji is sacred for Japanese people. It was first crossed by the Giro in 1953, and the last time in 2014. Every year the pass is closed for vehicles for one day in August and thousands of cyclists cross the pass on that occasion.
Accommodation in the Stelvio area
I already mentioned a few huts in the area (Garibaldi, Tibet, Livrio), but there are several hotels directly at the pass. This is a ski-area all year round, therefore there are many places where you can stay. You can also rent flats and houses in all the valleys around.
I hope you have enjoyed this text and photos. If you are in this area, do not miss the opportunity to visit Gavia pass which is only about 200 meters lower and it is also one of the greatest passes in the Alps. If you have any question please leave them in the comment box below.
Here is a YouTube video with the bicycle ride from the south side:
Here are Top Gear guys on Stelvio pass, the last two: