Strada dell'Assietta s(u)

This is one of the great unpaved ridge rides of the Central Alps. There is no snow removal on this road, so the road opens, when the last snowdrift melts, that you can't carry a bike over. The road is unpaved but smooth on the north side. The biggest obstacle for me was that one last, steep angle snowfield, and a few muddy stretches on the south side.
 
01.(400m,00.0km)START-END EAST ALT: west end of Pinerolo
02.(968m,26.0km)Vilarette
03.(1430m,37.4km)START-END EAST: the descend from Colle Finestre joins from the right
04.(1920m,44.2km)route turns left onto Assietta Road
05.(2460m,53.5km)Col d'Assietta
06.(2530m,54.8km)TOP: point of highest elevation
07.(2497m,57.8km)Colle Lauson
08.(2370m,61.1km)Colle Bieger
09.(2490m,62.6km)second high point on Mont Genivris
10.(2313m,65.2km)Colle Costa Piana
11.(2424m,71.2km)Colle Basset
12.(2035m,78.0km)START-END WEST ALT: Colle Del Sestriere
13.(1360m,89.6km)Cesana Torinese and jct with road to Col de Montgenevre
14.(1050m,102.4km)jct with road to Bardonecchia and Col de l'Echelle
15.(500m,124.0km)START-END WEST: Susa, turnoff south from SS25

Approaches

From North.
After descending only a short distance on the south side of Col de Finestre, a good unpaved road signed "Strada dell'Assietta" takes off on the right and starts traversing up the bare ridge at a shallow angle, but without remission. Looking straight ahead the white peaks roughly define the French Italian border. But it is worth looking back too. That is the direction the moisture is coming from on my ride: dark clouds, thread of thunderstorms, but also mysterious light, filtering through slits in the clouds. Looking forwards, two triangular peaks make the perfect background for a road traversing up the hill like a string.

The road finally turns northwards, and it is clear that a wide gap in the enormous green ridge is the first goal. So now we are on the Colle d'Assietta. A host of directional signs are covered with more "personal signs", including stickers from all over the world, like a "Harry and Beth ride around the world" sticker, and a Stuttgart21 sticker. It seems this is the place to be, if you are a decal afficionado. You can turn right here, direction Forte Gran Serin, and also back to Col de Finestre. I'm told that this road ends soon. But on good weather days you can definitely walk along the ridge line on trails, that connect to the top of Colle delle Finestre. I have been told by my host that this is not a bikable route.

Continuing on the Assietta Road towards the left, there is a temptation to think, that now you have most of the climbing behind you, at least that was what I thought. Actually - in a way - this is where it really starts. The ridge road starts with its numerous ups and downs. But the highest point is quickly reached from here. It is located where the road again encounters the enormous viewshed on the north side. Nearby is a monument of a flying bird - very fitting, though I don't see any real ones up here. The bronze bird has been up here since 1878, that's getting close to a century and a half, thanks to the Club Alpino Italiano.

From South. (described downwards). That is the highest point, but only by a few meters - and if snow and mud should be a problem, it is still ahead. Looking ahead from the summit, a road can be seen zig zagging up the next trapezoidal green mountain block ahead. It appears like it could easily be a higher than the summit, but my altimeter said that it was not. Getting there involves a few snowy parts on my ride, and finally one large drift across the road, where it traverses a steep hillside. This causes me to carry my bike down around a small detour, lower on the ridge, taking about 10 minutes. It is also the reason for all the motorcyclists to turn around here, if the previous sections didn't have that effect yet. But they do not have to go down the same way they came. There is also an option to descend into the Susa Valley directly on a rougher track.

Soon the road reaches the top of a plateau, that feels like the summit, but (as already mentioned) is a few feet lower. Between here and the descent into Montgenevre are numerous passes, all located on low points of the road. They are labeled on the elevation profile. Seeing Sestriere on the left, really not that far down from the ridge, makes me feel hopeful I would get back before dark, but the road detours far to the the west of this town before turning back.

The road has lost elevation from the green loaf and is now traversing in trees, apparently searching for a gap back to the north side. it is also much wetter here. Ski areas tend to be in areas of high precipitation, and ski lifts are threading up towards me from both sides. the. But the track has not indication of going down yet. Instead it continues to contour along the ridge. Finally it reaches a T junction with a building, you would like to believe is an old fort. After all, that's the reason the road was built in the first place. There are several fortifications on the ridge. But actually this building looks more like a ski industry utility of some sort. A this point the climbing is finally over. The way down to Col Montgenevre, located in the center of the ski town, happens with the low sun lighting up the surrounding mountains to perfection. The water tower architecture hotels look distinctive from up here, maybe like a Fiat Cabriolet, if there is such a thing.

Dayride with this point as hghest summit:

Strada dell'Assietta s(u) , Colle delle Finestre : Susa > Mena di Susa > Colle delle Finestre > up Strada dell'Assietta > Col de Assietta(shp) > Col Lauson(shp) > Col Bigier(shp) > Colle Coste Piana(shp) > Col Montgenevre(shp) > Cesana > Ouix > back to starting point in Susa: 66.5miles with 9349ft of climbing in 8;37hrs (Garmin etrex30 m4:14.6.19)
Notes: with the VDOMC1.0 this measured 63.4miles with8497ft of climbing in 7:36hrs. - Slow ride with a very sore shoulder.

The last day over a pass with different start and end points was: Passo de Gavia

Historical Notes:

The history of this high, bare ridge is tied up in a distant way with the history of the world wars. in the 18th century it was the habbit of the Hapsburg clan (or more respectfully called "dynasty") to pass on the rule of a large part of Europe to male descendents in the family. But after Kaiser Karl the 6th there was no male descendent, and so he passed the rule to his daughter Maria Theresa. An 8 year long war was the result (1740-1748). This is known as the Austrian inheritance war, (Oesterreichischer Erbfolgekrieg).

School children to this day have to learn the complicated shifting allegiances of that time. For here I'll just mention the two confronting powers, that had resulted for a battle on this ridge in 1747, nearing the end of the war. On one side there was the kingdom of Sardinia, allied with Maria Theresa's Austro-Hungarian empire. On the other side, the French had tried to invade with little success further south. Now they invaded by crossing Col Mont Cenis and the fortification in Exilles, and then tried to cross Col de Fenestre to reach the town Fenestrelle in the south side of the pass.

Austria/Sardinia built up the Colle d'Assiette with 13 battalions (each battalion contained between 300 and 1200 men). In the end 4000 French soldiers died, 600 were captured. the Saridinian kingdom retained the Colle d'Assietta and lost 400 lives. At the next peace conference in Aachen, Sardinia grew by adding areas around the Lago Maggiore region.

These conflicts, involving Hapsburg descendants on one side, eventually reached their first climax during WW1, when Austria-Hungary was keen to start a war with Serbia.

There are only few signs left from this 18th century conflict. The forts standing on the ridge now are from later fortification efforts: The Forte Gran Serin near the top of the road is from the 19th century. The fort on the Colle delle Finestre (which I traversed on my dayride, but is not part of the direct elevation profile), also dates from a later time. During the 18th century this was fortified battery position.




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