Umbrail Pass

When you have the choice of two mountain crossings, the lower one is usually the one with all the traffic. Not so in this case. Nearby Passo Stelvio attracts motorcycles and bicyle riders because of its height, and all the other scenic reasons, that go along with this. Umbrail Pass is really just a shoulder point on the way to Stilfserjoch (Stelvio). And still, this is the highest Swiss road pass. It has relatively little traffic, few bridges and tunnels, even a short unpaved section, and it's a great bike ride, especially for touring bikes.

On my loop over this pass and Stilfserjoch, I saw by far the most bikes with touring bags on the northern side of this pass. The racers are on Stelvio, the tourers enjoy a bit more peace and quiet over here. But then the south side to Umbrail Pass is common to to both passes, so riding all the way across, you get to experience both worlds.

01.(370m,00.0km) START-END SOUTH ALT: Tresenda
02.(520m,14.8km) Lovero
03.(660m,24.0km) Grosio
04.(860m,29.4km) Sondalo
05.(1260m,48.6km) START-END SOUTH: Bormio
06.(2470m,67.3km) Umbrail Pass route diverts from Stilfserjoch route
07.(2501m,67.6km) TOP: Umbrail Pass
08.(1430m,81.1km) START-END NORTH: Santa Maria, route goes right downvalley
09.(1290m,84.6km) Muestair
10.(890m,98.5km) Schluderns, shortly before that: Glurns
11.(860m,110.4km) Laas
12.(740m,116.1km) Schlanders
13.(640m,123.7km) Latsch
14.(520m,136.4km) Naturns
15.(290m,151.5km) START-END NORTH ALT: Meran

Approaches

From South.
This is the side, where Umbrail Pass is a shoulder point on the Stilfserjoch approach. No climbing is involved after turning away from Stelvio and riding north to the Swiss border crossing. Here the views are fantastic in both directions. The intricate geometric patterns on the doors and windows of the monumental border station walls make it clear, that you are now entering Switzerland, even if no official is there to verify this. Hardly anybody stops here, because of the nearby top of Stifserjoch, and that's also one reason this place is so naturally attractive.

From North. (described downwards) A long traverse gets the road out of the snow, and the icy world quickly recedes into memory. The road crosses a small bridge, looking like it is trying to emulate a roman arch. On some other  passes, where bridges and tunnels line up like perls on a necklace, one would never remember this. Yes - there are innumerable tunnels over on the Italian side to Bormio. But this is one of very few bridges on the Swiss side.

Just after the bridge comes the short unpaved section, which works great to slow down the motorcycles. It even clears the air a little, so that you don't think you are running a marathon in Central Park during rush hour.

My favorite part on this pass is the lower descent into the Vinschgau Valley, which today is part of Italy. Sta Maria sits in the perfect gap, as foreground to Ofenpass, its church tower so aesthetically pleasing, its placement just had to be divinely inspired. Turning down valley, the road keeps dropping quickly, even if no more switchbacks are needed.

One could spend a week exploring the Vinschgau, but one sight that is exactly next to the rolling bike is the monastary in Muestair. People bury their dead in the most different ways. In some places they build little mounds of dirt, and then place quirky momentos on top, things like football jerseys, little model cars or jewelry. Here they took a very different approach. See what they did here !  And see the place they picked, preferably during good weather.

The profile continues all the way downvalley to Meran to show maximum elevation gain.

A Dayride with this pass as intermediate summit is on page: Stilfserjoch




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