What's your favourite alpine pass?

Last weekend I went on a long awaited ‘Hairpin tour’ of the Alps with a bunch of mates as a joint 40th birthday present to oursleves.

When I was planning the route for the 4 day trip it wasn’t so easy to gauge how far we could cover in a day and what the best routes were so I thought I’d share our route. I’d also like to hear other peoples routes as after this trip I guaranteee there will be another!!

Unfortunatley we only had 4 days so driving down there from Manchester in the Exige wasn’t really viable so we flew to Munich. We planned to hire something that would be fun to drive but it was a nightmare trying to source the right type of cars. I found a lotus specialist near Zurich but they only had one rental car. 911’s were on the shopping list but with excess mileage it worked out at �2500 for the weekend! In the end we found a deal with a mainstream renter for BMW 330 convertibles…we were not disappointed, they were bloody brilliant, even if they were Diesels. Total cost of �300 for 4 days including full CDW of course. Annoyingly the lads that arrived on the later flight didnt get a BMW as they had sold out their reserved car, after much haggling the lucky buggers rolled out with an XK8 for �30 more.

Day 1 - As soon as we picked up the cars we headed straight for Grossglockner. The weather was amazing, 28 to 32 deg every day. It’s a bit of a detour to go to Glockner but well worth the trip. The toll is worth every penny. It didnt take us long to work out that the biggest problem of the weekend were motorbikes, they provided multiple rolling road blocks for us. It wasn’t too difficult to pass them as the BMW had plenty of torque, the risk is that they just dont see you and never look in their mirrors. I had several near misses when they drifted across the road while I was trying to pass them. I also ride bikes so I gave them plenty of space but they just dont pay attention, or they dont like the idea of a car passing them. That evening we stayed in Innsbruck, it was a late arrival about 9pm. Its worth detouring via the Kriml waterfall and the Garlos toll road

Day 2 - Innsbruck to Davos via Fluela pass - nice flowing sections along the top and down the other side. The climb was a bit difficult due to trucks and traffic.
Abula pass - Brilliant fun, quite narrow in places with broken tarmac, more like a rally stage which suited Gareth and I perfectly. I must apologise to the boys behind us for filling their car with gravel and dust on the half mile of unpaved road :smiley:
Lunch in St Moritz, very nice place indeed.
Julier pass - much more open and smoother
San Bernadino -awesome, awesome, awesome. If you want hairpins then this is the one. We joined the road just behind a 1970’s 911 driven by two old boys. They gave us a great run for our money up the hairpins and even joined in with the drift action.
That night we stayed at Lugano on the lake, highly recommended.
Found a n Exige on a forecourt in Lugano, 2006 NA �40,000!no wonder they’re all going over the water

Day 3 - Lugano - St Gothard pass
For the first run we went up the new St Gothard pass,not particularly exciting but we met a nice guy in a 458 spider.
Furka pass - a bit narrow once you get in the pass but spectacular views and worth doing as it links to the other major figure of 8 passes.
Nufenenpass - really enjoyable climb once I despatched the mopeds and bikes in front of us. Huge snow banks either side of the hairpins. Had a great run down the other side, caught and passed a 430 Scud (admittedly being driven gracefully).
Old St Gothard - did this as the second run of the loop of these passes. I didn’t realise until we were half way up that it turns into cobble sets! What an amazing piece of road construction. The nature of the surface and tight hairpins was fully explored with DSC turned off :slight_smile:

Sustenpass - Amazing scenery but traffic chaos.
We spent the evening in Grindelwald, lovely place at the foot of the Eiger. In hindsight it was a bit far off route and left us with a long final days drive.

Day 4 - Grindelwald back to Munich
Klausenpass - possibly the scariest driving experience ever. Huge drops protected by painted rocks or occassional scaffolding rails hammered into the soil. This isn’t a road for being a hero on.
After that we had a long road section then nipped over the Fern pass towards Garmish. This was absolute gridlock. The only reward was the open limit autobahn back north to Munich. After spending the last 7 hours asleep in the passenger seat, due to a long night, Gareth woke up and decided it was his turn to drive. That was not fair! :cry:

The bottom line is that I’d totally recommend any of the roads. As much as I love the Exige I would also rate hiring a 330d. They drove brilliantly and I’d have one tomorrow as a daily driver…if I didn’t work for the opposition :wink:

There was only one altercation with the local Feds…and it wasn’t me. One of our team was stopped for “intending to hoon it through a hairpin”. The lady officer was stood on the inside of the hairpin, he only saw her as he dropped it into first and started to give it the beans. Even though he never completed the manouver she new the score and pulled him, it was the funniest session of charades ever as she couldnt speak english but mimicked ‘you’re a naughty boy and you were going to fishtail it - yes you were’.

I hope I havent bored you all to death, but as you can tell, we really enjoyed it. I’d love to do another trip next year. What are peoples recommendations for other routes and passes - I like hairpins!

Good write up Wes, enjoyed the read mate. One day…

Wes did an excellent job of organising the trip, especially the route. The days were long but well worth the effort. Who wants to sit in a swimming pool with the local Swiss girls anyway!

I found it difficult to choose a favourite pass as traffic plays a big part to overall enjoyment and each had its own character. Open and fast - scary, or tight and twisty - technical! Each just as enjoyable. Going up was easy to commit to the corners but going down required balls! As Wes says the car was excellent and yes I was the one to see how fast it actually went! One thing we learnt quickly was for the passenger to look up the hairpin to see if anything was coming which did make things more fun. Although when the passenger stops talking to you it means they think you are going too fast!

Overall I do not really think it matters which passes you choose so long as you are out there driving and enjoying yourself with 5 mates!

Cheers Wes


PS I only slept for an hour and did wake up to navigate you through the tiny village you were getting lost in!

Top write up Wes …
Brings back memories of gliding in those area,s Grindlewald has to have the most expensive coffee shop ever !
I vowed never to go back there again ,especially as the Swiss make you buy a vignette (tax disc) as soon as you cross the border …
Re. The price of secondhand cars in France. I noticed this back in 2003 and then began exporting lhd cars from the UK to sell in France (beuracratic nightmare btw)

I’ve had at least one European tour each year for several years, first on bikes and more recently in a Lotus, this year it will be September.
Most of the passes you mention I have driven, some 3 or 4 times and I just cant get enough of them in the time allowed.
Picking a favourite is so difficult. Many in Lotus circles think that Stelvio is the only pass to ‘do’, but for me there are so many better passes.
In no particular order, I would recommend
Petit St Bernard
And if I really have to pick a favourite, then I would go for Nockalmstrasse


View of Furkapass coming off Grimsel:


Sounds like you had a blast!

I just came back from Austria/Afritz am See + Slovenia/Bled and by chance happen to go through the Vrsic Pass. This was the most demanding mountain pass I’ve experienced with a total of 50 hairpins (25 hairpins uphill and 25 hairpins downhill with each signposted to remind your progress!). Shame it was in a rental Skoda Fabia, but it was still great fun.

Several of the rental companies wouldn’t allow you to take convertibles or premium cars into italy. That made route planning hard work as many good passes dip in and out of the borders.

We will just have to take the exige next time.

Great write up Wes.

Did Little St Bernard few years go. Was a blast even in BMW 530d rental

Excellent write-up. Very envious.

Awesome, must do something like this one day.