The Gavia Pass of Ponte Di Legno by road bike
The ascent of the Gavia pass is without doubt one of the most historic in the world.
The Gavia pass can be reached from Bormio, from where the ascent to the Stelvio also starts, or from Ponte di Legno. Both sides are located in Lombardy and the pass is closed in winter.
Today we are going to talk specifically about the most “noble” climb, the one that starts from Ponte di Legno.
1. Some Numbers
The ascent is 17.4 km with an average gradient of 7.8% and a maximum peak of 16%.
The start is at 1258 m.a.s.l., while the altitude of the hill is 2618 m.a.s.l.
There are 15 hairpin bends in total.
2. Getting there
You can get there by taking the national road 42 through Tonale that runs through the village of Ponte Di Legno, although my advice is to go in, because the village is worth a visit and a coffee break.
The climb begins with gentle slopes, along a wide and well-paved road, up to Sant’Apollonia. Here we start to get serious: the road becomes narrower, the surface of the road becomes rougher, the relations become more agile and the view of the Valle delle Messi widens as you go up.
3. The centre
The central part is the hardest part with steep slopes (up to 15-16%) along a series of panoramic bends. In the heart of this stretch, about 3 km are particularly difficult and narrow, but there are no complaints: until a few years ago it was not even asphalted (strenuous uphill and destructive for bicycles, arms and wrists on downhill, with its wooden cross channels for water drainage). Once you’ve left the hairpin bends behind you, you run through the valley following the straight ridge and, fortunately, the gradients drop a little.
Little by little and with a lot of effort, we approach the most difficult point in our opinion: a tunnel of about 200m not illuminated whose exit never seems to arrive. The worst thing is the loss of all kinds of sensations: you don’t understand how steep the road is, how fast you’re moving, whether you’re struggling or not. If you’re lucky, then, you won’t encounter any motorised vehicles to keep you company, but if you do happen to come across a motorcycle or a car, the noise is deafening. It’s the classic moment when you just have to “squeeze” to get back into the sunlight.
Once out of the tunnel you reach the last stretch to be tackled through hairpin bends of up to 15%. Both the effort and the altitude are noticeable.
A few pedals and, once you have reached and passed the coveted signpost, you will find the Val di Gavia: on the left, the Bonetta refuge, on the right, the view of Lake Bianco.
If it’s hot, you can enjoy the perfect weather. If the temperatures are cooler, remember to cover up well. In both cases, the stage in the refuge is compulsory.
5. Some advice
- The height difference is significant and the pass is very high, so wear appropriate clothing.
- Remember lights, they are very important to face the tunnel.
- There are few water fountains, so come prepared.
6. How to get to Ponte Di Legno
Our advice is to reach Ponte di Legno by car. If you prefer to use public transport, be prepared for the train + bus combination.