Not as rich in views or other distractions as other Dolomite climbs, the Passo Fedaia is best known for a particularly brutal section dubbed the ‘graveyard of champions’ which will definitely test your resolve. Still keen? Read more below.
A fairly recent addition to the Giro, the climb and first summit finish on the Passo Fedaia only took place in 1970 during stage 18, and was won by Michele Dancelli. However, that year the stage actually ended before the hardest section after Malga Ciapela, so it only partially qualifies as an ascent.
Although the pass featured in several Giro stages after this first partial ascent, the first actual summit finish on the full Fedaia did not occur until Stage 15 of the 2008 Giro, which was won by Emanuele Sella.
The most recent summit finish on the Fedaia was stage 20 in 2022, which was won by Allesandro Covi. However, the real drama of this stage was in the fight between Richard Carapaz and Jai Hindley. It was on the ‘graveyard of champions’ that Carapaz cracked and Jai Hindley gradually rode away to the GC win.
- From Caprile -
This climb can best be divided into two sections. The first part before Malga Ciapela is irregular, as a fairly abrupt start after Caprile gives way to a kinder section through and beyond Sottoguida. Not easy, but nothing too demanding.
Everything changes once you reach Malga Ciapela. The next 3 km through the ‘Graveyard of Champions’ are an unrelenting battle to keep moving forward, as the road rarely drops below 12%, and regularly visits 15%. Compounding this is the almost straight road that provides little distraction as you crawl your way upward.
As you near the top of the climb, the tighter switchbacks provide a bit of respite, but by then the altitude will be adding to the mix. But you are almost there. Passing the Rifigio Fedaia at the top, take a left onto the quiet road leading to the Rifugio Dolomia and ‘Bar Diga’ for a well earned drink and fabulous views of the Marmolada glacier.
Points of interest
A spectacular alternative to the main road up to Malga Ciapela, the Sottoguida Gorge is a 2 km section of road that runs up the deep gorge created from erosion by the Pettorina stream. You also get great views of the gorge from the road passing above.
The only true glacier in the Dolomites, the Marmolada is situated to the South of the Fedaia lake. It played a part in the battles of WWI as the Austrians created a sort of “ice city” fortification within the glacier.
Actually two lakes, one very small natural one, and a larger, artificial one created from the hydroelectric dam. More recently the Fedaia was used for some scenes of the movie The Italian Job.
Great War Museum
Want a little break from climbing the Fedaia? Billed as the highest in Europe at 3000m, this museum is located at the top of the lift from Malga Ciapela. The exhibits describe in detail the brutal conditions experienced by the militaries of both Austria and Italy during WWI as they fault for control of this strategic location.
During the 1950s, a laboratory was set up that used the considerable electricity produced by the hydroelectric plant to study cosmic rays by creating a giant magnetic field.
"It’s like someone’s horribly steep driveway."
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