Topping out at 2,121m the Passo Gardena, or to use its German name, the Grödnerjoch is one of the four mythical passes that make up what many call the perfect bike ride, the Sella Ronda. The two sides of the ascent offer distinctly different climbing experiences and although it’s the western face that features in the annual Maratona dles Dolomites it is the eastern side that is the longer and more rewarding to ride.
Linking the Val Badia with the Val Gardena and set on a sublime 6.4% average gradient the climb is a joy to ride and has been included on the route of the Giro d’Italia 16 times to date although has never hosted a summit finish.
- From Corvara -
Leaving Corvara heading west the difficulty of the slope increases gradually as you leave the busy tourist hub and through the first of the climb’s 17 hairpins enter the town of Colfosco. Steep through the corners the road passes many restaurants and bars before embarking on its far quieter journey into the paradise of the Dolomites.
Set on a slope that never strays far from a 7% incline it’s the sort of road you could ride forever as you swing round its wide flowing bends beneath the towering limestone pinnacles. There is the odd spike in gradient that may force a gear change or have you leaving the comfort of your saddle but certainly nothing that will hurt so just pedal away and soak in the scenery.
Points of interest
The climb starts in Corvara in Badia which is the main center of the Alta Badia tourist industry and is popular with visitors throughout the whole year.
Looking down on you as you climb are the peaks of Sass dla Luesa standing at 2603m and Torre Bornech which tops out at 2495m, the Big (2592m) and the Small Cir both part of the Pizes de Cir group.
The town of Colfosco lies two kilometres into the climb and is home to many bars, restaurants and hotels making it a popular alternative base to Corvara.
When ridden anticlockwise the Passo Gardena is ‘just’ the longest on the SellaRonda measuring 9.35 km compared to the 9.32 km of the clockwise Passo Pordoi.
At the summit sits the Rifugio Alpino where you can stop for refreshments and take in the view out over eastern ascent and the majestic Sassolungo (Saslonch).
The view from the summit in either direction makes the Passo Gardena one of the most beautiful places on earth.
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