Another dreaded, steep climb: the Mortirolo (or Passo della Foppa) with a summit at 1,852 meters. It used to be the favorite mountain of Marco Pantani.

“If you want to die, this is where you go” – encouraging words, often found when reading reports about this climb…

However, I think the Mortirolo from Mazzo di Valtellina, labeled the most difficult, is not much worse than the Gerlitzen – sadly, the latter is, or at least it was when I climbed it in 2008, hardly known to anyone, but I can assure you it’s as tough as the Mortirolo, especially the climb from Tschöran…

Nevertheless, I only managed to not nearly give up once: the first time I tackled the Mazzo ascend in 2011.

I’m not counting the Monno route, as that is do-able any day, but I’ve choked on the Mazzo – twice – and Grosio side since then.

The only time I went up from Grosio, was after I did the Monno ascend first, so that probably made it ‘a little’ more difficult.

Described here are the three ‘most famous’ alternatives, but there are quite a few ways to the top of the Mortirolo, many of which no more than goat paths and/or hiking trails.

This means that with a mountain bike, you have some more options to exhaust yourself. One alternative that is used in at least one gran fondo, is the one from Tovo, just south of Mazzo, with grades up to 26%…

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Colle Fauniera

The Colle Fauniera, a.k.a. Colle dei Morti (“Mountain of the Dead”) is part of the Colli di Cuneo, a range of high mountain passes in the Cottian Alps, Piedmont, northern Italy. The rather ominous name Colle dei Morti stems from a fierce battle which occurred in the area during a 17th century clash between Franco-Spanish and Piedmontese troops.

The road was fully asphalted in 1999, to allow the Giro d’Italia to pass over it, after which it became more popular to the (cycling) tourists. I doubt that a lot of maintenance has been done on it since, as I’ve experienced first hand that the roads in the upper part of the pass are – besides narrow – in bad shape and possibly “deadly” too if you’re not careful, especially during a descend…

Generally speaking, this pass is not very much traveled – it is not that widely known and thus not (overly) popular to motorists, and the state of the road doesn’t attract as much as for instance the Stelvio.

However, while it may lack attractive hairpin sections, the views are spectacular and the green meadows, filled with a variety of alp flowers, are home to a large population of marmots.

With its summit at 2,481 meters, it also owns a top 10 spot in the list of highest paved passes in Europe.

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Tour de France 2014 – Stage 10

The beautiful Fauniera

Stage 10 involved a side trip to Italy: after a car transfer over the Larche to get to the start of the Colle Fauniera, I got on my bike in Demonte.

Why this col is more aptly referred to as “Colle dei Morti”, I found out very quickly.

With a length of nearly 25 kilometers and an elevation gain of some 1,700 meters, the average is a healthy 7%.

The start is irregular, with frequent ups and downs, where the “ups” are basically close to and over 10% – there is no easing into this one…

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