Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.469m (8,100ft) above the sea level, located in Switzerland. The pass (called Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard in French, and Colle del Gran San Bernardo in Italian) connects Martigny in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland to Aosta in Italy. The road is closed from November to June.
The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Great St. Bernard Pass is the 3rd highest road pass in Switzerland and is an important route between Geneva and Torino. The pass is traversed by the Swiss Road 21 and the Italian SS27. The pass has been climbed several times by the Tour of France and the Giro d'Italia bicycle races. The snow in the pass in winter may be as much as 10 metres deep. The temperature may drop as low as -30°C. The lake in the pass is frozen for 265 days per year. A tunnel through the mountains that was built in 1964 allows travelers to make the journey unhindered during the winter, which is good news if you decide to visit during that time.
The experience of using this road is very impressive. The pass has been very important during 3000 years, because it was an easy way to cross the Alps. The Roman troops, with Julius Caesar, crossed this pass in 57 BC, and the French troops, with Napoleon and 46,000 soldiers, did it in 1800. The actual roved the pass was built in 1905. The pass had long been used as a commercial trade route, starting with the Romans during the Empire's peak, though today it serves mostly as a tourist destination for motorists who want to take it slow and soak in the impressive, sometimes perilous, sights along this route once traveled by Napolean Bonaparte and his army during his march toward Italy in 1800. Perhaps the most famous of the mountain passes in the European Alps, with its majestic scenery and diverting views, is one of the most renowned attractions of the country.
To reach the summit there are 2 possible routes. From Sembrancher, in Switzerland, the ascent is 30.6 km long with an elevation gain of 1.752 meters. The average percentage is 5.7 %. And from Aosta, in Italy, the ascent is 32.05 km long and the elevation gain is 1.878 meters. The average percentage is 5.9 %. The pass is also famous because a hospice founded 1049. The hospice later became famous for its use of St. Bernard dogs in rescue operations, that were first mentioned in 1709 and has become an icon of the Alps. During the 17th century, the monks that maintained the hospice grounds began selectively breeding and training their dogs, which were said to be gifts from travelers and villagers from nearby towns. You guessed it: the resulting breed was the St. Bernard, primarily used during this time to guard the hospice, though later they were used as rescue animals. The monks still maintain the grounds and give comfort and information to travelers today.
Is the Great St Bernard Pass open?
Located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, the road to the summit is usually open from the end of May to mid October, although this can change depending on snow fall and weather each year. Remember weather in the Alps can be cold at night, even during the summer months, so make sure you pack warm clothes. You might encounter snow even during the summer.
How long is the Great St Bernard Pass?
The road is 74.6 km (46.35mi) long running from Martigny, in the canton of Valais in Switzerland, towards Aosta, the capital of the Valle d’Aosta region, in northwestern Italy.