Umbrail Pass

Umbrail Pass, an Alpine high mountain road

Umbrail Pass is an international high mountain pass at 2.501m (8,205ft) above the sea level, located in the Alps, on the Swiss-Italian border. At this elevation the road over the pass is currently the highest paved road in Switzerland, and one of the highest roads of the Alps.

The road over the pass is paved. The conditions of the road improve near the summit. It connects the little village of Giogo di Santa Maria in Val Müstair with Bormio in the Adda valley and climbs steeply through a densly wooded, narrow, bumpy section. On the Italian side, it connects to the Passo dello Stelvio road. The road includes some steep sections, without market central lines, is very narrow, scarcely wide enough for two cars to pass at the same time and there are no protections or guard rails along some parts of the route. It's closed from October to June. The Umbrail Pass is located at the most eastern tip of Switzerland, and is as such an access road of Switzerland to the Passo dello Stelvio road. This pass is less known and therefore less busy but it is a fantastic ride and well worth exploring.

The pass has been featured in Giro d’Italia race. Starting from Sta Maria, the ascent is 13.2 km long. Over this distance, the elevation gain is 1.126 meters. The average percentage is 8.5%. The maximum slope is 14.0%. The climb by this side is spectacular, and the road includes more than 34 hairpin turns. The road is unprotected by guardrails and at places really dangerous with vertical drops of hundreds of meters very close to the asphalt. Take good care, especially if you are descending. The road is impressive. It's an almost one-sided pass. The Northern ascent, from Santa Maria in Val Müster, offers a genuine alpine climb, whereas the Southern slope is less than a kilometer long. The summit is situated very close to the Swiss-Italian border. There the Umbrail road meets the road from Bormio to the Passo dello Stelvio. From the custom barracks to the Stelvio summit it is another 3 km. The pass is named after the "Piz Umbrail", a nearby mountain peak.

The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The hairpins are very narrow and steep making it hard not to use both sides of the road and overtaking practically impossible. It isn't as bad as it sound, as it's well-packed, but do take care in the wet. Watch out here for Swiss customs officers, they lurk around here to try and catch smugglers. On summary, it’s moderately difficult, but with some great high-Alpine scenery.


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