Saturday, September 25, 2021

Col du Petit Saint Bernard

My original plan after climbing the Iseran was to pack my bags the next morning and and drive to the other side of Bourg St Maurice to attack the Cormet de Roselend before heading back to Tain l'Hermitage. This changed when I realized where I was staying was at the bottom of the Col du Petit St Bernard and actually on the route. All I had to do was leave the house and turn left and I was on my way up it.

Saint Bernard

This a climb of about 4200 feet in 17 miles. The gradient is 5% all the way with very little variation, no really hard parts and no easy parts just a solid grind. The first half is climbing the side of the mountain with about 20 hairpin bends then the road straightens out following the side of a valley to the top of the pass which is the border between France and Italy.

Alpine Village

There are two passes named for St Bernard, the Petit between France and Italy and the Grand between Switzerland and Italy. The passes have been used for over 3000 years and the remains of Roman roads over them can still be seen. They are named for Bernard of Menthon, a priest, who built hostels on the mountains around 1050, AD not this morning, to protect pilgrims crossing the passes from being robbed by bandits. Bernard was later canonized and the passes named for him. 

Old French customs post

The passes became better known in 1800s when dogs, later to be named for St Bernard, were kept at the mountain top hostels to rescue travelers stranded in the winter snow. The hostels still exist and continue to host travelers but the dogs are no longer kept on the mountain.

It is a myth that St Bernard dogs carried brandy barrels

Beaten up from the previous day I climb conservatively taking a few minutes out every thousand feet to drink, eat and take pictures. At the top I ride past the old customs posts into Italy then take some pictures and return to a small souvenir shop where I can get a coffee.

The Summit

Then it's a 17 mile zero cadence ride down, shower change and drive back to Tain.

For route information

No comments:

Post a Comment