September 9 – 22, 2017 TOTAL TOUR – 14 Riding Days 2 – BIKE SPOTS LEFT (For Single Rider or 2-UP)
Partial Tour Participation Available
This trip is for people who want a rider’s ride to the highest of the high. A lot of tour companies refer to their tour as the “High Alps” or the “Extreme Challenge” or some such name but they never really get to the high stuff. This tour does. The whole point of this tour is to ride the TOP 10 highest passes in the Alps. I’m sorry to say that in order to get to those passes we’ll have to ride dozens of other great passes of all types, big, small, wide, narrow, many in the middle of nowhere, to get from one side of the Alps to the other and complete the tour. It is a technically, physically, and mentally challenging tour loaded with as much fun, adventure and riding enjoyment as one person can handle. It is the “High Alps Extreme Touring Ultimate Challenge Tour” or “TOP 10+” for short.
The TOP 10 passes are spread throughout the Alps. Four are in the central and southern Alps of France. One straddles the French and Italian borders. Another sits on the Swiss Italian border. Three are in the Tyrol section of northwest Italy and one sits on the spine of the Austria Alps southeast of Salzburg. That’s a lot of ground to cover. It could be done in a lot less than 14 days but why rush. The TOP 10 are surrounded on all sides by great riding. What I have done is to modify the Italian tour, usually run in September, so that we get in all the TOP 10 passes, with 3 – 4 days at the end to appreciate the Dolomites and mountain lakes of Italy. The tour has two 2-night stopovers and one 3-night stop designed to allow tour members to take advantage of the riding nearby, rest a little or sight see. Many of the passes we will ride are well above the tree line, which gives you a wide open, panoramic view of the mountains and valleys. However, there are still great views to be had from high on top of a wooded pass looking down into valleys or lakes. I’ve never specifically checked it out but it appears that the tree line stops around 1,600 to 1,700 meters. Either way the view is beautiful.
The French peaks are generally more barren and bleak but beautiful at the same time. The Swiss and Austrian mountains are the picture perfect vistas that you expect. The Italian mountains are rugged and fun to ride while the Dolomites are more up-close and personal. You literally get it all with this tour, a great variety of roads, food, culture and mountains. It truly is the High Alps Extreme Touring Ultimate Challenge Tour.
The 14-day total tour includes 12 nights away from our base in Thun. Of those 12 nights 7 are in Italy (I), 3 are in France (F) and 2 are in Switzerland (S). The schedule of overnight stays is as follows:
- Saturday – Thun (S)
- Sunday – Seez (F)
- Monday – St. Veran (F)
- Tuesday – St. Veran (F)
- Wednesday – Chamonix (F)
- Thursday – Andermatt (S)
- Friday – Mals (I)
- Saturday – Mals (I)
- Sunday – Corvara (I)
- Monday – Corvara (I)
- Tuesday – Corvara (I)
- Wednesday – Riva del Garda (I)
- Thursday – Klontal (S)
- Friday – Thun (S)
- Saturday – Fly Home
- Saturday – Free Day – The bike is yours all day. There’s lots of great riding nearby.
- Sunday – Saanenmoser, Col du Pillon, Col del la Croix, Col du Grand St. Bernard, Colle San Carlo
- Monday – Col du Petit St. Bernard, Col de l’Iseran, Col du Mt. Cenis, Col de Finestre, Sestriere, Col de Montgenevre, Col d’Izoard
- Tuesday – (The Real High Stuff) Col Agnel, Col di Sampeyre, Col de Lombarde, la Bonnette, Col du Restefond, Col de Vars
- Wednesday – Col d’Izoard, Col du Galibier, Col du Telegraphe, Col de la Madeleine, Cormet de Roseland, Col du Pre, Col des Saises
- Thursday – Col de Montets, Col de la Forclaz, Nufenen Pass, St. Gotthard Pass
- Friday – Oberalp, Splugen, Maloja, Bernina, Forcola di Livigno, Ofen
- Saturday – Umbrail, Gavia, Mortirolo, Forcola di Livigno, di Eira, di Foscagno, Stelvio
- Sunday – Reschen, Pillerhoe, Timmelsjoch, Jaufen, Penserjoch, di Gardena
- Monday – Furkel Sattel, Staller Sattel, Grossglockner Hoch Tor, Iselsberg, Drei Zinnen, Tre Croce, Valparola
- Tuesday – Wurtzjoch, di Campolongo, di Falzarego, di Giau, di Fedaia, di Sella, di Gardena
- Wednesday – Pordoi, di Costalunga, di Lavaze, Manghen, Berdala
- Thursday – Croce Domini, dell Aprica, Bernina, Julier, Lenzerheide
- Friday – Pragel, Glaubenberg, Brunig
MOTO-CHARLIE reserves the right to alter the exact route at his discretion.
This tour focuses on the 10 highest passes in the Alps. The TOP 10 were determined from John Hermann’s book “Motorcycle Journeys Through The Alps & Beyond, 5th Edition”. All these passes are paved (with a couple of minor exceptions) and all go from one place to another, as opposed to dead-ending in some valley. As such they are the highest paved roads you can ride in the Alps. Our mission on this tour is to find them, wherever they are, which in this case is spread throughout France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. The highest pass in Austria is within looping distance from our Dolomite base used on the Italian tour. Seeing as we’ll be in the Dolomites after completing the TOP 10 passes we might as well take advantage of that and finish the tour by riding the remainder of the route I normally take on the Italian tour. So, we can enjoy the Dolomites before making our way back to our home base in Thun. This will truly be the tour of a lifetime.
Most people like to arrive a day ahead of time on Friday. The motorcycle is usually available to pick up on Friday afternoon. If the entire group arrives on Friday we usually plan two group rides on Saturday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. You are welcome to come on both, one, or none of the Saturday rides. I’ll be more than glad to help you plan whatever alternate Saturday activity might be of interest to you.
- Saturday – Pick up the motorcycle. There are many wonderful sites to see in the immediate area, either by motorcycle or public transportation. Go visit the neat town of Interlaken located between the Thun See (“See” is the German word for lake) and the Brienzer See or take in Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald and gaze upon the Eiger. Or just hang out in Thun or Steffisburg. You’re welcome to join me for a morning and/or afternoon loop ride to used to the bike, the roads and each other . In the evening please feel to join the other tour members for a group dinner or head off on your own for a quiet, private meal. It’s all your choice.
- Sunday – Today we don’t waste any time heading south for France. In France, the passes are referred to as Col’s. We cross over three small Col’s that flirt just above and below the tree line as we make our way to the Grand St. Bernard into Italy. This is a major Alpine pass at 2,469 meters, the 12th highest in the Alps. While we don’t get to see the real dogs you can feast your eyes on all kinds of stuffed ones at the various souvenir kiosks. From here it’s downhill through Aosta before heading to the Italian town of La Thuile, famous for its chocolate. We continue to the Petite St. Bernard, “only” 2,188 meters high, well above tree line. Like the Grand St. Bernard there is a border here from France into Italy. We work our way down the pass and just before the bottom we arrive at our hotel in Seez.
- Monday – Yesterday was a warm up for some serious pass riding today, up to seven passes, maybe more. We continue to the bottom, near the town of Borg St. Maurice and then south on the road to the Col de l’Iseran, #2 on the TOP 10 list at 2,769 meters. The mountains begin to look more barren, the services get more spread out, and the scenery is spectacular. Once over the l’Iseran we’ve got five more passes. We end our long day of riding in the village of St. Veran, where we will stay for two nights. If we are riding the highest passes in the Alps then we should also stay at the highest village in the Alps and that’s St. Veran. Once in the village we stay at the highest hotel in the village. Gotta love that altitude.
- Tuesday – Last night, before going to bed, we sacrificed our cappuccino cups and prayed for good weather and no snow because today we tackle the real, real high stuff, including the #1, #4 and #5 highest passes in the Alps. We’ll see all kinds of riding from tight gnarly switchbacks to sweepers and varied road conditions from good to rough tar and probably some loose road repair gravel thrown in for good measure. All the major passes are above 2,000 meters and well above the tree line. After two or three neat high passes we start up the road to la Bonette, #1 highest pass in the Alps at 2,862 meters. It’s really a loop road built off the Col du Restefond road, the main drag in these parts and itself the #5 highest pass at 2,678 meters. It’s almost like they built the la Bonette loop so they could lay claim to the highest pass in the Alps. We obviously stop for photo ops, perhaps a group picture, etc. before finishing the Restefond road and one other pass on our way back to St Veran for a well deserved rest and dinner.
- Wednesday – Now that we’ve accomplished our mission in Southern France it’s time to head north. Our destination tonight is Chamonix, the internationally recognized ski town of France. To get there we’ve got a variety of riding including up to seven passes. By noon, after a couple of high passes, we should be up and over the Col du Galibier at 2,645 meters #6 on the list. From here we enter the area around Mt. Blanc, coincidentally the highest mountain in the Alps. The last few passes on the way to Chamonix include some great back country roads with very pretty Alpine scenery looking down on houses and farms as we descend towards our night’s stay.
- Thursday – One of the reasons we stay in Chamonix is so that we can ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car, which carries you to 3,842 meters. It is the closest you can get to the Mt Blanc summit (at 4,810 meters) without climbing it and is considered one of the most spectacular cable car rides in the Alps, if not the world. The round trip takes 2 – 3 hours. If it’s cloudy at the top or the weather doesn’t cooperate there is always riding and plenty of it. There are three nice, fairly low passes with good road surface and plenty of sweepers as we work our way back towards Switzerland. In Switzerland we check out the Nufenen Pass, #11 at 2,478 meters. Of course we charge over this pass and do so as part of this afternoon’s ride along with the St Gotthard pass before ending the day at the Swiss motorcycle heartland – Andermatt.
- Friday – There are no TOP 10 passes today but there is great riding on the high passes that Switzerland offers. Almost all of today’s passes will be above the tree line. We head northeast out of Andermatt over the Oberalp pass, famous to bikers for its smooth tar, wide road and unbeatable sweepers (not to mention the view). A couple of hours later, after riding a major Swiss valley road we prepare to ride the Splugen pass, a fantastic pass that crosses over into Italy. The layered switchbacks on this pass make for a great photo-op. At the bottom we head back to Switzerland as we pass by (and or stop in) St. Moritz. All told we hit 6 passes before we finally in Italy for a two night stay in the neat town of Mals.
- Saturday – Here again, we have sacrificed our cappuccino cups to the weather gods the night before because today we take on three of Italy’s highest, including #3, #7 and #10 on the list. We start the day by heading back briefly into Switzerland so we can get the bottom of the Umbrail pass road. This pass is #10 at 2,501 meters and and the highest in Switzerland. It brings us out 3 kms below Passo di Stelvio, which will be our last pass of the day. Before we go there we head south to Bormio and then east to Passo di Gavia, # 7 on the list at 2,621 meters. This pass has spectacular views, a sense of remoteness, and excellent espresso at the top. It’s one of my favorite passes. We then work our way back to the top of the Stelvio pass, perhaps the most famous and photographed pass in the Alps. This pass is considered by many riders to be the “must ride” pass of the Alps. At 2,758 meters it is #3 on the list. With close to 40 switchbacks on both sides, year round skiing at the top, and the carnival like atmosphere at the pass itself there is nothing else like it in the Alps. From here it’s all downhill to Mals, through some orchards and vineyards and back to our hotel.
- Sunday – Today’s route indicates six passes including a TOP 10 pass plus several beautiful high valley roads that cling to the top edge of the valley sides as we look way down onto towns, farms, highways, rivers, etc. We’ll go over the Reschen pass, the Pillerhoe, a great shortcut that rides high over the valley at 1,558 meters, and the Timmeljoch pass, our key TOP 10 target today at #9 and 2,509 meters. The Austrian side finishes with a series of good quality switchbacks and sweepers that carry you to the top. There’s a toll to be paid before we can proceed down the Italian side, which seem like a completely different road than what we just road up. We go over 2 more passes and travel high valley roads that give us our first splendid view of the Dolomites. Just great, great riding. We end up in the heart of the Dolomites in Corvara, where we will stay for three nights.
- Monday – Here again, we have sacrificed our cappuccino cups to the weather gods the night before because today we take on the Grossglockner High Alps Road and Austria’s highest pass. Over my years of travel in the Alps this road has had the most unpredictable weather. Pack accordingly. A couple of small passes and 90 minutes later sees us at the start of the high Alpine Grossglockner road. It is a toll road and runs approx. 30 miles as it goes up and over the spine of the Austrian Alps. It is a spectacular high Alpine road and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Austria, frequently ranking in the top 3 tourist Austrian tourist destinations. It is also a major motorcycle Mecca. You can play back and forth along it all day once you pay your toll. It’s got great road surface, unbelievable views, a dead end road with Austria’s largest glacier and at the very top the Hoch Tor, at 2,575 meters Austria’s highest pass and #8 on the TOP 10 list. We ride it in both directions and then head two more fun passes back to our hotel.
- Tuesday – If you’re keeping track you’ll know that we have now completed the TOP 10 highest passes in the Alps. Time to decompress and there is no better riding to do so then in Italy. Today we’ll do up to 7+ passes including the Wurtzjoch, a marvelous one lane pass with great Dolomite Massifs, Passo di Giau, one of my favorites where we occasionally come across factory test riders from Ducati, Aprilia or BMW, and Passo di Fedaia, where a local Refugio serves delicious tiramisu. All in all a fantastic day of Dolomite riding.
- Wednesday – We head south over five more passes including a narrow un-crowded gem Passo Manghen. We then ride some more of my favorite high valley and low pass roads on our way to Lago di Garda. As we do so we frequently look down onto vineyards and orchids, pass through narrow Italian villages and view castles all around. It’s great riding all the way to tonight’s hotel in Riva del Garda. Riva is a great example of an Italian lakes region town. There’s a lot to do including shops, cafes, people watching, water sports and more. You can kick back for the balance of the day and enjoy the town or join me for a ride along the shore and up into the adjacent hillside. Don’t worry; we’ll be back in time for dinner.
- Thursday – Today we start on the road back to Switzerland, but not before a leisurely farewell to Riva and some neat Italian riding, capped off with Passo Croce Domini, a pass that only a biker would love with some parts so tight and twisty that it makes sense to blow your horn when going around corners to let people know you’re coming. A couple of hours later we’ll be heading up and over the Bernina pass in Switzerland, the exact opposite of the Domini with rugged vistas, high speed sweepers and well tarred, open sight switchbacks. The Alps have it all. After two more classic Swiss passes we travel through Heide land and spend our final night on the road at Klontal See. It’s a simple hotel at the end of an Alpine lake surrounded by mountains with no one else in sight. It’s the only spot I go to on every tour.
- Friday – On our final day of riding we’ll do at least three passes with a little bit of every kind of riding included to wind up the tour. Single lane and tight, smooth tar and great lake views and high speed sweepers. We’ll stop by a lakeside restaurant for a final salute to our tour and then we head back to Thun surrounded by great Swiss mountain scenery. We should get back in time to return the motorcycles to the rental shop. Here again as on the first night please feel to join the other tour members for a group dinner or head off on your own for a quiet, private meal. It’s all your choice.
- The tour dates are shown at the top of this page. Naturally, you are welcome to come sooner. I generally arrive on Friday. If you would like to come sooner, or stay longer, hotel and motorcycle arrangements can readily made to suit your schedule.
- When to book your reservation obviously depends on your schedule. As a rule I suggest at least 3 months in advance of the tour date in order to ensure that you get the motorcycle that you want and to secure a place on the tour. There is a limit of 7 motorcycles or 10 people, whichever comes first, per tour. There are nearly a full line of BMW and Honda motorcycles to choose from. In the case of certain BMW’s there are several bikes of the same models available. In the case of Honda, one of each. If having a specific bike is a high priority for you then please book early.
- The final cut-off date is technically 30 days before the tour starts. At this point there is enough lead-time for any adjustments or cancellations as they relate to our motorcycle supplier and related hotels. If someone contacts me to sign up with less than 30 days to go every effort will be made to accommodate you. The issue will usually be the motorcycle availability.
The cost for this tour at the current exchange rates will be:
- Single rider in a single room – $6,160
- Passenger sharing a double room – $3,430
- Couple riding two-up sharing a double room – $9,590
These cost numbers should cover your direct travel costs including motorcycle rental, all hotels and meals, gas and my fee. For a more complete discussion of the cost of this tour please click here.
5 riders or 7 tour members
Please refer to the “Contact Me” section for my telephone or e-mail address. I am not a paperwork intensive person. So, the process of making a reservation and getting what I need for my records is pretty simple once you contact me.
Feel free to contact me to ask any questions about my tours in particular, or the Alps in general. If I can be of help in any way I’ll be glad to do so.
This tour is the real deal, the “High Alps Extreme Touring Ultimate Challenge Tour.” The description above pretty much says it all. All the riding you can get, all the altitude you can handle, all the food and culture that four different Alpine countries can offer, all the fun and adventure that you will remember for a lifetime. You can gorge yourself on a frenzy of pass blasting, conspicuous croissant consumption and espresso overload but it is the riding that you will remember. That’s what this tour is all about.