|Nothing like the awe inspiring views at Stelvio's summit;|
nonetheless, a subtle reminder of the realities of life along the way.
Before the end of World War I, the top of the pass formed the border between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Italian Kingdom. Like other significant ranges, such as the Dolomites and Monte Grappa, the area became a theatre for war, where fierce battles were fought in ice and snow. It wasn’t until Italy’s accession of the region after 1919, that the pass lost its strategic importance. Over the majority of years since however, humans have embarked on more playful pursuits that pay homage to Donegani’s writhing asphalt serpent.
Mont Ventoux (from Bedoin) and Italy’s Stelvio (from Bormio) have two fundamental characteristics in common; they are of
A combination of tunnels and gallerias mark the most difficult part of the climb, a short stretch of around 14%, made worse – or better if that’s your bent – by the elongated view of the innumerable number of switchbacks wriggling all the way up to the top of the pass.
The green grassy slopes now a sea of white I became startled by what sounded like a heavy vehicle’s engine reverberating on my heels. Still moving no quicker than my paltry 10 kilometres per hour, I couldn’t help but wonder why the driver was content to sit so close behind me. Perhaps it was a bit like Armstrong’s ‘sporting’ gesture on the climb up Ventoux in the 2000 Tour, when he purposely let Pantani have his day. In any case I wasn’t buying it, certainly after realising once around the next switchback, that my menacing pursuant was nothing more than the sound of running water catapulting over the edge of a high rock wall above.
|The view down the valley towards Trafoi.|
Like Ventoux’s magnificent moonscape that accompanies you towards its antenna-studded-summit, the view of Stelvio’s asphalt serpent above me is something I’ll never forget. Was it worth coming all the way to Italy for; you betcha! A hard-won gain, no matter how seemingly trivial, these are the moments we cherish.