Nufenen Pass West Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

8 mi
3,504 ft
8.4 %


Page Contributor(s): Helmuth Dekkers, Netherlands


We rode the Nufenen Pass cycling climb July 13, 2018. This is a popular route for cyclist and indeed we encountered many along our ascent. Traffic is mild and we encounter some amazing hairpins - hey, this is hairpin counter (Gotthard Pass is only a few miles away for crying out loud!). There is one cafe about halfway up this bike climb if you are in need. This is in our opinion one of the best cycling descents in Switzerland.

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Cycling Nufenenpass from the west

Ride 12.8 kilometers gaining 1,068 meters at 8.4% average grade.

This climb is both beautiful and a monster.  We have a set of stunning switchbacks near the top of the climb, just at the beginning of its steepest kilometer (10%).  Nufenenpass is one of many extraordinary bike climbs in an area which includes Furkapass, Gotthard Pass, Grimselpass and Sustenpass (See PJAMM’s Amdermatt Climb Area page).  Nufenenpass has been featured in the Tour de Suisse, most recently as a virtual mountaintop finish during the pandemic of 2020.  The most recent TdS to feature Nufenenpass was the 2019 Queen Stage June 23, 2019.  The climb was to be included in the Tour in 2023 but was scratched at the last minute due to snow which closed the pass.

Climb start.

The pass on the side is called Passo della Novena and is one of the highest climbs in Switzerland topping out at 2,478 meters (8,130’).

Climb summary from PJAMM friend and contributor Helmuth Dekkers (NL).

I started from my hotel in Obergesteln as early as possible. So first I had to cycle to Ullrichen to get to the foot of the pass. It was the last week of September and hence still a bit chilly but the views were great as the sky was clear. This part to Ullrichen is not so long and more or less flat so it was a nice start to get warm. In Ulrichen I turned left following the signs Nufenenpass.

Views along the first half of the climb.

The Nufenenpass is the highest pass which lies entirely on Swiss soil. The pass lies on the border of the cantons (regions) of Wallis and Tessin (Ticino). The first kilometer out of Ulrichen is flat and then 2 hairpin turns take you upwards and another set is encountered after 3km. Then there is a fairly straight part of 5.5km that brings you to 2,000m.

Views along the second half of the climb.

The environment is more alpin by now and the final set of 10 hairpins start here that take you up to the actual pass at 2478m. I was overtaken around this point by another cyclist who passed by with a good cadence and speed. I was thinking this must be a local who regularly cycles in the mountains as he climbed up almost without any effort. I just cycled on at my own pace. 2km before the top there is a turnoff to the Griessee (2391m). This is just 1.7km at 4.7% and seems worth the detour for the view on Grieslake and Griesglacier. But I cycled on as I had more than just this pass to cover this day.

We ride through alpine pastures much of the route . . . but . . .

. . . also a wind farm perched along the top third of the climb.

At the top I met the cyclist who passed me by on the way up. And he was so kind to take a picture of me with the sign of the Nufenenpass (2477m). Here I found out he was not a local but he was Swiss. He came up by E-bike! which explains the speed 😊 Nice bike though, the engine and battery hardly visible. At first glance it looked like a regular road bike. He was also planning to cycle up to the Gotthardpass via the old road like me. But then he would not take on Furkapass like I was planning but he would take the train from Andermatt back to Ulrichen. Now taking the train or Postbus to get back was plan B for me and I would use the SBB train or Postbus only in case of problems! To have the option to take plan B I had installed the SBB app on my smartphone before I left so I knew where I could take an SBB train, Postbus and what time they would leave. After I took his picture with the pass sign we both put on a jacket and plunged down towards Airolo. The road first goes down with some hairpins. The road surface is not so good for descending as there are seems in the road at regular intervals which make the descent a bit bumpy. Not too bad but not nice either. The scenery is nice too on this side but it's a pity there are many electricity poles and wires that interfere with the scenery. After the initial hairpins the road goes more or less straight, i.e. almost no hairpins, down towards Airolo.

The dam at the northeast side of Griessee Reservoir is visible from some of the hairpins near the top.

3.2 km of hairpins beginning at km 7.7 at 9.1% average grade.

Thank you Helmuth!!

PJAMM ascended this exceptionally scenic cycling climb July 13, 2018.  We encountered quite a few cyclists on this one which is somewhat unusual for a fairly remote Suisse bike climb.  There was not as much traffic as on Grimsel and the road was pristine and some incredible switchbacks at the summit. There is one cafe about halfway up the climb if you need food or drink. The descent is excellent.

It is recommended to do this climb early in the morning to avoid motorcycle traffic.

Wikipedia - Nufenen Pass:

“Nufenen Pass (Italian: Passo della Novena, German: Nufenenpass) (el. 2478 m.) is the second highest mountain pass with a paved road within Switzerland - after Umbrailpass. It lies between the summits of Pizzo Gallina (north) and the Nufenenstock (south). . . .

The pass is of relatively recent construction, having been opened to motor vehicle traffic only since September 1969.

To the east of the top of the pass is the source of the Ticino River. Towards the north is a spectacular view of the Bernese Alps, notably the Finsteraarhorn while there is a view over the Gries Glacier to the south.”  
Wikipedia - Nufenen Pass