We pick up the action a few hours after where I left off last time. Having taken a break and emptied the memory cards, we decided that it would be a good idea to catch the sunset from the top of Stelvio. So off we went.
Heading towards Zernez, Engadin valley. These main roads are a pure joy, just gotta make sure you don't get too distracted by the beautiful scenery.
But when the the scenery is not being distracting, your brain is assaulted by the incredible sense of speed from the tree lined winding roads.
The roads get bumpier as we move on, apparently due to falling rocks, and the lack of a guard rail can sometimes be unnerving.
To address the problem of damaged roads, there are frequent roadworks with traffic lights. To the recreational motorist this translates to safer one way traffic at any given time.
Going up Ofenpass which connects the Engadin and the Val Müstair valleys. At the bottom this becomes Italy, we are on the Swiss side. It's a really long ascent, nice smooth roads with a lot of open corners. Because of this, this place is notorious for a lot of spontaneous speed camera sessions by the police.
Top of the Ofenpass (sign is in Italian)
Past the top, we head down the Italian side. The huge mountain in the background is the Ortler, 3905m above sea level.
Nearing the crossing towards Umbrail and Stelvio. Umbrail pass is like a 'side pass' that joins the near side of Stelvio towards the top so we use it for most of the height of Stelvio. It is the highest road pass in Switzerland at 2501m above sea level.
Leaving the main road at Santa Maria. Houses like these are common in the region, with a lot of "graphics" on them.
Yep, still on the right route. This little crossing is quite easy to miss so keep an eye out!
This road up the Umbrail pass was completed in 1901 and is an endless ribbon of asphalt.
Attacking first gear hairpins in a 4WD car with track suspension felt odd. The setup is so stiff and the hairpins so steep, the diff desperately tries to figure out what to do as the car lifts the rear inner wheel clean off the ground.
Higher up Umbrail there is simply zero traffic. It gets spooky after a while, endless roads and not a single car anywhere in the vicinity.
Around here the trees open up to give you an amazing open view of the valley for the first time.
Breathtaking scenery and what is really cool is, if you floor the throttle once, the entire valley echoes with the noise. There is simply no other sound, when we stopped once for a break I was almost spooked out by the silence.
Once again we get to the tree limit, above which trees cannot grow.
We are pretty close to the top of the Umbrail pass, the air noticeably more chilly now.
Snow makes an appearance again, despite being June.
The view down the Val Münstair side of the Umbrail.
At the top of Umbrail is the Swiss – Italian border beyond which lies the road to Stelvio.
Since we were running out of daylight, it was a mad dash to the top of Stelvio, which lies entirely in Italy. It connects Bormio and South Tirol. It is also the highest mountain pass in Italy, and the second highest tarmac mountain pass of the Alps at 2757m or 9045 feet above the sea level.
Of course, I had to put something on the sign. Unfortunately, I was still waiting for my shipment of Speedhunters stickers, so for now these stickers I nicked from Martin had to do.
Pretty much right after that comes this famous stretch of asphalt on the South Tirol side of the Stelvio: the hairpin side which contains 48 numbered hairpins.
We parked up top for a few minutes just to admire the view.
Since we had to return home the same way we came, I decided to stay out and click away…
There was a cottage at the edge of the cliff which I assume contained some sort of a bar. Everytime Martin floored it, the sound of the boxer engine screamed across the valley and the people came outside yelling.
At first I thought we were causing some sort of a disturbance but when I saw them applaud as the car came up, all the worries went away.
Back on our way down on the western side of the Stelvio, I tried to eat the last bit of light that was available. We then headed back to the apartment for the night's rest because we had one more day of alpine mile burning ahead of us. More on that in part three.