In Alps, Cycling Switzerland, Swiss Alps

Cycling the Sanetsch Pass

Sanetsch Pass (Fr: Col du Sanetsch) is a high pass that leads to a lovely alpine reservoir,  the Lac de Sanetsch. You can start the ride in Sion or Conthey.

The Sanetsch Pass is a dead-end road and therefore has very little traffic. In addition to seeing very few cars all day, I didn’t see that many cyclists either. It really is true that Switzerland is cycling’s best kept secret. The roads are in great condition, the climbs are just massive, the views are hors catégorie, and the traffic is much lighter compared to more popular (and usually lesser) climbs in France, Italy, and Spain.

Climb Stats:

  • Highest point of road: 2252 meters
  • Length from Conthey: 26km
  • Average gradient: 6.7%

Note: In answer to many questions I’ve had, there are no climbs in North America that remotely compare to the gestalt of cycling Europe’s best cols and passes, thus America is excluded from any comparisons. If pressed to make a US comparison I’d say Pikes Peak would my pick for top gestalt-climb. It is hard, the road is in great condition and is fairly quiet on weekdays, the scenery is pretty good, and it’s a very very hard climb. Independence, Cottonwood, Trail Ridge all get honorable mentions. Ouray, CO on a mtn bike or cross/gravel bike is stunning.

Climbs I have not done but have gestalt-potential are Haleakala Volcano (HI), Hurricane Ridge (WA). Why no Mount Lemmon or Mt. Evans? Lemmon is big and interesting but not hard enough to make the list. Mt. Evans is very hard but the road is too shitty to make the list. If you have suggestions for best US gestalt climbs please let me know!

Cycling Sanetsch Pass and looking back at conthey

I started in Conthey. The ride out of town is almost entirely in vineyards.


The Ritchey on the lower slopes of Sanetsch Pass

The Ritchey on the lower slopes of Sanetsch Pass.


beautiful mountain view while cycling Sanetsch Pass

The views get better and better as you cycling up Sanetsch Pass. In the lower center of the picture you can see several switchbacks.


Another great view, getting near the top of Sanetsch Pass

Another great view, getting near the top of Sanetsch Pass.


tunnel at top of Sanetsch Pass

If you have ridden this far you have one more test: The Tunnel. It is unlit and was fairly muddy on this day. A tail light is recommended and I brought a headlamp as well.


hut on top of sanetsch pass

This is interesting. This little hut is in the natural shelter of a natural rock formation (according to my geologist daughter).


lac du sanetsch in distance

This is a high alpine meadow over the top of Sanetsch Pass. You can see Lac du Sanetsch in the distance. That is the end of the road.


top of sanetsch pass

Almost to the end of the road now. Not much farther to ride.


The Ritchey with Lac du Sanetsch.

The Ritchey with Lac du Sanetsch and stunning views.


Pan shot while cycling near top of Sanetsch Pass

Pan shot near top of Sanetsch Pass.


top of sanetsch pass

Pan at top of Sanetsch Pass. You are well above tree-line at this point so expect much cooler temperatures and some wind.


Sanetsch pass before the tunnel, looking south

Back to Conthey, great views from top, looking south, right before the tunnel.

To Ride or Not to Ride

YES! This is a fantastic climb. It has everything: difficulty, tranquility, an excellent road, and stunning views. This ride also gives you an option to go easier or harder if you want. f you are not feeling up to doing this ride after you start in Conthey, you can take a left about 4 km in and ascend to beautiful Derborence. Or you could to both Derborence and Sanetsch Pass in one day. That would be a big day.

The Col Collective road the Col du Sanetsch with Alain Rumpf from the Grand Tours Project. By the way, if you want to do a seriously excellent cycling tour in Switzerland (and a lot of other great places in Europe) contact Alain. They do some very cool and inovative cycling tours.

Sanetsch Pass Strava Map

Recommended Posts