Friday, February 10, 2012

Jerry Visits Scanuppia - Malga Palazzo

We've written in the past about the terrible Scanuppia - Malga Palazzo climb (links to these reports at the end). We now have a report from Jerry from his visit this past summer while he was touring the Alps, the following in an excerpt from his compete tour report which you can read here.

Scanuppia - Malga Palazzo

"A wonderful morning again this day and no rain at all this day. I tried to get away reasonably early, but guess this is still around 9 am for me. I had decided to take the easy road over Vigolo Vattaro (725m) (a pass) and then go down south in the huge valley between Verona and Bolzano. Early on up to Vigolo Vattaro I got company with a local cyclist so I got warm and even went away from him before the top. Then I headed down toward Trento, but took off on a small road down to south of Mattarello (195m) (the first photo is from the narrow passage through Mattarello di Sopra).

Now the main road down here is pretty boring and trafficated, but after a while I remembered that I had thoughts about going up in Besenello to the start of the steepest paved road in the world Scanuppia - Malga Palazzo (or at the very least one of the 10 steepest, depending on over how long distance one talks about). I know both that it would be too steep for a road bike and had advised a guy against going here earlier this year and now felt a bit like betraying him, when I myself now wanted to go there. But also that it is not allowed any longer for bicyclists, since it became common knowledge that this was perhaps the hardest climb anywhere (there are some other challengers though) and cyclists came here and caused an additional hazard for the people using it with 4-wheel drive vehicles and for the cyclists themselves.

Yes, let’s get up and have a look at the classic 45% warning sign, I thought, and then go back. I went into the village and soon found the way out in the right direction. The road to the start of the steep road is quite steep itself with up to 16-17% and climbs quickly 100m. Just as I arrived at the sign announcing that cyclists are forbidden to go up here and the 45% sign, a Jeep arrived with two men looking serious and who stopped to tell me the obvious – that the road was forbidden to cyclists and that it would be dangerous and totally unsuitable for my kind of bicycle.

I told them that I knew and that I was just curious to see the start of the road. Then they got a bit happier, but just as they were about to take off, they stopped again to ask me if maybe I wanted to see more of the road and they offered to take me along on the Jeep. Why not, I thought – how could I possibly say no to such an offer. It was not like I would have wanted to try the road with my road bike anyway, because it was quite clear to me already at the start that it would not be worth the trouble and that I would not get many metres up there. They had no straps for fastening my bike on the top of the car, but oddly enough it turned out that it was possible to place it so that it did not get any damage, nor would it move and it actually stayed perfectly on the roof all the way up.

I jumped in and we set off. This was cool! I went up in a Jeep on the Engineer Mountain in Colorado (2007) with an experienced driver on an hilarious road (and bad one), but this road was more hilarious in terms of its steepness! They could make it a profitable tourist attraction without any doubt if they so wanted. They lived up along this road in a little house (with good views) and there were some more houses up here too. I stopped for a coffee at the house and we talked a little. There is actually quite a climb left up to the end of the concrete pavement (it too steep to use asphalt on a road like this), but it felt rather uninteresting in comparison to the steepest section that we were above. I see on the profile for the climb that it is never less steep on average than 13.2% and still it felt like the road was pretty flat around where they lived.

They warned me a thousand times of not trying to cycle down back again (as if I did not understand the problem) and I promised I would be careful and walk most of the way down. We had some photos and I thanked them and said goodbye. Quite nice people! I explained that I intended to get up to Passo Bordala, which we could see from their window, but later I had to realise that I had spent too much time up here to be able to make it over the Bordala pass (but I am not sorry for that). I cycled down to where the steep part starts on the bumpy concrete (deliberately made uneven to make it possible to get up with a car). Then I stopped to take lots and lots of photos on the way down. Now I was really sad I had no more film with me (last photo was the first one on the page here and I only had my old bad iPhone camera here and for two days now).

I did try and cycle part of the steep road down, but had to get off before it was too late (really not recommended to try this!). Here one MUST have disc brakes as ordinary brakes are simply no good. I heard some squeaking sound from my brakes at one time and was worried they would break down (I am not overstating this). I had two cars coming down and one of them (at the top) also stopped to warn me. Actually it is pretty dangerous walking down here in bicycle shoes as I did as the concrete is a bit shiny and could be slippery.

However, 45% is a bit more than you will find. Like some have said, maybe it is 45% in one or two insides of the curves, but otherwise it is merely around 33-35% most of the time. On average I guess it is only close to 25% for 2 km, but again, you have likely never seen anything so steep, so. I remember walking down from Viderjoch between Ischgl in Austria and the Samnaun valley in Switzerland and there it was 42-43% steep ramps, but even them did not come across as much steeper than this. Anyway it is a fascinating road and I am happy that I got to see it!"

Related stories:
The hardest climb in Italy, perhaps Europe
The Sick Thing: Scanuppia + Malga Palazzo from Besenello
The Sick Thing: VIDEO Scanuppia + Malga Palazzo from Besenello, Part II

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  1. That is awesome. the calculation comes to 17.5% average over 7.5km's. That is like the Koppenberg, just 20 times longer.

  2. USA has these downhill races but this road looks too narrow for a number of cyclists to coast down.

    Good article and pictures.