In and around Zurich are some of the finest hill climbs the Alps have to offer, all of which were famous during the prewar races such as the Klaus races from 1922 to 1934 which were by far the best known and most difficult hill climbs of that time.
The Klausen is the first “major” alpine pass you reach driving south from Zurich, in fact, using the highway you can be at the foot of the pass in a little over 1 hour – it really is a passage directly into the heart of the Alps.
The great thing about the Klausen pass, unlike some other passes, is there is a highway alternative, therefore the traffic on the pass is really on local, or people (like ourselves) looking for some driving thrills!
Some History – the Klausen Pass is home of the legendary Klausen Run (Klausenrennen), a 21.5 kilometer prewar hill climb. More recently a vintage event is run every 4-5 years, the last race taking place in 2006. The race (and of course the pass) consisted of 136 curves with a difference in altitude of 1237 meters (bottom to top). In 2006 the race was labeled by far the craziest mountain motor race in Europe with over 40’000 spectators and was honored in Stoneleigh Park with the prestigious “Speed Event of the Year” award. The Klausen Race Committee plans to launch in September 2011 the Fifth International Klausen Race under the direction of the Glarner, Fritz Trümpi. Full details of this event at www.klausenrennen.com.
Enough about the event – for those not planning on entering in their vintage car, here’s a brief run down of what is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled Alpine Passes in Switzerland.
On entering the start of the pass at Glarus you drive a short stretch along the original pass cobbles. The road then quickly winds up through a forest section, taking in several high speed sweeping turns, before a series of tight switchbacks. You then continue through through several small tunnels, with another straighter stretch through the forest – a fantastic adrenaline rush. Keep your wits about you though as this stretch is rather tight, and some of the cambers on the old cobbled stretches can catch you out, especially if you a running very low suspension.
As the road starts to level, you suddenly burst through the forest and onto a 5 km long Alpine Plateau. Here to your right are some of the most spectacular sky-scraping granite peaks you are likely to see anywhere in the Alps. Drive this plateau taking in the sights, but again be mindful of the undulations, these can catch you out and we bottomed our lowered 911 out on several occasions 😦
At the end of the plateau, at what then appears to be a dead end to the valley (granite walls all around you) are several nice waterfalls (most powerful in late spring / early summer) that you can park up nearby then walk directly up to. However, you are certainly not stuck at a dead end! Look right and you will see the next stretch of the hill climb, literally carved into the rock face, up and out of this basin. Something like around 40 turns later you are at the top – once here we recommend that you stop at the Klausen Cafe for a coffee and to catch your breath. The ride back down is not as spectacular, and needs to be taken with caution as there are several sections near the top with flimsy barriers and sheer drop offs! However, once though this stretch you are back to some great sweeping turns, then once again into the Alpine forests. Lower down the valley there is an unbelievable waterfall across the valley that drops several hundred meters into the green abyss, rare these days as most are tapped for electric power generation.
The Pass opens first week of June, subject to prevailing weather, you too can take part in this fantastic experience via the ultimate drives website. Let us know what you thought, and of course stay tuned for more of the best prewar uphill climbs.