Sunday, November 08, 2009

Alps. Italian Side, Alps. Gran San Bernardo Pass. Great Saint Bernard Pass.

 The Great Saint Bernard Pass
The Gran San Bernardo Pass
Italian Side, Alps

Continue to Swiss Side at Switzerland Road Ways, San Bernardo Pass

The Gran San Bernardo is an ancient and treacherous pass through the Alps: Switzerland on one side, Italy on the other. Conquerors, emissaries, migrations, tourists - all have climbed or ridden very carefully, and some with great suffering, through and over and even under it. There is now an alternative for modern rush days - take the tunnel, if you must. Don't. Don't do it. Go once over the real thing. Motorcycles do, in swooping lines around blind turns; why not you.

Grand San Bernardo Pass, the approach, Italian Alps

Cliffs and hairpin turns, called switchbacks, repeat, up and up, around, then sudden street lamps mark the summit, a modern alert to vehicles that summit congestion is coming.  For foot travelers, climbers, or those on horseback or donkey, the way to the summit is marked by pyramid piles of rock called cairns. See more panoramic views of the way up at ://

At the summit, Italian side, find Saint Bernard himself, San Bernardo di Mentone, sometimes called San Bernardo di Aosta because he was born near Aosta, Italy, at Mentone, in 1023 or so.  See this translation of his life at ://  Do a search for that, and hit the translation button.

The Saint.  He lived in these mountains for years, for most of each year, set up this comprehensive shelter hostel, equipped to serve travelers for longer periods as needed. Horses, cargo, all accommodated. However, it is disputed whether he did all that or not - see ://; the dates do not gibe for the founding and when he died, and the naming came centuries later.  History is never clear, and beliefs and tradition count for more than later facts, is that so? Sure.

There are a number of buildings at the summit: for coffee, for rescue equipment, bad weather lay-overs, a good stretch.   Before starting up the Pass, put your fleece or sweaters at the top of your stuff for an easy put-on at the top.

 Weather changes fast.  Here is the alpine lake at the summit, looking back at the Italian side with its hostel, the statue of Saint Bernard, and rest stop.  Sun breaking through, but that did not last.

Looking at the lake, there is a cross out there. Does it mark an event, or serve as a symbol for the monastery's activities. It does not stand out, but is there.

Fast weather changes. Still above freezing, but cold, windy.

We had periodic rain and hail on the way up, not serious, then back to sun part-time. See an overview of history and weather and famous people passing this way at :// 

Just around the lake is the passport checkpoint for Switzerland.  The border is not open because Switzerland is not part of the European Union.

This Pass is part of the ancient Via Francigena way of the pilgrims, coming from as far away as Canterbury, England, and other parts of Northern Europe, all the way to the Vatican. In the 900's, towns along the way were sizable.  See ://  You can walk it by yourself.  See

Now:  see the second half of the travel over the Gran San Bernardo, the Swiss side, at Switzerland Road Ways, Gran San Bernardo Pass.

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