Furka Pass, Switzerland

Climbing Mountains

The hills are alive with the sound of engines

Armed with an assortment of Como property magazines, we left Menaggio behind, zig-zagged our way over the hill and headed towards Lugano, Switzerland. I'd previously done a little homework here, joining Google streetview man on a reconnaissance mission to scout out the road around the lake. We thought we'd have a pretty lakeside drive along the SS340 and to some extent, we did. We crossed the border but seemed to spend as much time in a tunnel rather than admiring the views and to this day I'm not sure how, since the tunnel only seems to cover a short section. Odd but never mind.

On our way towards the Alps we kept to the smaller roads due to our lack of a motorway pass. Though we'd previously done our best to duck on and off the large roads, we'd had to hope there wasn't a sophisticated camera system that'd catch us for not having displayed a window sticker. However, the smaller roads generally shadow the motorways through the valleys, so we still made good progress, as well as having time to explore a bit along the way. It's a very pleasant drive through this 'Italian' part of Switzerland and whilst stopped in the small town of Lodrino, we realised we were parked next to some WWII tank defences. Later, we'd find this to be the Lona Line - a 10km fortified line of concrete blocks forming a barrier across the valley floor.


The motorway was always close as we headed to the mountains, popping in and out of the hillsides on one side or the other. Sometimes below us, sometimes up on stilts way above us and it's obviously the most major northbound route. We intended to avoid it since we'd heard traffic can be heavy, especially towards the main tunnel through the mountains and indeed, we could see the motorway severely backed up as we flew past on the near deserted minor road.

I'd been looking forward to this day since we left England and as we homed in on Airolo, we began to see glimpses of the Gotthard Pass looming ahead on the mountainside. We waved goodbye to the main road and railway, disappearing into their tunnels as we pointed the car at the imposing landscape ahead of us. We were going over the top. The Gotthard Pass is a great road, wide and well surfaced, with awesome views and we made our way to an altitude of over 2000 metres before the long run down towards Andermatt. I've added more info on each pass we travelled and you'll find it all in the 'Extras' menu (↑) or follow the links on this page.

Next up was the infamous Furka Pass. It featured in Goldfinger and if James Bond could pilot an old Aston Martin over the top, I knew it'd be a breeze. However, the pass is narrow and blind in places and once you add huge drops into the recipe, it's a serious (although still fun) drive. Losing it on the Furka doesn't bear thinking about. There may be no second chance, do not pass start, no £200 - proceed directly to God. If you have a passenger who's feeling even slightly nervous, of the three high passes we were crossing today the Furka will be the most capable of testing a relationship. We stopped at the top at the Belvedere Hotel, adjacent to the Rhone glacier, to take in the stunning views and enjoy a cold beer in the sunshine.

Four minutes on the Furka

I've added a little more information in the Mountain Passes > Furka page in the Extras menu but for now, here's a taster of the road and you'll notice we drove it with a high degree of respect. Sadly the GoPro camera ran out of juice before we reached the western side, which is a shame as it's better surfaced and a lot quicker.

Warning: this video may contain cows and bad language.

We started our descent and rounded one of the upper hairpins to find a guy leaning towards us at the side of the road, hand cupped to his ear. I gave him an earful of V8 as we charged off down the mountain in the direction of the Grimsel Pass, looming ahead and looking like it had a lot of potential, decibel-wise.


The Grimsel Pass

We hit the bottom of the Grimsel Pass and became an unofficial member of a UK motorcycle club, having a lot of fun winding our way up the mountainside, braking hard into the hairpins and making a lot of noise accelerating along the straights. There were some road works on the way up and each time the bikers stopped, all big grins and giving each other the thumbs-up, they surely noticed the red Ferrari constantly in their midst, joining in the blast uphill. Dropping down the other side on a very picturesque drive, we were joined by a black Ferrari 458 and through the bends and tunnels, we produced a soundtrack that would've made the late Enzo Ferrari proud. Once down we made our way past Interlaken, at one point directly facing a police car at a junction where our only option was a short motorway section - oops! We knew that any officer looking towards the car would notice the very obvious lack of any motorway sticker in our windscreen. Luckily, the green light saw us head in different directions so off we shot off to the ski resort of Grindelwald – our home for the next three nights.

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