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28 Mar 2024

The height of driving pleasure

Why visit just one gorgeous alpine pass when you can visit 22?

This trip was inspired by the Porsche Drive book 15 Passes in 4 Days. Having read the book, looked at some related YouTube videos and chatted to a couple of friends, plans were put in place to do one of our own during the winter. We had originally planned to go in June but, for various reasons, this slipped to September. Things were slightly upset by Ollie blowing up his 997 Turbo shortly before the off, but his dad Malcolm was prepared to share the driving of his recently acquired 718 Spyder.

Most of the early planning was done using MyRouteApp and I started by listing the passes, putting them into the app and then figuring out the best way to split them into what was reasonable for a day’s driving while also having stops with accommodation. Further waypoints were added and daily mileage was kept to a fairly low and nominal 220-270 miles. This would allow for multiple drives of some passes, as well as breaks for food, taking pictures and so on. Once the route was finalised, I programmed the PCM with the same route and saved it to Stored Tours in My Destinations, as I find the twin screens of my 992 useful and it handles waypoints better than Google.
Looking at the geography, it became apparent that some additional passes could be added to the itinerary and we could still keep within the four days. We increased the total to 20, which subsequently grew to 22 due to their proximity to the route and not wanting to miss anything. These were logically grouped into Klausen, Furka, Grimsel, Brünig, Susten, Nufenen, St Gotthard and Oberalp on the first day, Flüela, Albula and Bernina on the second day, Stelvio, Pordoi, Gardena/Grödnerjoch, Sellajoch, Valparola, Falzarego and Giau on the third day and Drei Zinnen/Tre Croci, Grossglockner and Gerlos on the final day.


Once we made it through France, we started with the Klausen before moving on to the iconic Swiss passes around Andermatt, taking in Furka, Grimsel, Brünig, Susten, Furka again, Nufenen and St Gotthard in a figure of eight to get the best of things. We were doing this on a Sunday and had made an early start to avoid the traffic but, by about 11am, things were getting busier and this prompted an earlyish lunch. Traffic was less of a problem in the afternoon, when we hit the Nufenen, Susten, St Gotthard and Oberalp Passes. 
The second day in the Flüela, Albula and Bernina Passes provided some of the best driving on the trip. Although there were fewer hairpins, there were loads of fast open bends with good visibility, little traffic and good scenery, along with some straights on which we could stretch our legs. Some of the scenery was not the usual alpine backdrop, but was no less appealing for it. 
We were staying overnight near the Stelvio, which allowed us to give it a try in the evening before it got dark. This was on the Bormio side which, in my humble opinion, is much better than the much-photographed East side. While the former is more open and variable, the latter is narrower with lots of hairpins that mean other vehicles, particularly bikes, coming the other way and often encroaching on the wrong side of the road. Blind hairpins are not my thing! While the Stelvio is iconic, has fantastic scenery and is a great drive, there are numerous other passes that I would rate as more enjoyable. 

Having done the Stelvio a second time on the third day, we had the only tedious driving of the trip as we headed east towards the Dolomites. The afternoon made up for it as we arrived at the Pordoi and did a loop through the Gardena/Grödnerjoch, Sellajoch and the Pordoi (again) before heading off to the Valparola, Falzarego and Giau. Looking back, we would have liked to have spent more time here taking in the scenery. It was my first visit to the Dolomites and they were stunning, putting the Swiss scenery in the shade. Although the sights did attract traffic, there were enough fast open roads to make it enjoyable. Next time (which will surely come), we will stay local, hit the roads both early and late to enjoy them and do some sightseeing towards the middle of the day.
The next day started with Drei Zinnen/Tre Croci before heading east and then north towards the Grossglockner. Unfortunately, our arrival in Austria coincided with the first rain we had seen and the road was very wet by the time we arrived at the Grossglockner toll gate. It did little to take away from the stunning scenery and allowed for some atmospheric views down onto the clouds, though, and at least the traffic was quite light! Having done the Grossglockner, we headed west and through the final pass, the Gerlos, on the way to the hotel in Königsleiten.
The weather cleared for the final day and we headed off to the Black Forest. Again, we stuck to side roads, as we did all the way back to Calais via another overnight stay in Sedan. This highlighted another positive of the trip – if you are on a driving trip through France, the D roads can offer as much fun as any others. We left Sedan fairly early and had a fantastic drive to Calais via the D993, among other roads. Although the satnav said it would have been quicker to use the Autoroutes, we pushed on and made it in the same time while having great fun.


At the end of the second day, sitting outside the hotel with beers in hand, we agreed that the Flüela had provided the best driving so far. It would hold that place for the entire trip. Road preferences are quite a personal thing and traffic, weather and the setting can have a major influence. Everyone has their own style of driving and there are roads and conditions that suit it, but we achieved consensus on the Flüela. The choice of car is also a factor and, although I was never conscious of the size of the 992, I couldn’t help thinking that a manual would have been more engaging. I would certainly have been keen to try the Spyder or have reverted to a 964 for some of the roads.
By the time I returned home, I had done 2,600 miles, averaged about 26mpg (around 20-22 in the more ‘interesting’ sections) and needed no oil. We had no problem finding fuel or getting caught by speed cameras – that we noticed. I must admit to having spent a lot of time planning the trip, but the outcome was well worth it and I can now plan the next variation. There are still a fair number of passes that need a look!

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