Passo Fedaia

Intimidating even in name, mostly unlovely in appearance and repellently steep in gradient, this is the mountain that generations of cyclists have loved to hate, or hated to love.

The Passo Fedaia is one of the main legendary climbs in the Dolomites mountain region of Northern Italy along with the Passo Pordoi and Passo Giau.

It has been described as the toughest of the three, and one portion in particular of the climb from Caprile has become infamous. Variously dubbed the graveyard of champions, the valley of death or the corridor of fear, the unbending, unending three-kilometre shaft beginning just before Malga Ciapela, five-and-a-half kilometres from the summit, is one of the most feared stretches of any Italian ascent. Shorter but even steeper and straighter than the notorious segment between Saint Estève and Chalet Reynard on the southern side of Mont Ventoux, it is one of those cycling meccas elevated to that status purely by virtue of its brutality. From Capanna Bill rifugio rising to 18 per cent at its most severe, the gradient never dips below 12 per cent for three kilometres. Two-time Giro champion Gilberto Simoni believed this section made the Fedaia ‘probably the hardest climb in Italy’. And the 1988 winner Andy Hampsten reckoned it was ‘definitely one of the hardest climbs [in professional cycling] – it’s like someone’s horribly steep driveway.’

The Climb in Detail

“If there is such a thing as the ugly duckling of Dolomite passes, then it is the Fedaia, not that this brute can be likened to anything remotely small or docile" - Mountain High

The Ascents

From Caprile the Passo Fedaia lulls you into a false sense of security with the first 6 km meandering at a pretty low gradient. After this point though the climb is exceptionally steep for a mountain pass. 18% at Malga Ciapela all the way to Capanna Bill the road doesn’t really let up until the summit at 2057 metres. Two time Giro winner Gilberto Simoni believed the Malga Ciapela section made the Fedaia ‘probably the hardest climb in Italy’.


The Marmolada

The Marmolada is the highest mountain in the Dolomites at 3,343 metres. It looms over the summit of the Fedaia and Pordoi climbs. It was first scaled in 1864 by the Austrian Paul Grohmann, a prolific collector of Dolomite peaks. The Englishman and president of the Alpine Club, John Ball, had unsuccessfully attempted the same ascent four years earlier. Today, just about anyone can reach the glacier that cloaks the north side via a cable car departing from the pass.

It’s place at the Giro d’Italia

The Corsa Rosa had been due to take on the Fedaia for the first time in 1969. But race organizer Vincenzo Torriani’s experiment was to end in tears, as bad weather forced the cancellation of a stage scheduled to finish at Malga Ciapela. The Fedaia was back the next year with a win from Italian Michele Dancelli who beat out the great Eddy Merckx for the top of the podium. The Fedaia was also where Marco Pantani added to his legendary status when in 1996 he rode away from Russian Pavel Tonkov and was re-nicknamed from Elefantino – to the more menacing il Pirata.


"Probably the hardest climb in Italy"! - Two-time Giro Champion Gilberto Simoni

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