The highest climbs of Europe #12 - Timmelsjoch

Sunday 17 May 2020 by Frank Jansen

If the Ötztaler Radmarathon is the king of the gran fondo's, the Timmelsjoch is the king's crown. This climb has everything that makes cycling in the mountains so beautiful. Words can't describe the beauty of this one, it's something you'll have to experience yourself. 


Picture 1 (Adobe Stock):  The stunning switchbacks of the Timmelsjoch

Timmelsjoch/Passo Rombo

Country: Austria/Italy
Height: 2509 meters


The Timmelsjoch's ranking in this list is controversial. Some sources, including Wikipedia, say the summit lies at 2474 meters, which would mean it would be a few ranks lower. But the col sign says 2509 meters, which we'll follow. This mountain pas connects Austrian Tirol to the South Tirol in Italy. Both regions formed a unity for many ages, but the allies assigned it to Italy after the First World War. 

Today, little is Italian about South Tirol. The vast majority of the people speaks German and many feel connected to the former home country. In this area, one can find the Dolomites and many other famous mountain passes. Austrian Tirol is a cycling heaven. We'll run into this area a few more times in this list. This region is magnificent for (cycling) holidays. 

The name Timmelsjoch is known for centuries. In the 1930's, the name Passo Rombo was artificially added, but no one really uses it. 

The south side

Starting from Sankt Leonard im Passeier, the south side is the most famous one. It's the final climb in the Ötztaler Radmarathon. 29 km of sheer agony. After an easy start, the climb really gets underway from Moos and will not let you go. It's suffering for kilometres long, there seems to be no end. But suddenly, 5k of false flat. From here, you have a stunning view on what's next. The road is located beautifully against the mountain ridge, resembling a ribbon. This 8 km section is 10% or more. When you arrive at the tunnel, the worst is over. The last 2 km to the top are fine. The Timmelsjoch is a true 5 star climb.

The north side

This side is not much easier, but lacks the style of the south side. Most people consider Sölden to be the starting point. From here, it's 24 km to the top. If you're not afraid of an additional 38 km, you might also start from Ötztal Bahnhof. Which brings the total length to a staggering 62 km! The real climbing starts in Sölden. Apart from a sew steep sections, it's a good climb.  After the tollgate there's even a short descent. The last 5 km are tough. The landscape is desolate, which makes it mentally challenging. If you're descending enthusiast, this section is one to remember. 100 kph s possible on the straight end. 

Cycling history

The Timmelsjoch was only part of a Grand Tour once. The 1988 Giro passed the summit in stage 16, which ended in Innsbruck. That was two days before the famous and legendary stage over the Gavia.

In 2017, the Pro Ötztaler 5500 was organized for the first time. This UCI 1.1 race was won by Roman Kreuziger. Watch the video. Unfortunately the day didn't return to the calendar due to a lack of media attention. 

Gran fondo's

Ötztaler Radmarathon


TimmelsjochTimmelsjoch north

TimmelsjochTimmelsjoch south



Click on the images to download the routes.

The highest climb in Europe, the list

12 Timmelsjoch /
Passo Rombo
13 Pass Umbrail Switzerland
14 Colle delle Fauniera /
Colle dei Morti 
Italy 2481
15 Nufenenpass /
Passo della Novena
Switzerland 2477
16 Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard /
Colle del Gran San Bernardo
17 Furkapass Switzerland 2436
18 Roque de los Muchachos Spain 2426
19 Hochwurtenspeicher Austria 2421
20 Col du Granon France 2413



Picture 2 (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): South side


Picture 3 (Adobe Stock): The view on the last serie of switchbacks


Picture 4 (Adobe Stock): The famous switchbacks


Picture 5 (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols): South side


Picture 6 (Adobe Stock): Rough


Picture 7 (Adobe Stock): 100 kph for the brave


Picture 8 (Adobe Stock): North side, desolate


Picture 9 (Adobe Stock): North side


Picture 10 (Michiel van Lonkhuizen - CyclingCols)North side


Picture 11 (Wikimedia Commons - Regasterios): Sign on the summit

Related stories

© C Y C L O C A L E N D A R (2014 - 2020)