The highest climbs of Europe #6 - Kaunertal

Thursday 25 June 2020 by Frank Jansen

The Kaunertal is the 6th highest slope in Europe and yet relatively unknown. Completely unjustified, this Austrian pearl is one of the most beautiful climbs you can do. A torment for the legs, a feast for the eyes.


Foto 1: Great view on the valley and the switchbacks


Country: Austria
Hight: 2750 meter


It's striking that the Kaunertal is relatively unknown. This dead end climb is located near Prato where the Stelvio begins. Yet few cycling tourists seem to care about this pearl. The Kaunertal is one of the great valleys in Tyrol. There is hardly any habitation, you don't have to worry about traffic. It's nice to know that this climb is not closed for the winter, because it leads to a ski resort. So if you're in the area for skiing (for example in Fiss - Serfaus - Ladis), you might be bold, bring your bike and ride to the top when the weather's good.

The north side

The Kaunertal is a dead end that begins in the Austrian town of Prutz. The 39 kilometer long road is clearly signposted. Via 29 hairpin bends you reach the end point: the Kaunertal Glacier. The first 20 kilometers to the reservoir are relatively easy. Although some steep stretches wil hurt quite a bit. Especially just before the dam the muscles are tested. The view on the Gepatsch Stausee is a postcard. At the restaurant you can catch your breath and enjoy the white peaks.

Along the water you cycle relatively flat, but shortly after the apotheosis starts. 12 kilometers long you will be tested. Up to the top gradients barely fall below 10%. Through a series of hairpins you leave the last tree behind you. The surroundings here consist only of grass and grit. Until the grass also stops. In the meantime the glacier becomes more and more visible and the view of the snowy peaks becomes more beautiful every meter. But you can hardly enjoy. The last mile in this lunar landscape is suffering to the max. The glacier itself is less impressive than the Rettenbachferner in the Ötztal, but certainly worth seeing. In the large restaurant you can catch your breath and let the hellish climb get to you.  

Yes, the Kaunertal is extreme in everything. Extremely long, extremely heavy and extremely beautiful. An absolute must!

Cycling history

The Grand Tours never showed up here. In the 90's the Österreich Radrundfahrt had several times planned a finish at the glacier.

Gran fondos

Kaunertaler Gletscherkaiser



Routes and loops

We can be short about the route. From Prutz it's immer gerade aus. Much more can't be said about this one.

Click on the images to download the route.

The highest climbs in Europe, the list

6 Kaunertal
7 Colle dell'Agnello
Col Agnel
8 Passo Gavia
Italy 2632
9 Col du Galibier
France 2632
10 Colle del Nivolet
Italy 2632
11 Grossglockner
Austria 2571
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 (Herman Nekkers): The start from Prutz


Picture 3 (Herman Nekkers): 29 corners bring you to the top


Picture 4 (Herman Nekkers): The road is sitting against the mountain


Picture5 (Herman Nekkers): Gepatsch Stausee


Picture 6 (Henk Postma): For long there's a view on the Gepatsch Stausee


Picture 7 (Adobe Stock): The Gepatsch Stausee leaves you behind


Picture 8 (Herman Nekkers): 12%, it won't be easier towards the summit.


Picture 9 (Herman Nekkers): Great switchbacks in a green landscape


Picture 10 (Herman Nekkers): The glacier comes close.


Picture 11 (Herman Nekkers): The Weisssee


Picture 12 (Adobe Stock): Lunal landscape


Picture 13 (Adobe Stock):  The very steep last part


Picture 14 (Herman Nekkers): Reached the summit

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