Principal passes of the Alps
From west to east:
Detailed lists of passes are given by Alpine subdivision, see the following articles:
- Western Alps
- Eastern Alps
- Northern Limestone Alps
- Central Eastern Alps
- Southern Limestone Alps
Main chain, from west to east:
|Col de Tende Road Tunnel||Tende to Cuneo||France, Italy||3.2|
|Fréjus Road Tunnel||Modane to Susa||France, Italy||12.9|
|Mont Blanc Tunnel||Chamonix to Courmayeur||France, Italy||11.6|
|Great St Bernard Tunnel||Martigny to Aosta||Switzerland, Italy||5.9|
|St. Gotthard Tunnel||Göschenen to Airolo||Switzerland||17|
|San Bernardino Tunnel||Splügen to Bellinzona||Switzerland||7.7|
|Felbertauern Tunnel||Mittersill to Lienz||Austria||5.3|
|Tauern Road Tunnel||Eben im Pongau to Sankt Michael im Lungau||Austria||6.4|
Railway passes and tunnels
Main chain, from west to east:
|name||type||location||countries||length (km)||elevation (m)|
|Colle di Cadibona||pass||Savona to Ceva||Italy||436|
|Tunnel de Tende||tunnel||Tende to Cuneo||France, Italy||8.1|
|Fréjus Rail Tunnel||tunnel||Modane to Susa||France, Italy||13.7|
|Simplon Tunnel||tunnel||Brig to Domodossola||Switzerland, Italy||19.8|
|Oberalp Pass||pass||Andermatt to Disentis||Switzerland||2044|
|Gotthard Rail Tunnel||tunnel||Göschenen to Airolo||Switzerland||15|
|Bernina Pass||pass||Pontresina to Tirano||Switzerland||2323|
|Brenner Pass||pass||Innsbruck to Sterzing||Austria, Italy||1370|
|Tauern tunnel||tunnel||Bad Gastein to Obervellach||Austria||8.6|
|Schoberpass||pass||Liezen to Leoben||Austria||849|
|Präbichl||pass||Eisenerz to Leoben||Austria||1204|
|Semmering||tunnel||Gloggnitz to Mürzzuschlag||Austria||1.5||965|
||This article is largely based on an article in the out-of-copyright Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, which was produced in 1911. It should be brought up to date to reflect subsequent history or scholarship (including the references, if any). When you have completed the review, replace this notice with a simple note on this article's talk page. Thanks! (January 2011)|
Places where the Alps were crossed are called passes, and are points at which the alpine chain sinks to form depressions, up to which deep-cut valleys lead from the plains & hilly pre-mountainous zones. The oldest names for such passes are Mont (still retained in cases of Mont Cenis and Monte Moro), for it was many ages before this term was applied to mountains themselves, which with a few very rare exceptions (e.g. Monte Viso was known to the Romans as Vesulus) were for a long time disregarded.
Native inhabitants of the Alps were naturally the first to use the passes. The passes first became known to the outside world when the Romans crossed them to raid or conquer the region beyond. Romans, once having found an "easy" way across the chain, did not trouble to seek for harder and more devious routes. Hence, passes that can be shown as certainly known to them are relatively few in number: they are, in topographical order from west to east, the Col de l'Argentiere, the Col de Montgenèvre, the two St Bernard passes (Little St Bernard Pass and Great St. Bernard Pass), the Splügen Pass, the Septimer Pass, the Reschen Pass, the Brenner Pass, the Plöcken Pass, the Pontebba Pass (or Saifnitz Pass), the Radstädter Tauern Pass and the Solkscharte Pass or Sölk Pass.
Of these the Montgenèvre and the Brenner were the most frequented. In the Central Alps only two passes (the Splügen and the Septimer) were certainly known to the Romans. In fact the central portion of the Alps was by far the least Romanised region until the early Middle Ages. Thus the Simplon is first definitely mentioned in 1235, the St Gotthard in 1236, the Lukmanier in 965, the San Bernardino in 941; of course they may have been known before, but authentic history is silent as regards them till the dates specified. Even the Mont Cenis (from the 15th to the 19th century the favourite pass for travellers going from France to Italy) is first heard of only in 756.
In the 13th century many hitherto unknown passes came into prominence, even some of the easy glacier passes. In the Western and Central Alps there is only one ridge to cross, to which access is gained by a deep-cut valley, though often it would be shorter to cross a second pass in order to reach the plains, e.g. the Montgenèvre, that is most directly reached by the Col du Lautaret; and the Simplon, which is best reached by one of the lower passes over the western portion of the Bernese Oberland chain. On the other hand, in the Eastern Alps, it is generally necessary to cross three distinct ridges between the northern and southern plains, the Central ridge being the highest and most difficult to cross. Thus the passes which crossed a single ridge, and did not involve too great a detour through a long valley of approach, became the most important and the most popular, e.g. the Mont Cenis, the Great St Bernard, the St Gotthard, the Septimer and the Brenner.
As time went on the Alpine passes were improved to make travel easier. A few passes (e.g. the Semmering, the Brenner, the Col de Tende and the Arlberg) had carriage roads constructed before 1800, while those over the Umbrail and the Great St Bernard were not completed till the early years of the 20th century. Most of the carriage roads across the great alpine passes were thus constructed in the first half of the 19th century, largely due to the Napoleon's need for such roads as modes of military transport. As late as 1905, the highest pass over the main chain that had a carriage road was the Great St Bernard (8111 feet), but three still higher passes over side ridges have roads—the Stelvio Pass (9055 feet), the Col du Galibier (8721 feet), in the Dauphiné Alps, and the Umbrail Pass (8242 feet).
Railway lines, like the Brenner and the Pontebba lines, were added to speed travel through the passes and tunnels supplemented passes at the Col de Tenda, the Mont Cenis, the Simplon and the St Gotthard.
- List of highest paved roads in Europe
- List of mountain passes
- List of mountain passes in Switzerland
- Valleys of the Alps
- Pyatt, E. C. The Passage of the Alps: From Hannibal to the Motorway. London: Robert Hale, 1984.