It’s crazy, like finding Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. You stand agog and find yourself thinking, Wow! the Stairway to Heaven. It does exist!
The entire pass is a surreal experience like a computer-generated Holywood film backdrop of an imagined mountain pass, but for real.
Hotshot racers and weekend warriors buzz like little angry wasps up and down the Stelvio looking for substance or satisfaction and finding none. In amongst it all, boys and girls on bicycles quietly concentrate, stick to their task, hold their cadence, rhythm, and belief.
Climbing this mountain doesn’t mean anything unless you do it with your own efforts, under your own power.
Forty-eight bends, all different, not one the same. Steep cambers between hard stone and rigid battlement walls. Overweight German motorcyclists on Harley Davidsons struggle to manoeuvre 360-degree bends and stay upright - but fail.
Meanwhile, old hipsters freeze to death in open-top Porsches trying to look cool. Real men and women ride bicycles.
The Stelvio is military. Straight back, heavy boots marching in step up a black hard, unforgiving road. Strong men built this road, muscles bulging, orders given, orders taken, precise, disciplined, impeccable, definite.
Limitations set, adhered to, relished even. An arduous but accepted task.
This road will stand the test of time. Nothing else will suffice.
Over the top and out into an incredible white open landscape. The battlements and fortifications from long-forgotten wars fought by long-forgotten soldiers line the mountain-top ridges. Keeping a silent watch over the road from Bormio, the Passo Umbrail, and the Swiss border. An escape route for desperate people during desperate times.
Expect to freeze to death on the descent to Bormio or the Passo Umbrail. You will warm up, eventually. It might just take a couple of days.