Hahntennjoch Pass / Austria
As you turn onto the Hahntennjoch pass, you just feel it's going to be something special. Surrounding peaks are tall, but not so aggressive (like some of the central Swiss Alps where you can become dizzy looking up). Tarmac is near perfect (typically Austrian) and that's exactly what the run to the top is.
The initial climb to the "official" start of the Hahntennjoch pass is quite tight, with some scary drop offs. It's a green and beautiful valley with a fair number of lay-bys on the way up to stop and admire the views. This stretch is also a little busier as it serves a couple of towns in the lower valley - but thank heavens for the run over the top caravans have been banned, that's one less concern!
Shortly before the Hahntennjoch pass begins there is a short section, probably around 1km long where you drop into a gorge, with high rock faces on either side, this has an amazing series of 8 to 10 sweeping cambered bends on "perfect" tarmac (due to the camber one actually makes you feel you are climbing the wall of the valley, wall of death style). This stretch though is wide enough to provide a clear view ahead and steep enough you can really attack the road, and with great soundtracks echoing off the surrounding rock faces, it's really quite special……turn around and drive this stretch again if you've got the time. Shortly after this section, and just before Boden, you turn left onto the official ascent to the pass. From here it's 19km to Imst, 19km of fun.
The first section is of the Hahntennjoch pass tight, very tight, with a series of 180 degree switchbacks, take this section carefully, again there can be cyclists about who are difficult to see. We met a pair of enthusiastic Caterham drivers coming back down the pass, all smiles, hmmm what's in store? The road now starts to open into wider sweepers hugging one side of the valley. Again perfect tarmac as you pass through some beautiful scenic spots, Austrian picture postcard all the way to the top.
The run back down the Hahntennjoch is a completely different proposition. First off all, it's looks more like something from the moon, this side of the pass is way more exposed to the elements, and there's not a lot growing at over 2000M. But forget the scenery, the run back down is spectacular. After some initial wide sweeping turns, the road is then literally "carved" into the rock, with a series of around 20 tight 90 degree corners along a breathtaking 2km stretch. If you get here early morning when the road is clear, this really is a test of your nerves (and brakes).
For the final stretch of the Hahntennjoch pass you then drop into the wooded areas, and the road begins to straighten – the danger is not yet over, we came over the crest to be confronted by two dozen angry looking Austrian Highland Cattle, are they brake testing me? After this final stretch, and a bump over the cattle grate (now understood), the final descent is a smooth run to the valley floor and down to Imst.
This Hahntennjoch really does deserve a spot in our top 10, and well worth including in any excursion to the Alps.
Note: Approach the Hahntennjoch pass from the north, it's way way better to drive this way around.22