European Mountain Summit 2022 by SAC part two

Day 3

The road book announced this day as a ‘long day’. So extra early out of bed and a very early breakfast. We chose to sleep in hotels and b&b’s this time, unlike the Scotlandrally a few years ago. During the reservations, we also looked to see if breakfast was provided, so we didn’t have to look for food early in the morning.

Today’s trip took us from the Lombardy region to Piedmont where a gathering of participants was planned in the evening.

The road headed towards Switzerland where we passed the fashionable St Moritz before soon crossing back across the Italian border. We drove past Lago di Montespluga after which we could start our first roadmission of the day.


The pass is 2114 metres high and has an average gradient of 9.1%. At the summit is the border crossing between Switzerland and Italy. The Splügenpass also forms the border between the Eastern and Western Alps. The pass is known for having narrow roads and extremely sharp hairpin bends. The many tunnels add variety to the drive. In Splügen, we drove further west on our way to the next mountain pass.

San Bernardino Pass

Today we would enter Italy three times in less than 24 hours. In fact, many border crossings are at the top than mountain passes. At 2066 metres, the San Bernardino Pass is one of the highest passes in the Swiss Alps.

The pass connects the valleys of Hinterrheim and Mesolcina between Thusis and Bellinzona. Spectacular views should not be expected here although the small lake at the top makes up for a lot. Once we leave the San Bernardino Pass we continue south past Lake Maggiore towards Alessandria where we are expected at Villa Gropella for the party.

Fauna & flora

Throughout the trip, it is constant enjoyment of the nature around you. The views are majestic and nature breathtaking. And then suddenly you see a large marmot come and have a look.

Castello Rally Party

To arrive at the party venue on time, the roadbook even stated that you could use 75km of motorway by high exception. We and many others with us gratefully took advantage of this. This also allowed us to arrive nicely on time and spend an evening relaxing and making some contacts with other teams. For instance, we sat together with the Swiss team 4R Services and the German-UK team Cool SAQs.

The BBQ provided by the organisation was well liked by most and both food and drinks were plentiful.

Day 4

Rather unexpectedly, this was to be the toughest day for us. However, also the day we might remember the longest. Today we drove from the Piedmont region towards Alpes-Maritimes. The intention was to do the prescribed two passes. And like the other nights, we took out the roadbook and map to see how we would drive. In the roadbook there was an entry about and eventual alternative route via the Col de Vars. But it also mentioned an additional exciting alternative via the Col du Parpaillon, an unpaved natural road. This pass connects La Condamine-Châtelard with Crévoux. So we put that in and when we get to that point we’ll see if we would drive it.


The roadbook suggested riding west via Turin towards the Colle delle Finestre. If we were to drive through Turin, I thought we should stop at the Fiat factory. After a fair bit of searching, we found a building with the name Fiat on it. Whether this was a former factory I couldn’t really tell from our blitz stop.

When you’re in an Italian metropolis, you almost have no choice but to drink coffee. So we made a stop at Cafe Costadoro to have a delicious cappuccino.

Colle delle Finestre

We reached the Col delle Finestre via the Strada provinciale 172. We ride on the old military road up the 2178-metre-high col, this is done via a non-paved path. In the roadbook, this is neatly reported so you know whether or not you want to continue here with your car. Big George obviously doesn’t turn his hand to this sort of thing and we were able to fully enjoy a slightly more challenging route.

Forte di Fenestrelle

Also mentioned in the road book is the Forte di Fenestrelle. This fort is located at the end of the pass and is the largest fort in Europe. In fact, it is said to be the second largest stone structure in the world after the Great Wall of China. We stopped there for a while and it is impressive regardless. Some drone footage shows even more the immense size.

More dirt roads and off-road

After the Colle delle Finestre, the roadbook refers to more dirt roads and off-road feeling via some coll’s that you can reach via the Strada provinciale 173. It involves six passes with a length of 42 kilometres. We decide not to do these and opt to do the Col d’Izoard first and then go for the much more challenging Col du Parpaillon. A good choice proved afterwards because on the other pass, a participant with a Toyota Hilux broke his right front wheel, causing those behind to stand still for over two hours.

Col d’Izoard

The Col d’Izoard connects Briançon in the north with Guillestre in the south. Almost at the summit which is 2361 metres high you come across the ‘Refuge Napoleon’.

You are then at 2290 metres so time for a short pee break and maybe a coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee machine was broken so we stuck to a soft drink. The view here is mostly very open and wide, otherwise not as spectacular as at the Colle delle Finestre. What does make the Col d’Izoard special is that it is very frequently included in the Tour de France. From 1922 to 2019, this col was part of the Tour no less than 34 times. During the Tour de France, this is an off-category climb.

Col du Parpaillon

In the roadbook, the Col du Parpaillon is described as an unpaved natural road. The summit is at 2780 metres but it is inaccessible by car. A little lower at 2637 metres is a 520-metre tunnel connecting La Condamine-Chatelard to Crévoux. When we arrived at this col, another participant approached us. They were driving a Volvo 240 and informed us that they really couldn’t do it with their car. According to them, Big George would do.

The rain was pouring down, making the climb look more difficult. After a while, we put the suspension on high and the gears on low. That way it went like a piece of cake. We had to be careful not to drive on sharp stones and we also tried to avoid the deepest potholes. Not that the car couldn’t handle it, but there were no off-road tyres on it. Because of the state of the road, we spent quite a few hours on the road.

However, we managed to complete the trip without any damage and have a wonderful memory. If you ever have the right vehicle and the right person sitting next to you, don’t hesitate and do this pass! For us, the highlight of the European Mountain Summit.

Just driving through the tunnel is an experience in itself and the views are simply breathtaking.

Mercantour National Park

Since we had actually started too late on the Col du Parpaillon, we had to ride the last hour and a half of descent in the dark. Fortunately, Big George was equipped with a strong Led bar so we could still see the stones and potholes clearly to avoid them. And so we arrived at the Mercantour National Park where we had booked a hotel. It was exciting for a while but luckily we could still get there at 10pm. Unfortunately, the hotel chef had already gone home and there was nothing left to eat in the surrounding area. Fortunately, we always have emergency food with us and when you are hungry, warmed up meatballs in tomato sauce taste so good.

Day 5

Today it was towards the finish, but not without doing two more challenging cols. The aim would be to arrive between 5pm and 6pm for the photo opportunity. After that, you had time to freshen up or look for your hotel with the intention of being back for the final ceremony around 20h00.

Cime de la Bonette

As the start of the final day, we suddenly got to do the highest trip of the entire rally. The Cime de la Bonette has a summit of 2860 metres.

The loop around the summit takes you up to 2802 metres and this is the highest paved road in Europe.

Even though our heads were literally in the clouds, the views in between were truly breathtaking. We were able to go up another little bit on foot so we were really on top! The way down pointed us towards Nice so that was the route to follow.


No, no pictures of Monaco. It was mentioned in the roadbook but there was also the note that it is very crowded and we might lose a lot of time there. We opted to drive the mountain passes and ignore Monaco. That’s for next time then 😊.

Col de Turini

Through the Mercantour National Park, we ride over the Col Saint-Martin until we reach the Col de Turini. The Col de Turini is the second road mission of the day. At 1607 metres high, this is not particularly spectacular and certainly not after the Cime de la Bonette.

But there is more, the Col de Turini is e.g. famous for the Rally de Monte Carlo that is held every year in January. Until a few years ago, race drivers drove up the mountain pass at night. Usually flanked by thousands of spectators. The route is a 31km long and is driven from La Bollène-Vésubie to the summit before descending to Sospel or vice versa. It is the technical highlight of the rally because of its many hairpin turns.


Time for the final stretch of the rally. Since we did not visit Monaco, we arrived at the Pampelonne beach nicely between 5 and 6pm. The drive there was rather difficult because of the very busy traffic on the coastal road. Since our b&b was located in Saint-Maxime, we drove over an hour to check in there. We therefore decided not to return for the ceremony. We had not participated in most of the challenges so we had no chance of winning anyway.

We ended the evening with a nice dinner and crawled under the covers early because tomorrow we had 1229km to drive back home.

Good cause

SAC asks you to raise a certain amount of money and donate it to a charity of your choice. It may sound strange but in our case, it gave a huge boost. We started having fun and at the same time we are helping people. Many times it will not get any better. We chose to sponsor the VZW Holdamhoeve and thanks to the many donations we were able to donate €1880; to them.

Along the way, we also tried to provide some moving images with the GoPro’s and the drone. Below you can find a short compilation of the last three days.


Those who book a road trip with Superlative Adventure Club and expect an all-inclusive holiday will be disappointed. Those looking for an adventure holiday have come to the right place. SAC actually offers you a sort of framework. The road book will give you the necessary directions that you can use to take up challenges on your own initiative. The much-used slogan ‘everything is possible but nothing is compulsory’ can be taken literally here. You find your own sleeping place during the day, so whether you want to stay in a luxury hotel or prefer a tent is entirely up to you.

We love the concept but I can well imagine that it is not for everyone. An important factor is that you like to be on the road because you spend many hours in the car. In return, you get an unimaginably beautiful trip that takes you to places you might probably never go otherwise. For more information, you can always visit SAC’s website.

A big thanks to our sponsors

Back to part one