A heritage to us. The history of the high altitude roads in the Western Alps.

A heritage to us. The history of the high altitude roads in the Western Alps.

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Activities: Mountain


Page By: chaberton

Created/Edited: Sep 1, 2012 / Jun 20, 2013

Object ID: 285013

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From the second half of the nineteenth century and until the beginning of World War II, were built in Piedmont and Aosta Valley, close to the borders and for military purposes, a number of important works of road engineering.
In the thirties, the then Minister of War, saw to improve and re-commission the system viable achieved in previous periods.

It is a precious thing of the past for us Mountain Biker.
Roads, bridle paths, footpaths, are still there, available to us. And they are all able to help us splendid and long excursions in the Western Alps. Ideal connection and peacefully today with similar work carried out by the French on the other side.

It is a treasure to be preserved and to go in silent admiration of the surrounding landscape, always remembering the efforts of all those who fought to build.

The 3000 meters Road.

John Loudon McAdam.


In the year 1820, the English John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), designed the method of construction of embankments of roads, which became the most widely used method for the construction of military roads.

The road surface became a waterproof and solid plan, with the task of redistributing the load to reduce the wear and tear caused by chariot wheels.

The immediate and widespread application of this method was due to several factors: the cost of the solution, the ease of obtaining the necessary equipment, the possibility of using unskilled labor.
From the structure of Mc Adam have arisen all the modern streets.


In the Alpine valleys of Piedmont, handed down the memory of some street fights and episodes of the war campaigns of the centuries XVI, XVII, XVIII.
Occurs with great frequency the traditional name of "Cannons Road", born from the imagination of mountaineers. In fact, in the military documents of the time, for reasons of secrecy, these roads often remained unnamed, or were simply called "Strada Nova."

In the early nineteenth century, the fortifications were dismantled in piedmont by order of the French, and their service roads abandoned.
In 1862 the Kingdom of Italy was created in a special standing committee of defense tasked with reconstruction of the defense system, giving rise to the so-called "Alpine belt of the Strong." At the same time began a massive construction of roads Alpine to bring these communications border fortresses with the bottom of the valley.

In 1931 he was issued an official document of the cone Directive for the defensive organization of the Alps on the border with France.
Then followed an upheaval of the entire road network mountainous border area. The western Alps were inspected in every hill, passing closed and were erected dominant positions and shelters, and thousands of kilometers of roads, mule tracks and paths were built over a decade.
The military roads built in previous centuries were improved and restored to service.


Building a high mountain road.

Fundamental strategic Features:
The roads penetrating into security zones must be clearly visible and battered by the defense works.
They had to be structured so that it can quickly destroy bridges and tunnels.
Always had to be safe and feasible by the defenders.


Draw a road means to study the trend and mark it on the ground. A military road in the mountains, usually follows the inflections of the soil. In the high mountains had to choose the path most beneficial in relation to wind, snow and frost all'umdidità.

It was necessary to alternate the climbs with short rest, almost horizontal. The manufacturer must draw the outline road with a track made of pillars and stakes. Then he could begin the actual construction, which included: the formation of the road structure, the construction of roadbed and laying gravel.

The excavations were carried out, depending on the nature of the ground with shovels and blades (soft ground), with ax cutting blade (hard soil and gravel), with pickaxes and explosives (the rock of the mountains).
The reminders, said stringers, were carried out in horizontal layers, using the materials resulting from the earthworks or appropriate slots.
It proceeded to a leveling with giant rollers pulled by animals, to examine the characteristics and the required gradients. Then he began the construction of the road, forming a recess in the middle depths of 15 to 20 cm. After adjusting the plane of the casing, lay a layer of stones 10 cm high, it is consolidated and stretched a second layer of 5 cm, then a third, a fourth, until the total thickness reached the thirty centimeters.
The construction of military roads more important, or difficult to achieve, was usually entrusted to civil contractors trust. But many were those carried out with military manpower. The project manager, once the work was required to compile a comprehensive report, in a statement in part, were disclosed regulate the conduct and attitude of the staff at work.

Old Plan 1899.

Maintenance and rehabilitation of military roads.

The maintenance of military roads, once completed, was entrusted to the soldiers roadmen, under the responsibility of a corporal.
Each team of soldiers was entrusted roadmen: A wheelbarrow, a shovel, a ravine, a shovel and an iron rod.
Their tasks ernment essentially remove the snow, mud and spread the grooves in the rubble and gravel.
They must also keep clear of the roadway from the stones and landslides, maintaining clean gutters for Loscolo water.
The road had to be traveled to their assigned daily.
Often the command entered into contracts with private companies for the maintenance of military roads.

Classification of Military Roads in the 30's.

Main Roads: width 3.50 meters (single transit), 6 meters (if double transit). Fund artificial slope up to 7%. Curves with a minimum radius of 15 meters.

Secondary Roads: width of 3 meters, 5 if double transit background artificial, maximum gradient 12%, curves with a minimum radius of 8 meters.

Trailerable: width 2.20 m, maximum gradient 20%, minimum curve radius 5 meters.

Mule tracks: width 1.5 m, maximum gradient 30%, minimum radius curves 3 meters.
Trails: width 0.80 meters.

A road to Col des Acles.

A road to Montgenévre

Yesterday - Today.






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