Driving mountain passes. Over or under?

Bald Rick

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Some roads have "escape routes" but I can't recall seeing those on mountain passes; I suppose on really bendy sections all it would do is plough you onto the next bit of road. Also; using a sheep to save your breaks, sounds like a plan!!
There are on some French mountain passes, although normally they are just farm tracks off a hairpin. One of my friends brakes failed on his bike coming down a certain Pyrenean mountain, and very fortunately for him the next hairpin had just such an escape track. He wrecked his cleats trying to stop though, and no doubt his cycling shorts (although he didn’t admit this).
 
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cactustwirly

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I've no idea, but if you don't use engine braking on a long downhill of the kind we are talking about you will get brake fade. Even the signs tell you to do it ("Low gear for N miles").

I suspect the thing it tells you not to do is the old fashioned going down through the gears to slow down, which is a good way to wear out your clutch (expensive) and gearbox synchromesh (really expensive) as distinct from your brakes (about the cheapest thing to replace on a car).
Depends on the car, a small hatchback with drum brakes yes.
But a M3 with disk brakes you probably won't, as they're designed for high performance braking.
 

Meerkat

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Depends on the car, a small hatchback with drum brakes yes.
But a M3 with disk brakes you probably won't, as they're designed for high performance braking.
If you hammer an M3 down a long alpine pass I reckon the brakes will start to go a bit. It’s really hard work on them, some of the slopes are pretty severe even before you have to brake for the hairpins.
 

cactustwirly

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If you hammer an M3 down a long alpine pass I reckon the brakes will start to go a bit. It’s really hard work on them, some of the slopes are pretty severe even before you have to brake for the hairpins.
This is a car designed to go round a track, which is significantly more taxing on the brakes than a mountain pass.
 

D365

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Unless your car is old or you keep a new one for a long time it’s actually brakes are expensive and the clutch doesn’t wear out before you sell it :D
This is exactly what I've been taught. If I was skilled enough to heel-toe, that's definitely what I would do.
 

philthetube

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My father spoke of doing that in his early days of motoring in the 1930s. Normal strategy apparently back then. At the time we were in a heavily overloaded early Beetle going up Sutton Bank in the rain. We made it in first, much to all our relief.
I remember riding over Sutton Bank in the 60's as kids we used to guess how many breakdowns we would see on the way up, it was never none.
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Wrynose is the eastern one (fairly straight but with a steep drop off), Hard Knott is the steeper western one with multiple zig-zags.
I've been over a few times and found both quite scary, at least in an automatic which seemed to cope less well than manual.
Seems surprising - does it try to change up too soon perhaps? If so perhaps if it has a feature to lock a lower gear use that?
In my experience changing down too late is a bigger issue, especially in a car which pauses before selecting a lower gear.
 

Howardh

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Overloaded? Go on, feast on this! Dad, mum, grandad, grandma and myself in 1964 (ish) and I'm not convinced the alsatian Rikki wasn't with us either! Think that was taken in Wales, used to go to the coastal towns such as Llanrainalot so that would have taken us over plenty of the Welsh passes.

Just try explaining now that the allowance is one cabin bag, 55x40x20 + small hand bag with Priority!!!
 

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Shimbleshanks

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Not in the same league as the Alpine passes but when I was a student in Birmingham in the early 1980s I'd always try and take the coach home to North Wales that went down the A5 through the mountains in preference to the one that used the A55 along the coast. Even the coach driver said "wow" as we threaded through the Snowdonia landscape. Don't think there's any scheduled services that use that route now.
 
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Bletchleyite

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Not in the same league as the Alpine passes but when I was a student in Birmingham in the early 1980s I'd always try and take the coach home to North Wales that went down the A5 through the mountains in preference to the one that used the A55 along the coast. Even the copach driver said "wow" as we threaded through the Snowdonia landscape. Don't think there's any scheduled services that use that route now.
Other than the motorway bit at the start I love driving from MK to North Wales that way, the scenery builds nicely as you go along as does the excitement.

(Technically I can go almost all the way on the A5 - from my road there are only 6 turns to get on the A5 - but that gets boring and slow!)
 

LSWR Cavalier

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It worth reading 'Ten Roads Across Penmaenmawr' by Dennis Roberts, not so long ago the Fearful Precipices could not be negotiated, travellers went by boat or took the Roman Road inland
Now there is an easy cycle ride from Penmaenmawr to Conwy, beside the railway

I have driven that bit, but the train is better, just remember to signal to the driver, Pen is a request stop
 

Killingworth

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Overloaded? Go on, feast on this! Dad, mum, grandad, grandma and myself in 1964 (ish) and I'm not convinced the alsatian Rikki wasn't with us either! Think that was taken in Wales, used to go to the coastal towns such as Llanrainalot so that would have taken us over plenty of the Welsh passes.

Just try explaining now that the allowance is one cabin bag, 55x40x20 + small hand bag with Priority!!!
Back in 1948 my uncle's car touring in Scotland, and they got over some high Alpine and Norwegian passes with the same spirit - yes, they enjoyed a few drinks!

img890.jpgimg891.jpg
 

Bletchleyite

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Built by Telford if I recall correctly, that is not to say that I was about when it was built.
The modern incarnation of it was, but its origins are in being the Watling Street, a name which it carries in a number of places, which was a Roman road from London to Holyhead.

Lots about it here:

The long and winding road
by Kim Townsend
With the building of the A5, Thomas Telford announced himself as one of the greatest engineers of his age. We chart the history of the road from a muddy track to a 250 mile-long route used by millions of vehicles daily.
Imagine travelling from London to Holyhead by horse and cart on nothing more than an old mud track, and at some points even a grassy path. Well that's what MPs who were visiting Ireland had to do in the early 19th Century.

audio
Thomas Telford tour - A5 >

Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
The horrendous cross-country trip was known to take three days or more, the journey from Shrewsbury to Holyhead being the most difficult part. There were rivers to cross, like the Conway and then the Menai Straits, by ferry-boat. Part of the road was even carved out of a cliff face standing precariously one hundred yards above the sea.

Unsurprisingly the MPs eventually got sick of it and decided something had to be done. Ireland had joined the United Kingdom in 1800 and there were now 100 Irish MPs sitting in the House of Commons in London.

They argued that the Irish would feel less cut off from the rest of Britain if it became easier for them to travel to London. In 1810 Thomas Telford, Shropshire's Surveyor of Public Works, was commissioned to report on the state of the route. He had no reservations about telling parliament that a road had to be built.

In 1815 the government agreed to pay the bill and Telford was put to work. The total cost was £750,000, which was raised in taxes - making it the first parliamentary road in England. Travellers still had to pay a toll, however, and Telford even designed the toll-houses, toll-gates and milestones - many of which can still be seen on the road today, including a goodg example at Montford Bridge.

Building the 260 mile road was no mean feat. It took 15 years to build, with the final 106 miles through Shropshire and North Wales being the most challenging. He decided that a steep gradient was not acceptable on a modern road - impressively he even managed to keep this policy as the route ran through Snowdonia.

There would be no more ferry crossings on Telford's A5. The project incorporated the building of Buildwas Bridge, Montford Bridge, Waterloo Bridge at Betws-y-Coed, and the stunning Menai Bridge. The bridge over the Menai Straights was the greatest suspension bridge of its day, and it was the first permanent link between Anglesey and the mainland.

Much of the London to Holyhead road, now known as the A5, still remains as Telford built it - albeit with a few resurfacings on top! In 1997 a section of bends on the road at Tŷ Nant was by-passed by a modern cutting. To the embarrassment of the authorities rock falls forced its closure in 2005; the old road was reinstated proving its worth nearly 200 years on.

Today the 260 mile trip takes an average of five hours - a definite improvement on the torturous three-day expedition.
 

Shimbleshanks

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The modern incarnation of it was, but its origins are in being the Watling Street, a name which it carries in a number of places, which was a Roman road from London to Holyhead.

Lots about it here:


I think the old (pre-Telford) road used the coast route though, not the route through the mountains.
 

Bletchleyite

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I think the old (pre-Telford) road used the coast route though, not the route through the mountains.
You would appear to be correct, Wiki refers:


You can see the difference, I suppose - up to Shrewsbury it's a classic straight Roman road, whereas past there onto the Telford route it gets windier.
 

Jamesrob637

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Other than the motorway bit at the start I love driving from MK to North Wales that way, the scenery builds nicely as you go along as does the excitement.

(Technically I can go almost all the way on the A5 - from my road there are only 6 turns to get on the A5 - but that gets boring and slow!)
I can go on the A38 all the way from the Midlands to my mum's in Plymouth but I'd be silly to actually achieve that! Dartmoor has some great roads though, as I discovered in June when there was a crash on the A38 and had to detour via Princetown!
 

vlad

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But the scariest passage I've ever encountered is the road up the side of the Cardingmill Valley from Church Stretton to the top of the Long Mynd. It's steep, but it's not so much the steepness, more the narrowness of the road combined with the absolute sheer precipice on one side of the carriageway ...
The Burway is certainly an acquired taste. The views are excellent but I wouldn't want to drive up there.

I've been up there in a minibus. When we got to our destination the driver had words with the navigator and made him direct her a different way on the way back. :)
 

LNW-GW Joint

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I think the old (pre-Telford) road used the coast route though, not the route through the mountains.
Watling Street went to Wroxeter (Viroconium), east of Shrewsbury.
Beyond there the main Roman route would have been to Chester (Deva), their major fort and port for Ireland.
In North Wales their main route would have been along the coast (A55-like).
It only took about 25 years for Telford's A5 to be superseded by Stephenson's coastal railway.
But the A5 is still a good road among the otherwise narrow and switchback North Wales road system.
 

Rob F

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It always seems under powered to me - mind you the size is very small so perhaps the power to weight ratio is not too bad.
I’ve done Hard Knott and Wrynose in a clapped out Mini Clubman (the original kind) with four adults in it and it wasn’t much of a problem.
 

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