Photo: Looking back down the eastern approach in August.
A quiet little pass that isn’t the most spectacular in Switzerland but is well worth a ride if you are in the area.
The Schelten Pass (1051m)
Schelten (La Scheulte in french) is a pass which connects the German speaking Mümliswil in canton Solothurn to the French speaking Delemont in Jura.
There are no proper villages along the way, just a scattering of farmhouses. This is quite an obscure little pass – to the extent that there isn’t even a post bus going along the route. If you want to get out here you are going to have to do so under your own wheels or feet.
The commune of Schelten is quite curious. It is German speaking and voted to remain part of Canton Bern whilst the most the Bernese Jura chose to change to the new canton Jura so it is an effective exclave (only connected by a little umbilical cord over rough ground). For this reason the language divide isn’t actually on the pass, but part way down the western side. It is also one of the smallest communes in Switzerland with just 32 inhabitants spread out over a few farmhouses.
- Height profiles can be found on websites like Cyclingcols.com. This gives arough idea but I feel it isn’t quite right.
- Traffic is generally light, especially on weekdays. Even on weekend the touring traffic will likely be much lighter than other better known options in the area like the Passwang.
- The road is narrow and often windy so be wary of oncoming traffic.
- It is with a motorbike instead, but this page has an extensive number of photos showing off the pass route.
East side from Ramiswil (7km, + 400m)
The eastern side is a fairly simple ride up the almost straight Guldental from the turn off of the Passwang Strasse. This starts very gently then slowly ramps up to a constant 10% for the last few km to scale the end of the valley.
The valley remains fairly wide and open most of the way along so isn’t spectacular but is usually pretty. The road pops in and out of forest so the immediate view changes fairly frequently.
About half way the paved road turns away from the forest and climbs fairly steeply (12% or more) through meadow before dropping back down to the stream again. Staying on the little gravel road which carries on along the stream avoids this extra climb and rejoins the road soon after.
West side from Mevelier (7.2km, +477m)
The western side is the much more varied and challenging of the two. The road twists and turns through gorges and open meadows, it also throws in some nasty little steep ramps (because Jura mountains).
Leaving Mevelier the road enters a gorge with rock walls towering on both sides. The valley quickly widens but the road remains in the forest until the final push to the pass when it climbs through open meadows – finally offering some impressive views of the rugged landscape and back down the valley.
The first 1.5km are a series of steep +10% climbs and short reliefs. This is followed by a much easier 2km through a very narrow section of forest/gorge at a gentle 3-4%. The valley widens again at the Restaurant Scheltenmühle and the final climb beings – climbing the remaining 300m over 3.4km with some sections going over 10%.
What to do at the top
The top of the pass itself isn’t all that interesting (there isn’t even a proper pass sign) with just a few parking spots and a footpath sign. The pass road crosses a forested ridge so it isn’t the greatest viewpoint. There are views up and down the valley (but not both at once).
There are a few restaurants around the past. Carrying on up the ridge leads to Restaurant Matzendörfer Stierenberg, or a small detour on the western side of the pass goes to Restaurant Erzberg.
Roadies are limited to just the pass road but with a mountain bike there are a few other options:
- The best view in the area is from Hohe Winde (1205) which can be reached by a gravel road near the top of the Schelten pass and offers a fantastic panorama over the Jura and north towards Basel and into Germany and France.
- Cross over to Güggel on to join Mountain Bike route 44 for a scenic ride along the ridge.
- Continue past Restaurant Erzberg and along the footpath to Passwang/Vogelberg. This offers plenty of stunning views. However the footpath is rocky/rooty and in the damp north side of the ridge so can be a bit challenging.