Monday, December 31, 2012

Le Noirmont (No 23)

Le Noirmont (1567m) turned-out to be a great choice for the last Jura peak of 2012. It proved to be somewhat challenging ... yet incredibly satisfying; while providing some of the best views of the year, and one of the very best lunchtime picnic spots imaginable. It was a great way to spend the last day of 2012, and to generate the content for the last instalment of my "Jura Mountain Rambling" blog for the year.

If you've been following my blog, you'll know that my ("tongue-in-cheek") 2011 New Year's eve "project" was to check-out the view of the planet from the seven highest peaks in the Jura. By year's end, with La Noirmont added to the register, the tally is:
  • All of the highest 23 (named) peaks in the Jura; 
  • 27 of the top 30; 
  • 32 of the top 40; 
  • 39 of the 60 highest. 
In all, I stood on the top of 41 Jura peaks in 2012. That was one heck of a new year's eve resolution.

The trek to the top of Number 23 on the list, but number 41 for the year, commenced near a level crossing on the railway line that cuts over the main ridge of the Jura Mountains - along the Col de la Givrine - about a kilometre west of La Givrine. We parked the car in a small parking area ( at 1211m) that appears every winter when the road heading north to Les Coppettes is blocked-off by the annual snowfall, pulled on our backpacks and snowshoes, and headed north up the trail. It was about 10.30am.

 Lis at the level crossing where we commenced our last walk for 2012.

 Looking east towards La Givrine.

Just after the start of our walk. Looking back to where we'd parked the car, with La Dole on the horizon in the background.

After a few hundred metres, the trail turned northwest, and plunged into the Bois de la Givrine, so we followed suit, skirting along the edge of a neatly-groomed ski de fond (cross-country skiing) track. It was lovely in the forest ... and I was hoping to see a lynx or something exotic, but all was quiet.

 The trail through the Bois de la Givrine forest.

About a kilometre along the trail we passed the Le Sollier farmhouse (1290m) - abandoned for winter of course. It provide a good landmark for our hike, so we checked our topographic map, and headed further northeast along our route.

 Le Sollier farmhouse - 1290m.

We stuck to the western edge of the Bois de la Givrine forest block, heading along a long, narrow, typically Jura valley (combe) marked "Le Sollier" on our topo map. We passed a sign telling us we were in (entering?) the Parc Jurassien Vaudois protected area. Still no lynx in sight ... In fact, other than a few birds, we didn't see any wildlife all day. But we did see more small animal tracks in the snow than anywhere else that we'd walked in the Jura. The protected area status must be working.

 Entering the protected area within the Parc Jurassien Vaudois. 
Le Noirmont is in the commune of Arziers, in the Canton of Vaud.

At a fork in the trail, a few hundred metres after the Le Sollier farmhouse we got our first real glimpse of the Le Noirmont anticline - about two kilometres to the north. Its name means "Black Mountain" (probably because of its heavily-forested flanks) ... but it looked very white today. Rather than heading straight for it, we decided to keep going northeast - further up the Le Sollier valley. This route took us over a couple of old dry-stone rock walls and, as soon as we'd passed over the second, a track leading up to the Pré du Four farmhouse (1394m). Judging from an inscription on the front wall, it was built in 1951.

 First glimpse of the two peaks of Le Noirmont, with the principal (highest) peak on the right.

 Lis approaching Pré du Four - 1394m.

Like all of the farmhouses in the high Jura at this time of the year, it was half-buried in snow and shut-down/shuttered-up for the winter. We stopped just long enough to take a couple of photographs, admire the spectacular views back towards La Dole and Pointe de Poele Chaud, then continued on our way.

 Pré du Four mostly covered in snow, with La Dole in the background.

We headed cross-country more or less due west, through a couple of tree lines, before breaking-out onto the upper slopes of the beautiful, blanketed Les Coppettes valley - just northeast of the Les Coppettes farmhouse. We had great views down the valley, with the frontier town (on the France-Switzerland border) of La Cure in the middle distance. La Cure is a popular alternative starting point for many Le Noirmont trekkers.

 Looking down on Les Coppettes farmhouse (1323m), with La Cure in the background.

We "sloshed" our way down the hillside through lovely powdery snow, cutting virgin tracks across the pristine landscape. Always up for a challenge, we decided to head straight-up the steep eastern face of Le Noirmont ... which got a bit tricky in a couple of places where the slopes were particularly steep. At a couple of points we had to rope up, and cut steps into the snow to be able to get up the cliffs. Lis broke through the snow on one of these "steps" when the snow underneath her collapsed - probably due to a small sinkhole or something in the jumbled mass of gnarly Jurassic limestone rock hidden under the snow. The Le Noirmont part of the Jura is renowned for its plethora of dangerous sinkholes - especially closer to Mont Pelé. It also used to be dangerous for other reasons - having once been an old army firing range. Summer walkers would often come across fragments of old mortars and missiles, and occasionally the shards of a mine or other explosives. Fortunately we didn't come across anything like that.

 Looking across the valley of Coppettes towards the eastern slope of Le Noirmont.

 Lis starting the ascent up the east face of Le Noirmont.

 Gaining altitude (and steepness) on the east face, with the Alps on the far horizon.

 Looking northeast, over L' Arxiere farmhouse.

After a few anxious moments, we finally reached the top of the Le Noirmont ridgeline, and located the main trail that follows the ridgeline all the way up from La Cure. The climb was worth it in many ways, not least because of the amazing views we had of the Alps on the eastern horizon. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny day; not long after mid-day; and the panorama was possibly the best we'd had all year. Mont Blanc looked stunning. The spruce (Picea abies) and fir (Abies alba) trees all looked lovely with a "gentle" smattering of snow. Down below us was the L'Arxiere farmhouse (1445m), and just south of there, the Cabane du Carrox (1508m) - a mountain hut operated by the Geneva branch of the CAS (Club Alpine Suisse). We took-in the views for awhile, then headed for the day's main destination.

Just near where we reached the top of the ridgeline, we came across an old ski lift (telesiege) - which comes up the Côte du Noirmont hillside from the Valley of the Orb (on the western side of the ridgeline), near the tiny little French "settlement" of Les Plans. The ski lift wasn't operating, and in fact looked disused and abandoned, although we saw a few skiers nearby, who were obviously about to head down the well-used adjacent ski run.

 The apparently abandoned ski lift apparatus near the lower Le Noirmont summit.

We found the crest of the lesser of the two Le Noirmont peaks (1547m), then headed along the ridgeline towards the highest point (1567 metres) - which is about 300 metres to the northeast. We cut our own course through the soft, powdery, fluffy snow, on an undulating trail that took us through a patch of coniferous forest before eventually reaching the summit of Le Noirmont. It was about 12.30pm, two hours after we'd set-out from the Col de la Givrine. We dropped our packs, pulled on our beanies, wind-stoppers and heavier-duty gloves (the typical Jura summit wind was threatening to snap-freeze us if we didn't), and then wandered around checking-out the amazing views, and taking lots of photographs.

 Flying the flag at the top of Le Noirmont - 1567m.

 Checking-out the views of the Alps from the top of Le Noirmont.

 Pointing-out landmarks in the Alps and Jura, with Mont Blanc in the background.

 Lis at the top of Le Noirmont.

 Tempted by Mont Sâla ... but that will have to wait.

 Faded sign atop Le Noirmont.

Sufficiently satiated by the views, we turned our attention to our stomachs (also in need of satiation), and found a hollow just below the summit where we could shelter out of the wind. We found a great spot that was well sheltered, yet still provided amazing views out across the eastern Jura, the Swiss plateau and the Alps in the distance. We slowly drank our thermoses of hot tea and munched our way through fresh bread, cheese, home-made chutney ... and Toblerone chocolate. All of this was washed-down with a final nip of French brandy ... to "warm the heart". It was heaven: A beautiful day, with beautiful weather, on a beautiful Jura Mountain hike, at a beautiful picnic spot, with a beautiful view ... Could life get any better than this?

 One of the best picnic spots in the world, with a classic view of Mont Blanc.

After lunch, I wandered around the summit one last time to take a few more photographs of the amazing views in every direction, then we repacked our backpacks and got ready to head down the mountainside. Off to the northwest lay the nearby peaks of Mont Pelé (1532) , Mont Sâla (1511) and Crêt des Danses (1534) ... but they'll all have to wait for another day.

 Looking south from our picnic spot - at the ubiquitous cross at the summit of Le Noirmont.

Pointe de Poele Chaud and La Dole from Le Noirmont.

 One last look at Mont Blanc.

 Looking northeast from La Noirmont, with Mont Tendre on the far left horizon.

At about 1.30pm, we quit the mountain-top and headed southwest, back down the ridgeline to just below the old ski-lift apparatus. Of interest there, we came across an old stone marker, inscribed with a date of 1732, which probably once marked the border between France and Switzerland before it was moved west into the valley from the Le Noirmont ridgeline. With the crest of the Canton of Vaud on the Swiss side, and the French Fleur de Lys on the other, the stone apparently commemorates the signing of a treaty between Vaud and France in the early 18th century demarcating their respective sovereign territories.

 Marker stone near the lower La Noirmont peak. With "1732" inscribed on the plinth.

There was also an information panel above the main Le Noirmont ski piste. Off to the west we could see the French town of Les Rousses and the Lac des Rousses, and beyond that, the rolling ridges of the French Jura and Franche-Comte. Les Rousses, which is about four kilometres to the west of the summit, is another popular set-off point for hikers heading for the top of Le Noirmont - although mostly summer walkers.

The Lac des Rousses is of interest in that it has no single visible origin, gathering its source waters from numerous springs and small streams that gush from the valley and hillsides above it. Out of the lake flows the Orb River (L'Orbe) which flows into the Lac de Joux ... from where it disappears underground, into subterranean channels, only to reappear many kilometres downstream, near Vallorbe.
 Ski run information panel near the top of the lower La Noirmont peak.

 The French town of Les Rousses from the lesser La Noirmont peak.

Looking down on Les Rousses, and La Cure and the mountain pass road winding over the Col de la Givrine reminded me of the account written by the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who passed through here en route from Paris to Geneva about 200 years earlier. On the 17th of May 1816, he wrote, in "A letter from Geneva":

"The next morning we proceeded, still ascending among the ravines and valleys of the mountain. The scenery perpetually grows more wonderful and sublime: pine forests of impenetrable thickness and untrodden, nay inaccessible expanse, spread on every side. Sometimes the dark woods descending, follow the route into the valleys, the distorted trees struggling with knotted roots between the most barren clefts; sometimes the road winds high into the regions of the frost, and then the forests become scattered, and the branches of the trees are loaded with snow, and half of the enormous pines themselves buried in the wavy drifts. The spring, as the inhabitants informed us, was unusually late, and indeed the cold was excessive; as we ascended the mountains, the same clouds which rained on us in the valleys poured forth large flakes of snow thick and fast. The sun occasionally shone through these showers, and illuminated the magnificent ravines of the mountains, whose gigantic pipes were laden with snow, some wreathed round by the lines of scattered and lingering vapour; others darting their spires into the sunny sky, brilliantly clear and azure.
As the evening advanced, and we ascended higher, the snow which we had beheld whitening the overhanging rocks, now encroached upon our road, and it snowed fast as we entered the village of Les Rousses, where we were threatened with the apparent necessity of passing the night in a bad inn and dirty beds. For in that place, there are two roads to Geneva; one by Nion (Nyon), in the Swiss territory, where the mountain route is shorter, and comparatively easy at that time of the year, when the road is for several leagues covered with snow of an enormous depth; the other road lay through Gex, and was to circuitous and dangerous to be attempted at so late an hour in the day. Our passport, however, was for Gex, and we were told that we could not change its destination; but all these police laws, so severe in themselves, are to be softened by bribery, and this difficulty was at length overcome. We hired four horses, and ten men to support the carriage, and departed from Les Rousses at six in the evening, when the sun had already far descended, and the snow pelting against the windows of our carriage, assisted the coming darkness to deprive us of the view of the lake of Geneva and the far distant Alps.
The prospect around, however, was sufficiently sublime to command our attention - never was a scene more awfully desolate. The trees in these regions are incredibly large, and stand in scattered clumps over the white wilderness; the vast expanse of snow was chequered only be these gigantic pines, and the poles that marked our road; no river nor rock-encircled lawn relieved the eye, by adding the picturesque to the sublime. The natural silence of that uninhabited desert contrasted strangely with the voices of the men who conducted us, who, with animated tones and gestures, called to one another in a patois composed of French and Italian, creating disturbance where, but for them, there was none."

Fortunately, we had a lovely sunny day, and plenty of hours of sunlight to get back to our destination.

After snapping-off a few more photographs, and taking-in our last, long, lingering views of the Alps panorama, we headed back down the eastern side of the range. We came across a group of about eight or nine young Swiss snow-shoers who decided the best way to get down one particularly steep, slippery and unstable slope ... was to toboggan down on their bums and backs, or bellies - like penguins skating across the ice. We watched them sliding down the hillside, occasionally tumbling head-over-heels if their snowshoes dug into the snow - sending their smooth slides into rather ungracious, messy endings. They were having fun, and laughing all the way down the slope.

 Heading down the east face, with the Alps on the horizon.

We took a more restrained option, and slowly zig-zagged our way down the slope - heading into the valley in a southerly direction towards the "Les Coppettes" farmhouse (1323m). We more or less headed straight past the mostly-buried Les Coppettes, stopping just long enough to take a few photos, and soon after picked-up a marked snowshoe trail that headed towards La Givrine.

 Passing-by the mostly buried Les Coppettes.

 Snowshoe trail sign near Les Coppettes.

"Late" afternoon view of La Dole from Les Coppettes.

 Looking south towards Petit Montrond, Montrond and Colomby de Gex.

About a kilometre down the trail, we intersected the route we'd followed on our way up the Le Sollier valley earlier in the day. There were ski de fond trails going in all directions. The Jura is truly a winter wonderland for anyone who's into outdoor winter pursuits. On this beautiful sunny day, the whole of the Col de la Givrine was filled with cross-country skiers, snowshoers, day-walkers and "tabogganists". The entire area is renowned as a "cross-country skiing paradise".

 Trail sign near Le Sollier farmhouse.

 Le Sollier farmhouse again.

Once again, we passed by the Le Sollier farmhouse, then headed through the Bios de la Givrine, and were soon back out in the broad flat valley just west of La Givrine. Right on cue, one of the small red trains that run between Nyon and La Cure choofed its way across the landscape.

 Back in the Col de la Givrine, with the tiny "red train" that shuttles between Nyon and La Cure.

We arrived back at the car at about 3pm - about one and a half hours after we'd left the summit. In all we'd been out for about four and a half hours - a very comfortable, but incredibly enjoyable hike. And I ticked-off my 41st Jura peak for the year. Time to celebrate with some new year's eve champagne!

Jura peaks bagged:
  • Le Noirmont (No. 23) 1567m
  • The famous German traveller, writer, poet, naturalist and philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe climbed to the top of Le Noirmont on the 25th of October 1779. That same day, he also climbed to the summit of Dent de Vaulion, and stayed for a couple of nights in a house "at the foot of the eastern side of Noir Mont" (Les Coppettes? L'Arxière?). He climbed to the top of La Dôle on the 26th of October 1779.
  • The account from Percy Shelley above was published in his book "Essays, letters from Abroad: Translations and fragments". He was travelling with his wife (Mary Shelley - the author of "Frankenstein"), and Mary's step-sister Clara Clairmont. They were all on their way to Geneva to stay with (another famous English poet) Lord Byron. No doubt, Shelley's stormy night-crossing of la Givrine reminded him of his previously penned poem "On the Dark Height of Jura" - which featured in my blog about Le Suchet.
  • According to the folks at, Le Noirmont is the 6,297th highest mountain in Switzerland.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Le Suchet (No. 19)

Le Suchet may be number 19 on the list of the Jura's highest named peaks, but it provided one of the year's most amazing hikes, and views of the Alps. It also marked our 40th Jura peak for 2012.

There are a number of places from where one can commence a hike to the top of Le Suchet - Ste-Croix, Ballaigues and Baulmes among them, but we chose the popular set-off point of Entre le Fourgs (1074m) - which is in France (but right on the border), and about five kilometres west-southwest of Le Suchet (as the crow flies).

The tiny village of Entre les Fourgs - 1074m.

We arrived there at about 10am on Christmas eve - for our last Jura summit for 2012 - and parked the car in the car park just beyond the old church in the middle of the town. Although a tiny place, Entre les Fourgs can get quite busy in winter, thanks to a ski lift and ski run right above the town. We tromped across the snow to a yurt - yes, a yurt (not something you expect to see every day in Switzerland), where we sat down and strapped-on our snow shoes.

Lis outside the yurt near Entre les Fourgs.

We were soon on our way, heading southeast straight up the hillside called "Côte Marguiron", just on the eastern flank of the smaller of the town's two téléskis. On our left was the valley of la Jougnena Rau, which provided a great view of Les Aiguilles de Baulmes - number 24 on my list, and yet to be climbed.

Les Aiguilles des Baulmes - 1559m.

We wound our way into the forest, away from "the bustling crowd" and began enjoying the tranquillity that comes from snow-shoeing across beautiful fluffy snow high in the mountains. We passed a small cabin, where we stopped for an obligatory "trail marker" photograph, then headed further-on, up the hillside, rapidly gaining altitude with each step up the steep slope.

Lis at the little log cabin on the trail just above Entre les Fourgs.

The next landmark on the trail was the la Piagrette Chalet farmhouse - now completely snowed-in, shuttered-up and abandoned for winter.

la Piagrette Chalet.

From there we headed due south for a couple of hundred metres - where we encountered an old stone wall that also happens to mark the France-Switzerland border. There are a number of stone markers along the border, and we crossed back into Switzerland just to the west of one of them.

This one had "42" chiselled on one side, and "1824" on the other.

Further down the fence-line is a gateway (which we encountered on our way back later in the day) which has an official border-crossing notice reminding us to have our passport on hand and to declare all goods to the customs officials. We didn't anticipate encountering too many customs and immigration officials in the snow, on a remote mountain trail in winter, on Christmas eve. We had the entire mountainside just about all to ourselves.

The border customs and immigration sign near La Piagrette Chalet.

We turned due east after passing over the border, now finding ourselves on the main Chemin des Crêtes du Jura mountain trail, and headed up the slope to a small cabin called Petit Bel Coster (1277m). Just near the cottage we crested the top of the ridgeline, which gave us our first views over the main Jura ridge towards the Alps. Despite a bit of haze, Mont Blanc was clearly visible, as indeed were all of the Alps across Lac Léman - all the way along to the Dents du Midi.

Mont Blanc on the horizon above Lac Léman.

The views towards the Alps continued to open-up as we continued on our way, and gained height, up the ridgeline northwest of Petit Bel Coster. Looking back, we also had great views along the peaks of the southern Jura - of Mont d'Or, Dent du Vaulion, Mont Tendre and even La Dole in the far distance. It was classic Jura landscape and scenery.

Looking back towards Mont d'Or - which we'd climbed in October.

We were constantly stopping to take-in the magnificent views. We'd been blessed with a gorgeous day, perfect for snow-shoeing in the mountains. So far we'd had a mix of sunshine and cloud, comfortable temperatures, and no wind. Just about perfect. The snow conditions were much the same. Ideal.

Lis taking-in the beautiful views from the ridgeline near Bel Coster.

We soon reached a place called Grand Bel Coster (1392m) - a summer cattle barn - which was now abandoned, and unreachable, with a huge bank of snow blocking the entrance to its open barn doors. Once again, we stopped just long enough to take a landmark photograph (of the barn), and some more of Mont Blanc and the Alps, then headed on our way. For the first time, up ahead, we could see our final destination - the summit of Le Suchet. We still had a couple of kilometres of snow-shoeing ahead of us, and about 200 metres to ascend.

Heading east of Grand Bel Coster with the twin peaks of Le Suchet in the background.

The trail zig-zagged downhill (groan ... 'cos it meant that we'd have to gain all of that altitude again, which is never much fun), towards a place called La Poyette. Before we got there, we encountered a section of the Toblerone Line (I wrote about it in the blog from Dent de Vaulion - No 49; and see "Trivia" below).

A section of the Toblerone anti-tank line near La Poyette.

We stopped to take photos and to check-out the topographic map, which I promptly mis-read (thinking that the road sign "La Poyette" that we were standing alongside was the actual place - which was in fact about half a kilometre to our northwest, hidden behind a small hill). So we left the trail and plunged into the forest, making our own trail across fallen logs, snowdrifts, smothered rock walls and the like to the hilltop ... from where we caught sight of the real La Poyette.

La Poyette Chalet, more of the Toblerone Line, and (in the background) Le Suchet.

We skidded our way down the slope to the homestead (also abandoned now for the winter), where we wandered around, took some more photos, and steeled ourselves for the last "schlep" up the hillside to the mountaintop.

The trail sign at La Poyette - 1331m.

One of the more amusing sights at La Poyette was the family car, which for some reason had been left parked behind the house before the onset of winter, and accompanying snowfalls.

He ain't going nowhere.

Lis alongside the Toblerone Line at La Poyette.

From La Poyette it was all straight uphill to the top. The trail cut through a patch of forest just above the chalet, following first the Toblerone line of concrete blocks, then railway-line spikes driven into the ground, followed by a stone wall and wire fence-line. It would have been hard to get lost now. Once out of the forest, with the sun breaking through again, the views became better than ever. We stopped every hundred metres or so, to catch our breath, and to take-in the magnificent views of the Alps and lakes to the east.

Lis approaching the summit of Le Suchet.

Le Suchet - which means "rocky point" or a rounded hill-top - has two summits, one (at 1554 metres) marked with a cross, and another (at 1588 metres) with a prominent geodetic survey trig station. There was very little snow at the top, or vegetation (it's treeless), which is not surprising really - given the winds that scream over the Jura at this altitude. Most of the Jura's highest summits are bare and wind-blasted. Le Suchet is no exception, covered in little more than stunted sub-alpine vegetation. The wind must have been blowing at about 50 kilometres per hour at least. I read one hiker's account where he thought the wind had been about 100kph. Needless to say, he said he didn't stay long at the top. (Not surprisingly, the ridgeline here is very popular with paragliders in the balmier, calmer, summer months.)

 At the southwest (lower) summit of Le Suchet.

We stopped just long enough for a couple of commemorative pics, and then hastily dragged on our Mammut wind-stopper jackets, beanies and heavier-duty gloves. Then we dashed down into the hollow between the summits to try to find a sheltered place to have lunch. It was now about 1.45pm, three and a half hours after we'd set-out from Entre les Fourgs. We hunkered down behind a rocky outcrop on the western side of the summit, with views out over the Jura ridges that gradually diminished into the distance into France.

 The rocky outcrop (at left) where we hunkered down for lunch. The summit of Le Suchet in the background.

 Another view of Le Suchet summit and our lunchtime picnic spot.

Lis remarked on the irony of us having one of the best views in the world just on the other side of the outcrop - where we would have been blasted into hypothermia if we'd been stupid enough to sit there. Hypothermia isn't fun, so we crushed together and ate our cheese sandwiches, and drank our two big thermoses of hot tea. Heavenly, but freezing. So we ate our lunch in record time, and then headed towards the summit. We knew we were heading in the right direction when we came across this trail sign ... mostly buried.

The famous Jura Crest Trail is down there somewhere.

First we had to go downhill again - into a saddle at about 1505 metres - between the two peaks. Amazingly there was almost no wind there. Well "almost" in a relative sense. It was still very strong. We stopped while I took a few photos, and shot a short video, to capture the beauty of the view towards the Alps in the distant east.

The magical arc of the Alps - from north to south.

From the col, it was a short slog up-hill to the second, higher summit. Recharged from her thermos of hot tea, and conscious of the passing time (we had to get back to the car by dark, on one of the shortest days of the year), Lis led the way. The snow was now increasingly icy, and slippery, making the last few metres particularly hazardous. The slopes on the northwest and southwest side drop steeply, vertically in some places, about 800 metres down onto the plain. Needless to say, we trod carefully.

 Lis on the last section of the trail to the summit of Le Suchet.

We were soon standing at the scoured summit, once again being blasted by the terrific winds. I pulled my well-travelled Swiss flag from out of my back-pack, and Lis snapped off a few celebratory photos ... then bolted back down the mountain.

The views were amazing, and I was determined to enjoy them for as long as I could - despite the bitterly cold wind. To the north lay the Baumine valley, and beyond it the marvellous massif and summit of Le Chasseron. To the west was the Jougnena valley and the diminishing Jura ridgelines. To the east ... it was all magic ... lakes (Neuchâtel and Leman), plains and Alps.

Under the geodetic triangulation survey pyramid at the summit of Le Suchet - 1588m.

I stayed for a short while to take a few photos, and to shoot some more video ... which later turned out to be so wind-shaken and tormented to be virtually unusable - then headed down in cold pursuit. It was now about 2.30pm.

The wind had been incredible at the summit, reminiscent of the "tempest" which the famous early 19th century English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote about in his poem "On the dark height of Jura":

"Ghosts of the dead! Have I not heard your yelling
Rise on the night-rolling breath of the blast,
When o'er the dark aether the tempest is swelling,
And on eddying whirlwind the thunder-peal passed?

For oft have I stood on the dark height of Jura,
Which frowns on the valley which opens beneath;
Oft have I braved the chill night-tempest's fury,
Whilst around me, I thought, echoed murmurs of death.

And now, whilst the winds of the mountain are howling,
O father! thy voice seems to strike on mine ear;
In air whilst the tide of the night-storm is rolling,
It breaks on the pause of the elements' jar.

On the wings of the whirlwind which roars o'er the mountain
Perhaps rides the ghost of my sire who is dead:
On the mist of the tempest which hangs o'er the fountain,
Whilst a wreath of dark vapour encircles his head."

 Looking northwest along the Jura towards Le Chasseron (No 14).

 The majestic view in the east - the Alps.

 Looking down on Lake Neuchâtel and the lake-side village of Yverdon-les-Bains.

 I soon caught-up with Lis, who was waiting in the sheltered col. We slowly made our way back to the second summit, taking a few more photos along the way. We also surprised a small mob of chamois feeding on the exposed grasses and herbs. Being downwind, we were able to get quite close to them. In all, we saw about half-a-dozen chamois during the walk.

Lis looking happy out of the wind.

 A semi-buried Chalet du Suchet, with Yverdon-les-Bains and Lac Neuchâtel in the distance. It's possible to drive to the 17th century Chalet du Suchet (1489m) during the warmer months. It provides meals and a place to stay for transjurassien ramblers and other hikers.

Before long, we were back at the lower summit, where we paused for one last, long look at the amazing view over the Swiss Plateau towards the Alps, and back up towards Le Suchet.

Lis looking east towards the Alps from the lower Le Suchet summit.

Last look back to the summit of Le Suchet.

 We were now enjoying beautiful sunshine, beautiful powder snow ... and no wind. It was truly glorious. We made good time back down the ridgeline to La Poyette. This time we kept to the trail, skirting around the northern side of the hillock we'd "bush-bashed" over on the way up.

 Lis on the trail west of La Poyette. Le Suchet in the background.

The sun was shining bright, but sinking fast in the (south) western skies. A huge bank of black cloud was building-up over the southern Jura, which would mean the sun would set even earlier than normal today, so we kept our heads down and made tracks as fast as we could. We trekked back up the ridgeline to Grand Bel Coster, then back down the other side towards Entre Les Fourgs.

Lis passing Grand Bel Coster.

Sure enough, once the sun hit the wall of cloud over the Jura, the lights went out very suddenly, and we found ourselves making our way down the last bit of the mountain in growing darkness. Even so, it added something special to our hike, and the sight looking back over Entre les Fourgs, once we reached there, was magic.
The French Jura to the west of Entre les Fourgs (in foreground).

We trudged down the last of the slopes, past the ski run now filled with twilight skiers, and back into Entre les Fourgs. It was about 4.45 - six and a half hours since our departure from here this morning. Six hours on the trail in snowshoes! We'd feel it in the morning, but we'll also look back on one of the best hikes we've done all year. I can definitely recommend Le Suchet as a destination for anyone wanting a great hike in the Jura.

Jura Peaks bagged
  • Le Suchet (No. 19) 1588m

  • Schlep: To go somewhere far away, usually a difficult destination that takes some toil to reach.
  • The Toblerone Line's real name is the Promenthouse Line, named after one of the three rivers along whose course the toblerones run (the others being the Combe and the Sérine). It is an anti-tank line, first built in the 1930s, but reinforced during WW2. In total length about 15 kilometres, the line of 16 tonne, triangular-shaped concrete blocks is more commonly now called the Toblerone Line - in recognition of the similarly-shaped popular Swiss chocolates (which are apparently themselves modelled on the shape of the Matterhorn mountain). 
  • Percy Shelley wrote "On a dark height of Jura" as part of an epic entitled "St Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian" - which he wrote while at Eton College in about 1810. He visited the Jura twice in the following decade. (See also Le Noirmont).