Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter hike in the Jura day 4: Vallorbe -> Le Pont

From Vallorbe the path leads us out of town and up to the ridge. Another nice stretch along a ridge and we end up at the Dent de Vaulion where we enjoy a short (windy!) break with a view out over the Lac de Joux.
From here it's all downhill. :-) We descend to the parking lot at Petra Felix and then head through the fields, over the marsh (Sagne-Vuagnard) and then into Le Pont.

We finish the short day off nicely with some fantastic crepes with a lake view and then get on the train for the long journey home.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter hike in the Jura day 3: Ste. Croix -> Vallorbe

It rained during the night (scary when greg was awake in the night) but stopped by the time we got up. After a good breakfast we set out under cloudy skies out of town. Along the tracks for a bit and then up through the woods to the Mont de Baulmes. The views of the Alps would be spectacular if the weren't covered by clouds. :-S
Along the really nice ridge, spotting a chamois along the way, past dramatic drops, through woods, across fields, until we hit the summit of the Aiguilles des Baulmes. Here we choose to follow an unmarked trail that is on the high-resolution map towards the end of the ridge. As the way gets narrower and the drops get steeper, Greg starts to get nervous. Luckily Andrea is there to take over the navigation and lead us to the end of the ridge and then really steeply downwards to a saddle. Slightly surreal moment at one point where we come to a bit of a divide between the cliffs and encounter a picnic spot, complete with piled firewood and a brand-new picnic table. Those crazy climbers and what they do. :-)

Past the saddle we head long the road a bit and then go up to the Grange Neuve. This is of course closed due to the holiday, but we grab a sheltered spot to eat lunch. It's not raining, but it sure is threatening. During lunch the sun plays some games with us: coming out, hiding, coming out, etc. but in the end we get clouds. After lunch we walk around the shoulder of the Suchet and then up to the pass towards Vallorbe. The "pass" ends up being high enough that we are almost to the peak, so we go ahead and do that (again, the views would be spectacular if it weren't for the clouds) before starting on our way back down. After some nice green descending, we end up on a road that will, much to our dismay, take us the last 2.5 hours of the way to Vallorbe. Since we don't have a map of this last stretch we can pretend that we will find a path to take us off the road, but, of course, we never do.

Down in Vallorbe we find out way to the "hotel", shower, and then find the one open restaurant in town for a surprisingly good meal. A long day full of changing weather and path conditions... Very nice but now the legs are t i r e d.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter hike in the Jura day 2: Le Soliat -> Ste. Croix

The day starts as a repeat of the trip from four years ago, but backwards. We walk back to the cliffs and then along the edge to the highest point. Plenty of people camping along the way. A while along the ridge and then slowly down towards a really nice broad path along the side of the mountain. Eventually, and unfortunately, this becomes a road for a while. Still, we head on through Les Rochats and onwards to La Combaz. Here we decide to take a bit of a side trip and head down to the Pouetta Raisse: it's hard to say no to two gorges in two days!

At the gorge we do the first couple hundred meters (through the steep, tight bit) and then have a quick lunch break up at the top.
From here it's onward, and upwards, along the trail to the Chasseron. As one would expect, there are plenty of people up top here (unexpectedly, the hotel is closed). The views over the Jura are excellent, but of course the Alps aren't visible. After another snack we continue along the ridge,
over the Petites Roches, then along and down to Les Avattes where a cool drink awaits. The last bit for the day is a nice direttissima descent through the woods to Ste. Croix.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter hike in the Jura day 1: Bole -> Le Soliat

Started by leaving the totally packed train in Bôle... Good start that the masses stayed on the train and we were able to start the day alone. Through the outskirts of town and then into the woods and to the beginning of the Gorge d'Areuse. This turns out to be a really great Jura gorge hike: narrow and deep gorge with fantastically clear water at the bottom. After a good bit the gorge opens up and we continue along in the sun. Now we start meeting people coming the other way... Some of them people we recognize from the train. :-)

Eventually after some climbing through the woods we reach the Farm de Robert and really enter the masses of people again. From here the views of the cliffs are quite good (and we have a camera with us this time) The path continues along, slowly upwards at first against an ever increasing density of people coming the other way. By the time it gets steep, there's an almost continuous stream of people coming against us (only a slight exaggeration). Still the views of the Creux de Van are great and the weather is absolutely spectacular. Eventually we get to the top, where the human density is really high, have the second part of our lunch and then take a nice nap in the sun.

The last bit to the farm/hotel is flat and nice along the edge of the cliffs. We reach it around four in the height of the tourist madness (of course there's a parking lot up here), have a cool beverage and enjoy the chaos.

Further highlight of the evening is trying a local specialty after dinner: absinthe. To be honest, neither of us found it incredibly different from pernod or its relatives. Admittedly these weren't ideal tasting conditions, but I think we'd need to do a head-to-head to really notice the difference.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Looking for cherry blossoms: Frick->Wegenstetten

Improv'ed hike looking for cherry blossoms:
Frick -> Tiersteiberg -> Homberg -> Fazedelle -> Wegenstetten

Sunday, April 10, 2011

SAC Climbing Course

We wanted to learn at least something about climbing so that we can do more mountaineering tours, and be better prepared for the ones we do, so we tried the SAC Basel climbing course this year.

Thursday night we practiced knots in a climbing hall in Basel.

On Saturday we headed to the Klettergarten Pelzli near Grellingen.
After a review of the knots and some technique discussion, it was time to head up the rock. We did a couple of different routes, practicing climing ourselves and belaying others. Fun stuff.
After lunch (with a fire... too bad we decided not to bring sausages with us!) we did a bit more technique (belaying techniques for routes with multiple rope lengths) and then climbed another route or two before ending the day with a long (50m) abseil as practice. Greg was a bit nervous about this, but after the first step it was incredibly fun. Lesson #10 (after all the safety and technique stuff): the abseil ring gets really hot!
We both had quite a fun day.
On Sunday we took the train to Moutier and walked from there to the Arete de Raimeux. Here we broke into groups of two or three and then started climbing. The first part is a long slope somehow reminiscent of the one out of the Cirque de Troumouse, but with more poorly defined ridges. It's no doubt doable with good hiking boots, but not straight up like we did. :-) After a bit of traverse (walking in climbing shoes ends up not being as bad as I was afraid of, but I still wouldn't want to do it for very long), we did a bit more vertical and then made it to the ridge. From here we followed the ridge along with mixed climbing and walking (and one abseil section) until it broadened out a bit, where we stopped for lunch and to wait for the others to catch up. Greg's group was one of the first there, so he had plenty of time to do another short stretch of climbing for practice.
After everyone had arrived, we started the descent. This was three rope-lengths of abseil (fun!), followed by a scramble the rest of the steep way down, a stroll out of the gorge, and then the walk back into Moutier.
An excellent day!

Since we both really enjoyed the climbing, we're going to have to try to do it more often.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Summer-like hiking in the spring.

From the Oensingen train station we head a bit through town and then up, up through the sunny woods (no leaves yet) to the view point over Wannenflue. From here we have great views down into Balsthal, across to the Roggenflue, and to the cliffs underneath Passwang. The path leads us along the ridge, with Alp views (hazy, but still visible) to Hällchöpfli. Lunch in the sun enjoying the views and then further along the ridge until we hit Hofbergli. There we enjoy a cool beverage and assess the public transport choices (SBB app for the iPhone++) before heading down to Balm and the bus down to Solothurn.

A very nice day of walking to kick off the season.