Monthly Archives: June 2015

A short linking stage

June 28th

Start:  Emosson dam; finish: Col de Balme (2204 m)
Distance: 16,5 km (8 km along the frontier)
Walking time: 4 hours 50 minutes
Vertical distance:  1260 m uphill, 1020 m downhill

After spending easily 15 minutes to find the beginning of the path, because of the building work on the dam , I go down smoothly to Le Châtelard.  There, everything is fenced around the power plant and water basins, forcing me to do a lot of detours.  Once at the Col de Balme, I take the chairlift down.  Tomorrow, I can then go up some 1000 m in the chairlift with the new guide, Graham, and all our equipment.  A great saving of energy!

Stop press!  Sally broke her wrist this evening, will be operated Monday 29th, so out of action as regards car driving.

The White Horse and the Emosson dam

June 26th

Start:  Bivouac hut Vallon de Tenneverge; finish: Emosson dam wall
Distance: 16 km (11,5 km along the frontier)
Walking time: 9 hours 45 minutes (plus 1 hour for the stops)
Vertical distance:  1650 m uphill, 1520 m downhill

Main summit: Le Cheval Blanc, 2831 m

It took us 2 hours to get back to the frontier at the Col de Tenneverge, but the night was more comfortable than sleeping out with no special equipment.  The next peak – Les Taureaux – had all its ledges so covered in snow that Victor did not want to attempt it.  To get around it, we had to descend almost to the level of Lake Emosson, then go up a road to a restaurant below the Vieux Emosson dam wall, which has just been raised by some 15 metres.  Vieux Emosson was completely dry and the whole place a huge building site.  New tunnels were being dug everywhere.  A new path, partly covered in soft snow, led us to the top of Le Cheval Blanc.  More stupendous views.  On getting down again, we learned that the road to and over the main Emosson dam wall was closed to pedestrians up to 6 p.m. because of the heavy building site traffic.  There was no alternative but to take a free shuttle bus that had been laid on for walkers.  We were met at the other end by my son Roger and grandson Neil who took us down to the valley.  Goodbye to Victor, an excellent guide and companion for 3 days.

Unstable snow bridge over a raging stream

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Rupert and Victor at the end of a long day


Waltz with crampons

June 25th

Start:  Refuge de la Vogealle; finish: refuge/bivouac Vallon de Tenneverge
Distance: 17,0 km (10 km along the frontier)
Time taken:  11 hours (plus 2 hours 30 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1590 m uphill, 1660 m downhill

Main summit:  Mont Ruan, 3044 m

This was the day we put on crampons and took them off again at least a dozen times!

Good breakfast in the hut at 3 a.m., off at 4 a.m.  A beautiful morning, but with clouds and cold wind on the ridges later in the day.  It was over 1100 m up to the top of Mont Ruan, the route-finding in the upper part was tricky and we had to retrace our steps once or twice, but we were rewarded by a beautiful 360° view.  Later, snow fields and low visibility caused us to avoid some minor summits on the French side, also Pic de Tenneverge, whose summit lies entirely in France.  The alternation of steep snow fields and scree meant we were continually putting on and removing our crampons.  We had intended to sleep out near the Col de Tenneverge but the cold wind would have made this very uncomfortable.  Victor, who has climbed Mount Everest 6 times, suggested descending to a small bivouac hut some 600 m down on the French side, where there might be some blankets.  Indeed, this was the case – we found some thin mattresses, a sleeping bag and 3 blankets!

1. Rupert on top of Mont Ruan, with Mont Blanc and Emosson (lakes and dam wall) behind
2.  Refuge/bivouac Vallon de Tenneverge
3.  Inside

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Les Dents Blanches

June 24th

Start: Châlets Le Lapisa; finish: Refuge de la Vogealle (CAF)
Distance: 19 km (5 km along the frontier)
Time taken: 10 hours 30 minutes (plus 2 hours for the stops)
Vertical distance: 2200 m uphill, 2090 m downhill

Main summits:
Pointe de la Golette, 2634 m
Dent de Barme, 2759 m

Victor and I left the chalet at 5.00 a.m., our rucksacks heavy on the shoulders.  We planned at least one bivouac (without a sleeping bag!) and probably carried too much food.  A week earlier Victor had made a reconnaissance around the Dent de Barme, with a colleague.  They found a lot of snow and quite loose and friable rock;  their conclusion: the complete traverse of the Dents Blanches would take too much time and would probably be dangerous, if not impossible in these conditions. So we decided to limit our ambitions to the ascent of the two main summits, one at each end of the chain.  Which we did, at the cost of a descent of some 500 m in between.  On the other hand, the second summit was done without rucksacks. A beautiful day, magnificent views.  At the end, Victor persuaded me to go down to the refuge Vogealle another 250 meters below.  It was worth it:  comfortable dormitory and good hearty meal!

Completely soaked

June 23rd

Start: Col de Recon; finish: Alpage Le Lapisa
Distance: 29,2 km
Walking time: 7 hours 45 minutes (and 1 hour for the stops)
Vertical distance: 1450 m uphill; 1390 m downhill

A dull, rainy day.  It had rained during the night, so all the grass and bushes were very wet.  The paths were very muddy and slippery, needing utmost care.  Just after passing the French ski lifts of Super Châtel (where heavy machinery was being used to “improve” the pistes and lifts), it started raining again heavily just as I had to climb a steep slope of undergrowth and moss-covered stones, often having to pull myself up on tree roots and branches.  Soon I was completely soaked and my boots full of water.  Mercifully it soon stopped raining and I was able to empty the water out of my boots and wring out my socks.  The rest of the day passed uneventfully and I reached the day’s destination:  Le Lapisa, a mountain dairy farm below the Col du Cou that offers accommodation and meals.  Sally and Neil arrived by car bringing with them Victor, who was to be my guide for the next 3 days, before returning down into the valley.

First day in the mountains

June 22nd

Start: St-Gingolph; finish: Col de Recon
Distance: 23,8 km
Walking time: 8 hours 50 minutes (and 40 minutes for the stops)
Vertical distance: 2610 m uphill, 1250 m downhill

It was a big climb from Lake Geneva to the summit of Les Cornettes de Bise (2432 m), a height difference of 2050 m over some 15 km.  I took it slowly and finished in 6 1/2 hours (including rests).  The weather was reasonable, but very windy.  The rucksack was heavier than usual – Sally had provided a huge picnic and I carried more water than I needed.  Good for training!

Less text, more photos today!

1. “Improving” a nice forest path In France, just above St-Gingolph
2. Dent de Vélan.  The frontier runs right through the middle of these pinnacles
3. Les Cornettes de Bise.  Summit cross and boundary stone
4. Young ibex

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Challenge met successfully!

June 20th

Distance: 49,0 km by kayak
Time taken: 10 hours 10 minutes, of which 7 hours 55 in the kayak and 2 hours 15 minutes resting
Vertical distance:  0!

I was able to leave the beach at Hermance with Natan just before 8 a.m.  I immediately had a problem with my right shoulder, and could not pull too hard, probably the result of a bruise after a fall in the forest about 15 days ago (I stumbled). So we decided not to follow the border marked on the  maps but to take a more direct line on the French side, which gave us a gain of about  7-8 km. The whole day was painful for me; fortunately Natan (and Neil later) are lads with large biceps.  In fact they did easily 75% of the work and without them I would never have succeeded.

The weather was kind to us – ideal conditions in the morning, no more north wind and overcast, fairly sunny in the afternoon.  After 4 hours of paddling we came across Sally, Sonia and Neil by chance at a canteen beyond Thonon, on the old delta of the Dranse de Thonon.  Welcome pause and rest.  Then Neil took the place of Natan for the rest of the journey, my shoulder ever more painful.  Another coffee stop in Meillerie and we did the last 5 km in record time.

For dinner, perch fillets served in a creperie (!) in St-Gingolph, on the French side. They came from Poland!

Photo and video:
Rupert and Neil arriving at St-Gingolph

2015-06-20C St-Gingolph


Reached Lake Geneva

June 19th

Itinerary:  Perly customs post to Hermance
Total distance: 48,9 km by bicycle, of which about 1 km  pushing the bicycle on an awkward forest path
Time taken: 4 hours 20 minutes (plus 20 minutes for a beer)
Vertical distance: 280 m uphill, 360 m downhill

We overslept!  When I looked at my watch it was already 9.10 a.m.  We obviously needed the sleep.  This was an important day for the logistics.  Grandson Natan, Neil’s elder brother, arrived last night and was collected from Geneva airport.  This morning I was taken to the Perly – St-Julien frontier post and left with the bicycle and a sandwich.  Then Sally and Natan drove home to leave the one-seater kayak and pick up the two-seater.  They then picked up Sonia, our daughter (and Natan’s mother) from Geneva station and drove to a resort near Hermance.  So all ready for tomorrow’s effort on Lake Geneva.  (Neil had the day off in Geneva city centre.)

I covered most of the complex frontier south of Geneva on a range of highways, roads, tracks and paths, almost always next to the frontier or very close to it.  The kayak crossing of the Arve river was not possible for logistical reasons.  I also gave up on wading up the Foron stream between Geneva and Annemasse – it hardly looked possible and would have taken too much time.  A very pleasant day, but I had to fight against a strong north wind (“la bise”) once out of the urban areas.

Night: Excellior Suites Grand Genève, Veigy-Foncenex (F)