Monthly Archives: June 2015

The usefulness of a mountain bike

June 18th

Distance 48,6 km, of which 8,4 on foot, 3,1 by kayak and 37,1 by mountain bike
Total time moving: 7,5 hours
Vertical distance: 180 m uphill, 170 m downhill

We left late to avoid the worst Geneva commuter traffic.  I cycled around some CERN buildings and beyond.  Then Neil and I walked down the forests of the Allondon valley and up above Malvas where groups of immigrants were working in the vineyards.  We met Sally and had a snack.  Neil persuaded me that I would gain time by cycling since many footpaths are feasible in this way, (and we also saw in the Jura and along the Doubs that many paths are done by mountain bike, so I cycled on and down to the Rhone, with some pushing and carrying, also avoiding streams and river beds.  I embarked in the kayak near La Plaine but could not land anywhere near the power station and dam further down the river (building site, fenced off), so had to paddle back upstream some 500 m to a footpath close to the river below Epeisses.  Neil carried the boat back to the car and I decided not even to try to kayak the last few km below the power station, but continued by mountain bike,  covered the westernmost border of Switzerland, and eventually reached the border post at Perly. I must admit I enjoyed cycling and the activity helped my sore feet!

Night:  Hôtel Ibis Budget, Annemasse

A swim in the Versoix

June 17th

Start: La Rippe; finish: Meyrin customs post
Total distance: 33,4 km, of which 7 km by kayak
Walking time: 5 and a half hours, plus one and a half by kayak
Vertical distance: 90 m uphill, 200 m downhill

After leaving  late from our house in Grandvaux (to avoid morning traffic), Neil and I started at La Rippe. After Crassier we attempt to cross the marsh of Les Bidonnes: we emerge with wet shoes and with legs blackened with mud, but the alternative was 2 km walk on a main road.

Sally, ever faithful, is waiting at the Chavannes-de-Bogis customs post, where I start out in the kayak.  Calm up to Sauverny, the Versoix now begins to gain pace. The descent is made more difficult by the many tree trunks across the river. Finally, after 7 km, I am surprised by a small rapid and capsize.  The water is cold!  I get to the edge, retrieve everything, empty the water from the boat and try to get in touch with Sally and Neil – I had my GPS and my mobile phone  in a waterproof bag. Fairly soon, Neil comes running and canoes the last 2 km, which I do on foot.  All’s well that ends well.

There remain  some 14 km on foot with Neil, through fields and the commercial areas of Ferney-Voltaire, along the airport fence (see photo), to arrive at Meyrin, where Sally is waiting. An adventurous day.

Savoie Hôtel, St-Julien


A painful descent

June 16th

Start:  on the Risoux, about 1220 m; finish:  La Rippe (VD)

Total distance: 37,5 km
Walking time:  9 hours 10 minutes
Vertical distance: 950 m uphill, 1600 downhill

Going straight to the French side of the border, I passed a team of 4 foresters trimming logs to be pulled out of the forest.  Infernal noise of chain saws.   A carpet of debris was left behind and the track  was ruined by a large vehicle like a tractor.

I climbed to the top of the French “enclave” above Bois d’Amont.  An old woman, driving a 4-wheel drive as if it were a racing car, explained that there are still 2 dairies and some 200 cows up there.  Tedious walking in wet grass (that I finally abandoned for paths and roads) up to La Cure.  From there, a section through the valley of Dappes, a climb up the flanks of La Dôle, a first emotional view of Lake Geneva and a very painful descent of about 850 m to La Rippe.

The Risoux

June 15th

Start:  La Petite Echelle (a small border crossing); finish (on the border): above Bois d’Amont, about 1245 m
Total distance: 32,0 km
Walking time:  8 hours 15 minutes
Vertical distance: 750 m uphill, 630 downhill

A very rainy day.  Well protected against rain and wet vegetation, I walked many hours without seeing anybody.  Near the end, my GPS became erratic and I was soon completely lost.   I followed signs in France and after having taken a wrong forest road, I emerged from the forest at a place I did not recognise and had to ask another hiker where I was.   What a disgrace!  A few extra kilometres (not included in the statistics above).  Fortunately, Sally was able to collect me later.

Night:  Hôtel-Restaurant, La Givrine


Rain stopped play

June 14th

Start: above Ballaigues, finish: “La Petite Echelle”
Distance covered: 10,2 km
Walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Vertical height:  780 m uphill, 900 m downhill

Sunny at first, but black clouds building up.  I started by descending to the Vallorbe customs post from where I left off yesterday.  Wet grass, no paths, footsore from yesterday.  Then the steep climb up the Mont d’Or (nearly 1400 m high on the Swiss side) along a very “erratic” boundary.  Thunder, then heavy rain.  I soon had enough and was able to reach the main road between Vallorbe and Le Pont.

Night: Hôtel-Restaurant, La Givrine

Photos:  (1) boundary stone 65 in the middle of nowhere on the slopes of the Mont d’Or;  (2) boundary stone 67

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June 13th – Slowly but surely

Itinerary:  La Petite Ronde (1126 m, above Les Verrières) – customs post Les Verrières – triple point France-Neuchâtel-Vaud – point at ca. 1180 m near the La Tiole farm above Ballaigues

Distance covered: 32,2 km
Walking time:  9 hours 30 minutes
Vertical distance:  1390 m uphill, 1340 m downhill

A long, somewhat frustrating day, but one I enjoyed.  It had rained last night, so there was more mud and puddles on the few paths I took.  But mainly there were no paths.  The fields were mainly long, wet grass, so shoes and trousers were soon soaked.  In the forests, wet shrubs and bushes made sure the rest of me was wet, at least until the sun came out.  Several steep descents and climbs.

Hôtel-Restaurant du Cygne, Les Charbonnières

Photos:  two typical obstacles, and a unique boundary marker (behind Le Suchet)

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The Jura

June 12th – the eighth day

Distance covered: 30,7 km
Walking time: 7 hours 20 minutes
Vertical height: 1160 m uphill; 950 m downhill

I climbed up from the Col des Roches with Neil and found myself suddenly in another world – the real Jura with its pine-covered ridges and long green shallow valleys with farms and cows.  And many of these walls made of limestone blocks without mortar along the edges of fields and along the frontier. It was also the first time we went over 1200 m in height notably at Meix Musy with its 1280 m.  There were lots of small climbs and descents and many paths that were muddy or covered with debris left by forest workers. In addition, the blisters on my feet, though well cared for, made themselves felt.  Our progress was therefore not too fast and in the end I asked Sally to pick us up at the farm La Petite Ronde, a few km before the customs post of Les Verrières.

Night: Hôtel de Ville, les Verrières

2015-06-12C au Jura entre Col des Roches et La Brévine

The Doubs 2

June 11th – seventh day –

Start: Biaufond; finish: Col des Roches
Distance: 33,4 km, of which 6 by kayak
Time: 6 hours 10 minutes
Vertical distance:  810 m uphill, 500 m downhill

What a contrast to yesterday!  It was fairly sunny but the whole morning’s walk was on beautiful paths in the shade of trees, next to the river, with many bucolic spots, later next to towering limestone cliffs, quite wild.  Neil had brilliantly doctored my blisters from the day before, I had slept well – overslept in fact – and for the first time since June 5th did I feel 100% fit.

After about 4 hours I reached the famous Saut du Doubs waterfall and the restaurant at the end of the Lac des Brenets.  The noise level was deafening as I emerged into “civilisation”.  I had earlier overtaken a group of 35 chattering children aged 8 – 11 or so but this was nothing compared to yet more school outings (it’s the end of the school year here) and boatloads of retirees crowding out all available restaurant tables.

Sally and Neil had found their way through France to bring me the kayak and I once again had complete peace paddling the 6 km to the other end of the lake.  From there Neil and I walked up the Rançonnière valley.  The path decided to climb high over a cliff before coming down again, which I thought tedious, so we went up the stream in a gorge for some 500 m.  This turned out quite an adventure:  very little water, but polluted and smelly, with very slippery stones, boulders, tree trunks and branches.  Finally we reached the interesting border at Col des Roches, with long queues of French commuter cars going back home.

Overnight: La Maison Monsieur, Biaufond


The Doubs 1

June 10th – sixth day

Start: Brémoncourt (F), on the Doubs; finish: Biaufond
Total distance: 39,0 km , of which 12 by bicycle
Walking and cycling time: 8 hours 30 minutes
Vertical distance: 1020 m uphill, 930 downhill

In the morning I felt very weak and I started the climb of 450 m in the forest very slowly.  Gradually, I felt better, I passed the remote village of Epiquerez and after four hours I was able to cross the Doubs again on the Clairbief footbridge and meet up with Sally and Neil at the Moulin Jeannotat, whose restaurant unfortunately closed 3 years ago.  A few kilometres by bicycle took me to Goumois, well known to kayakers, for a well appreciated soup, and then on to Le Theusseret.  From there, Neil and I hiked for hours on tedious stony forest roads that climbed much too high above the Doubs.

Overnight: La Maison Monsieur, Biaufond


1. The Clairbief footbridge
2. The bridge at Goumois.  The border is at the beginning of the bridge, on the Swiss side – see “Frontier stories”, no. 2

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A very lonely day

June 9th – fifth day

Start: Es Bouenes (Les Bornes), north of Bure; finish: Brémoncourt (F), on the Doubs
Total distance: 43,1 km
Walking time: 10 hours 30 minutes
Vertical distance: 1420 m uphill, 1560 downhill

It was Sally’s turn to have an upset stomach but she still managed to drive me to the day’s starting point.  Neil was unable to wake up, so I left alone.  And during more than 10 hours walking, I met nobody except one group of noisy French, about 15 elderly people, no doubt an old age pensioners’ outing!  Then the whole countryside seemed to have been emptied of its inhabitants – large farms where one could see farm animals but no humans, deserted villages, customs buildings closed up (yesterday we saw one with a “for sale” sign on it!).  This must be one of the forgotten parts of Switzerland.

Cloudy all day, wind, fog, in fact ideal for walking.  Many obstacles, including countless barbed wire fences (especially on the Swiss side) and again paths marked on the maps but which are no longer there!

Night: Le Chandelier, St-Ursanne

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