Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mont Chaubert (No 347)

Autumn colours in the Jura foothills above la Côte Malherbe.

Last week the Jura (if you remember my last blog) was bathed in all of the golden hues of autumn. It was a real feature of our walk to the top of Le Chasseron last Sunday. At home (that's our place with the orange-tiled roof in the middle above), yellow and brown and orange and gold leaves tumbled out of the forest, swirled around in the warm valley turbulence, and dropped like weary drifters all over our house and garden. We think it's been the best autumn display ever. Then ... on Friday night ... with little more than a sigh, the warm wind from the Mediterranean (the "Foehn" wind) slowly and silently came to an  imperceptible halt. And in its place sprung-up a fresh, new wind - coming now from the north (the wind the locals call the "Bise") - which gradually transformed the whole landscape from balmy autumn into more Arctic-like conditions. The temperature dropped from about 20 degrees to minus 6 so quickly that you could almost watch the liquid contracting in the temperature gauge. And, even more incredibly, with the sudden drop in temperatures and the freezing winds, came about 10 centimetres of beautiful, white, fluffy snow. 

Lis outside our mountain house at le Côte Malherbe.

By Saturday morning the landscape had been transformed: The trees had been mostly stripped of their autumn leaves and a beautiful blanket of snow covered the landscape as far as the eye could see. It was magical. All of the lovely leaves that we'd been admiring so much these past few weeks now carpeted the ground, covered or patterned with crystals of white snow. Last weekend we'd been walking around in the Jura under sunny skies wearing t-shirts. Today I was pulling on ski pants and my heaviest duty, Antarctica expedition snow-jacket. It was bloody freezing!

We had originally been planning on doing a walk to the summit of one of the "top 20" peaks about an hour's drive north of our home. But instead, we hastily changed our plans and decided to just go for a walk in the forest above our house - to the nearest named peak in the Jura Mountains - Mont Chaubert. There are a number of routes between our place and Mont Chaubert - with the most direct one being straight-up the cliff-face behind our house. As you can see in the photo above, the cliff is right behind the house. It virtually cuts our block in half, with the back section being all cliff and forest. We've got a route to the top - via a few rough steps, a fixed ladder, a series of (even rougher) footholds and a fixed rope (which hangs down over the last one-third of the route - the top left section in the photo below).

The cliff-face at the back of our house.

I checked it out to see if it would be the best option for starting today's walk, but soon decided it probably wasn't the safest (or driest) way to start a walk in the forest. Instead we decided to take the Swiss walking trail that runs right past our front door, and zig-zag our way up le Côte Malherbe to the entrance to the Mont Chaubert forest.

Checking-out the fixed rope section of our cliff.

There are a couple of fantastic marked routes in the Mont Chaubert forest, installed a couple of years ago (and now beautifully maintained) by the local forestry department. They are among a series of about 30 walks in the region set-up under the "NatuRando" moniker. We decided to take the Sentier du Mont Chaubert route - number 16, which offered an easy 3.7 kilometre hike through the heart of the forest.

The route is well marked with trail signs (like those above), with green and white flashes painted onto trees all along the way, and lots of interesting information panels at significant landmarks and features. We encountered the first of these panels virtually as soon as we arrived at the trail head.

Lis checking-out the information panels at the glass-blower's hut.

There are three structures located there that serve as a reminder of the early charcoal, lime and glass manufacturing activities that used to occur here decades ago. The most prominent of these had a sign over the front door saying "Le charbonnier" - the coal-man, or charcoal-maker. It had a couple of carved wooden figures alongside the hut, beautifully crafted by a local wood carver. There are lots of them in and around our local village of St George.

Just across the trail, one of these figures could be seen throwing a log of wood into the old charcoal kiln (typical of about the 1850s and called a "four à chaux). We went down there for a closer look.

The carved man is actually life-size, and very impressive.

A close up of le charbonnier.

History lesson over, it was time to get started on our walk, we were beginning to freeze-over as the bise whistled up the valley behind us, and blasted tiny flakes of snow into our faces. Heading northeast was a familiar trail that we often walk - which takes us on a loop through the forest from our house on le Côte Malherbe.

However today we took the Sentier du Mont Chaubert trail - to the northwest - which more or less follows a ridgeline at the top of an escarpment called Les Coteaux. It's the red route marked on the map below (on the right-hand-side).

The trail led us deeper and deeper into the forest, and slowly up the hillside towards the "St George refuge". The trail was magnificently soft underfoot, dampened-down by millions of fallen leaves, and about 10 centimetres of snow. It was magical. Snowflakes were still drifting down through the trees, and occasionally a mass of accumulated snow would tumble out of an overhanging branch. We were having fun.

Lis heading into the Mont Chaubert forest.

As usual, I stopped and took a photograph of just about everything. There were lots of interesting shapes formed by snow accumulating on branches, leaves and even whole trees. I discovered a beautifully-fashioned woodpecker hole, which just had to be recorded.

A very neat looking woodpecker hole.

Patterns of snow on autumn leaves.

It's hard to believe that this forest was once part of a working farm - virtually completely cleared for cattle pastures a couple of centuries ago. A certain Monsieur de Gingins d'Elépens established a farm here in 1820. It was subsequently purchased by the Canton of Vaud, in 1837 (on the 28th of December to be precise), and turned over to forestry and aligned industry. Now it is a dense, mixed forest full of predominantly fir, beech, birch and oak. If we were lucky, we were hoping to see some deer, or chamois, or perhaps even some wild boar. We got our hopes up when we came across some fresh deer tracks that came onto, and then followed, our trail. However, unfortunately we didn't catch-up the deer, and soon arrived at the refuge.

Arriving at the St George refuge.

This is an amazingly civilized refuge, all set-up with tables and bench seats, kerosene lamps, candles, barbecue, utensils, and even a cabinet with wine glasses. The wood is all chopped and stacked, and someone has even left dry paper and matches. Too Swiss!!!

Lis outside the front of the St George refuge.

Despite all of the attractions of these amenities and this orderliness, the best thing about the refuge is outside - the magnificent panorama - which provides great views over the nearby Jura Mountains (especially down towards La Dole), the village of St George, and the distant Lac Léman, Geneva and the southern Alps. Unfortunately, not much of the latter was on show, but the village sure looked magnificent down below us, under its mantle of fresh snow.

St George, nestled in the foothills of the Jura below Crêt de la Neuve.

St George is situated at about 940 metres above sea level, on one of the main routes over the Jura Mountain range - via the Col du Marchairuz. The commune is still mostly forest (about 75 per cent), with much of the remainder given over to farmland. The first written mention of the village dates back to 1153 when it was called Sancti Georgii in Essartinis by the resident Benedictine monks. With the conquest of Vaud by the bailiffs of Berne (in 1536), the local priory was secularized, and Saint-George, as it became known, came under the administration of the Bailiwick of Morges. After the collapse of the "ancien regime" (as a result of the "Vaudois Revolution" in 1798), the village came under the control of the Canton of Geneva. (It remained so for the duration of the "Helvetic Republic" period - from 1798 to 1803). With the signing/enactment of the "Constitution Mediation", it found itself transferred to the newly formed Canton of Vaud (within which it remains today). In 1798 it was assigned to the District of Aubonne. It's a great little village.

Lis checking out the magnificent views from the refuge.

Jura peaks La Barillette, La Dôle and Point de Poele Chaud on the horizon above St George.

Somewhere down at the end of Lac Léman (hidden in the mist) lies Geneva.

An arms-length self portrait at the St George refuge.

From the refuge we headed northeast, back into the forest, armed with our GPS, and looking for the nearby summit of Mont Chaubert. With the fresh overnight snow, it was often hard to exactly see where the trail was going, but most of the time the green and white markers on the trees made it easy going (and the GPS, even easier).

Lis near one of the trail marker trees.

Christmas trees in October???

Although it was somewhat difficult to find, being a couple of hundred metres off the trail and partially obscured by dense forest, we soon managed to scramble our way to the top of Mont Chaubert (1082m). It's not much of a summit, so we stayed just long enough to snap a not-so-decisive-moment commemorative photograph ... and then we were gone.

Not exactly the most prominent peak in the Jura - the top of Mont Chaubert.

We retraced our steps back down the slope to the trail, and then continued on our way deeper into the forest. It sure was a lovely place to be walking on a Sunday afternoon.

Above and below: Lis on the trail through the forest.

We passed a few sign-posted landmarks and interesting features - including the "Muraille de Chine" (the Wall of China), a high limestone rock wall of "mysterious" origins, (was it natural, was it man-made?), that was now just a big white blob of snow. A little further on we apparently encountered the ruins of an old mid-19th century farmhouse ("L'ancien chalet d'alpage") - which were impossible to distinguish under the snow and amid the undergrowth.

Fortunately the next landmark was much easier to recognize - the old farmhouse at Mont Bailly (1057m). The farm is still in operation - in a small alpage (mountain pasture) clearing about a kilometre northeast of Mont Chaubert. Mont Bailly (incorrectly marked as Mont Bally on some maps), gets its name from the Bailiffs of Berne (Bailiffs = Bailly) who had the run of the land here about four or five hundred years ago. After the "Vaudois Revolution" in 1798, when the Bernese were evicted from the district, the pasturages came under the control of the City of Lausanne - until the Canton of Vaud was constituted in 1803. More recently, in February 2007, the old farm (with its farmhouse dating back to 1803) was purchased by the nearby village of Gimel.

The old farmhouse at Mont Bailly.

Not surprisingly, it was deserted on the day that we were there, with no signs of life other than a couple of old horses scratching away in the snow trying to find some grass to eat. Adding the only splash of colour to an otherwise monochromatic landscape, a red and white Swiss flag fluttered from a flagpole at the front of the house.

We took a couple of photographs, then quietly watched a lovely, healthy-looking, bushy-tailed fox sniff his way across the snowscape, following the scent of something obviously desirable. He was a magnificent specimen, with a white tip at the end of his bushy tail.

We headed back into the forest, briefly following a ski du fond (cross-country ski) trail, which took us past a mid-19th century silviculture plantation and, soon after, the ruins of the original Mont Chaubert farm.

Lis on the ski du fond track.

The old farmhouse is long gone, but in its place one now finds the Refuge Forestier du Mont Chaubert (1044m), built by local foresters in 1906.

The Refuge Forestier du Mont Chaubert.

The refuge had a neat-looking sign on the front wall with a poem that read:

"Protect the forest, maintain its presence.
After the axe is fast and the growth is slow.
Of our acts, our sons will judge us.
Let us work with wisdom, honoured they will return."

Not a bad mission to greet you when you come to work in these forests, today, and the years into the future.

From the refuge, we headed down a forest trail that more-or-less followed a contour above Côte Viri - the hillside just to the east of la Côte Malherbe. We knew this track well, and knew that we were now close to home, so were savouring the last stages of our loop around the forest trails of Mont Chaubert.

Lis enjoying the last, downhill section of the trail.

We passed the familiar sign designating the entrance to the community forest, and were soon "back in civilization" - at the eastern end of our road - the Chemin de la Côte Malherbe. From there, it was an easy walk home. Not a bad trail to have right on one's doorstep huh?

Jura peaks bagged:

  • Mont Chaubert (No. 347) 1082m

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Le Chasseron (No 14)

Le Chasseron, the 14th highest peak in the Jura Mountains, is unmistakable, yet is often confused with Chasseral (the 13th highest peak), which we trekked to in September. Adding to their confusion, they are both virtually the same height - with Le Chasseron 1606.6 metres (rounded-up to 1607), and Chasseral 1607.4 (rounded-down to 1607) - and both have their names from the same origins: the place of la chasse - the chase, the hunt. A good place to go hunting for wild game.

Fortunately they are both good places to go hiking as well, and the trip to the top of Le Chasseron on Sunday (21 October) reinforced this peak's reputation as one of the best day hikes in the Jura. We headed up there from the village of Sainte Croix (or Sainte-Croix or Ste-Croix - depending on which map/sign/book you're looking at), which is about 10 kilometres northwest of Yverdon-les-Bains, the picturesque town located at the southern end of Lac de Neuchâtel.

The road up the Jura escarpment was a classic switchback-abundant, zig-zag, mountain-side road that took us from the relatively low-land Swiss plateau to the first saddle (or "col") of the Jura's highest ridgeline - the south-eastern chain, the "Balcon de Léman", which rises steeply to the village of Ste-Croix.

 The church in Sainte-Croix and trail sign to Le Chasseron.

We parked just below the Sainte-Croix church, and, without much ado, grabbed our back-packs and (at about 10am) headed north out of town. The trail virtually started right at the church's back door. Ste-Croix is famous for lots of reasons - but mostly because of its music boxes, and the fact that the famous 18th century writer, philosopher, botanist, wanderer and explorer Jean-Jacques Rousseau used to hang around here back in the 1760s. He lived in the nearby village of Môtiers from 1762 to 1765, and frequently wandered around the hills in the vicinity of Le Chasseron. Whilst living in Môtiers, Rousseau fell in love with the Jura Mountains, and took every opportunity to hike into its highlands - including to Le Chasseron - in search of "plants and inspiration". Suitably inspired by such walks, he wrote his famous books: Reveries of the Solitary Walker and Letters written from the Mountains, which were filled with vivid descriptions of the landscape. He once wrote: "I cannot possibly describe how pleasant it is here in the warm season". One account of Rousseau said: "his depiction of nature as an object of contemplation rather than a source of imminent danger triggered a flow of foreign visitors eager to see the Swiss countryside for themselves. Some used his novel Julie, or the new Heloise as a travel guide ... Scores of English romantics followed his lead, becoming the first tourists to visit the Jura Mountains".

The music box heritage dates back to about a hundred years after Rousseau - to 1850, when the Swiss watch-making industry went through a bit of an economic crisis, prompting the watchmakers of Sainte Croix to diversify into manufacturing new products: music boxes. This proved to be sufficiently profitable for the industry to take-on some degree of permanence, and gave the town a whole new reputation. Apparently the local music box museum and workshop are well worth a visit. It's not open on Sundays, and besides, we were itching to "hit the road", and so we didn't hang around for very long.

The trail heading out of Ste-Croix is along the famous "Chemin des Crêtes du Jura" transjurassien trail. Initially it went straight uphill, out of town, and into a wonderful deciduous forest ablaze with autumn colours. The path was covered with fallen leaves, and neither of us could resist the childhood urge to shuffle our boots along the ground as we went - kicking up leaves along the way. That was fun.

Leaves cover the track heading out of Ste-Croix.

About one and a half kilometres from Ste-Croix, just past a farm-house, we reached a walking-trail-crossroad at a place called Les Praises (1255m).

 Trail-signs at Les Praises.

After scrutinizing the signs, and our topographic map, we turned east and headed along a gentle incline which took us into a (mainly) coniferous forest - which is more typical of the Jura's higher landscapes. The track was a two-wheeled limestone road that obviously universally serves the needs of the foresters, farmers, ski-lift operators and skiers, refuge owners and visitors, mountain hotels/restaurants, hikers, etc.

Lis heading east on the Les Praises-La Casba forest road.

Fortunately we only had to follow it for about a kilometre, before we turned onto a grassy/rocky walking track that headed north towards Le Chasseron. The turn-off was just south of a mountain hut/refuge/restaurant called "La Casba", which was located near a whole bunch of ski-lift apparatus servicing the ski-field around Le Cochet. A little further along the track we reached Les Avattes - another chalet that doubles-up as a restaurant, serving hikers, skiers and motorists probably all-year-round. A magnificent aroma tantalizingly wafted over our trail, with the smell of a wood fire burning away, and something sizzling (la chasse?). But we resisted the urge to investigate, and pushed-on up the hill.

Passing by Les Avattes (1458m).

Les Avattes must be quite a destination in itself, because from there-on the path (now looking more rocky and rustic like the "Chemin des Crêtes du Jura" should) became increasing less-trodden. At first, it led up a steep hillside through a last patch of forest, then out onto open mountain pasture and, finally, a sharp rocky ridgeline called le Petites Roches (the "Little Rocks"). This ridge - with gentle sloping pasture-land on one side (the east), and steep, rocky, forested slopes on the other (the west) provided our first good clear views over the surrounding Jura, and distant lakes and Alps. Unfortunately, the latter were little more than fuzzy outlines in a blue-grey haze - that hung over the Neuchâtel and Léman lakes. There were no amazing views to be enjoyed today.

Standing atop the western (Jura) side of the Petites Roches ridgeline.

The highest point of les Petites Roches - at 1583 metres - was our first destination for the day, being number 21 on our list of the Jura's highest named peaks.

 The top of Petites Roches.

Once we got there, we stayed just long enough to take the obligatory celebratory photograph, to check-out the surrounding landscape, and take a few more pics. There was a stiff wind blowing-in from the Alps, which meant that every time we stopped walking, we needed to pull-on a windbreaker, and every time we started walking again, we needed to take it off.

Flying the flag at the top of Les Petites Roches, with the cliffs of Le Chasseron further along the ridgeline in the background.

Looking west towards Mont de la Maya (the peak in the middle distance) and Le Sollier farmhouse (in the valley below).

To the north lies Roches Blanches, towering above La Merla farmhouse.

Looking southwest back down the ridgeline, with Le Suchet and les Aiguilles des Baulmes in the distance at left, and Mont d'Or in the far distance above the hikers in the centre.

Looking northeast along the ridgeline towards the top of Le Chasseron.

We were soon back on our way, dropping down from Petites Roches into a bit of a swale just east of Crêt de Gouilles (1524 metres), and following the trail that skirted along the cliff-faces. The views were amazing and, from time to time, we stopped to take more photographs - mainly of les Petites Roches behind us and Le Chasseron looming ahead.

 Lis at the cliff-tops just southeast of Le Chasseron.

The west face of Le Chasseron.

It didn't take us long to cover the last kilometre or so between Petites Roches and Le Chasseron, and we soon passed the Hôtel du Chasseron - the mountaintop hotel/restaurant that is perched on the slopes just south of the summit. Far below us, through the haze, we could see the town of Yverdon-les-Bains - from where Rousseau had been evicted (he was "persecuted by the authorities" - partly for his "worship of nature"), just before he moved to Môtiers in the 1760s.

The Hôtel du Chasseron. Lazy diners can drive all the way up here from the village of Bullet, about 500 metres (in altitude) below.

The view from the hotel terrace over Lac de Neuchâtel and Yverdon-les-Bains.

Uninspired by the look of the hotel, we scrambled like a pair of mountain goats up the last rocky outcrop and stood at the edge of the abrupt cliff-face atop the Jura's 14th highest summit - Le Chasseron (1607m). Lis snapped a pic of me standing at the summit under the big geodesic signal pyramid that marks the highest point. This had been erected in 1989 - to replace the original one that had been there since 1901.

At the top of Le Chasseron, 1606.6 metres above sea level.

It was now about mid-day, and for the first time the skies above us were seriously clouding-over. There was little to see towards the Alps, where (as the very informative panorama information panel told us), one could normally see the magnificent chain of Savoy, Valais and Bernese Alpine peaks. Those who've made it to the top on clearer days also normally get great views of three lakes - Neuchâtel, Biel and Murten (and limited views of a fourth - Lac Léman) - and the Fribourg plateau.

 Thanks for the panorama panel Monsieur Jaccard-Lenoir, but there were no Alps on show today.

The wind was cold and cutting, so we once again pulled-on our windbreakers, and found a place in a hollow behind some rocks where we could hunker-down for lunch. A picnic lunch at the top of the Jura, who could ask for more? Hot tea, bread, cheese, chocolate and a nip of French brandy - all while taking-in a magnificent view over the Jura Mountains. Absolute bliss!

Lis at our lunch spot at the top of Le Chasseron.

After lunch we wandered around the summit, taking-in the scenery, and enjoying the occasional burst of sunlight that broke through the passing clouds and lit-up the mountain-top. As usual, I took about a hundred photographs.

Lis at the top of the world, with Roches Blanches - through which runs the boundary between the cantons of Vaud and Neuchâtel - in the background.

Looking northeast towards the northern Jura.

Lis taking-in the arc Jurassien - on the Chemin des Crêtes du Jura walking trail.

I'm not exactly sure what this two-metre high inscription was all about, but it was certainly impressive.

A view towards the west - of the Jura's parallel and diminishing ridgelines.

A last look back at the sunlit summit of Le Chasseron.

One of the most interesting stories about Le Chasseron dates back to 1850, when a young man collecting plant specimens at the foot of the mountain found a handful of old Roman coins. Not surprisingly, hundreds of amateur fossickers followed in his footsteps in subsequent years - scouring the site and discovering a multitude of objects, including more coins, and pieces of jewellery, pottery and other objects. This is how the discovery was reported in the Gazette de Lausanne:

"A few weeks ago, a young man engaged in collecting plants at the foot of Chasseron found a Roman coin, whilst snatching a plant. It was soon known in (the towns of) Fleurier and Sainte Croix. Therefore, many people of these localities have been excavating the site and found so far, about two hundred Roman medals ... Also found were bricks, fragments of vases, almost-intact bells, iron tools, etc."

The site was further studied by a man named Julien Gruaz, who described the site in some detail in an account entitled "Le Chasseron temples and Mountains" - which was published in the Vaudoise History Journal in 1913. He wrote that: "the site had probably been first used by the Gauls, and then the Romans, as a temple at which they could devote themselves to their gods in some high places". He wrote (with some degree of lyricism, but here slightly lost in translation): "In relation to a huge space, where exist to infinity a variety of sites amid soft undulating lines; where the contrasts of light and shadow, storm and weather deploy powerful effects, it seems that the veneration shines on mountaintops would associate the worship of the gods - at all times exercised over the human soul, and the forces of nature".

The site was most comprehensively examined in the summers of 2004 and 2005 - by a team of archaeologists led by Professor Thierry Luginbühl from the "Institute of Archaeology and Sciences of the Antiquity" at the University of Lausanne. These more thorough and professional excavations "shed far more light on the site, revealing distinct foundations of the temple/shrine, completely exposing the remaining walls, and even discovering fragments of Roman tiles which once adorned its floors and walls".

Looking again southwest back down the ridgeline, with Le Suchet and les Aiguilles des Baulmes on the left, and Mont d'Or in the far distance on the right - behind the top of Petites Roches.

With no such antiquity to arouse our interest, and suitably rested, we re-shouldered our packs and began retracing our steps down the mountain. Fortunately the back-tracking only lasted a few hundred metres - where we stopped to check-out an interesting monument called "the Stone of Peace". This is a huge gneiss boulder that had been originally dragged from miles away by an ancient glacier, and deposited somewhere near the village of Bullet at the foot of Le Chasseron. It was placed up near Le Chasseron as a monument to peace, and had engraved into its upper surface - by sculptor Jacqueline Jeanneret from Col des Roches - the symbols of ancient and more-modern religious faiths - surrounding the mathematical sign for infinity.

The Peace Stone just below Le Chasseron.

At this point, we took a trail that headed down the escarpment on the western side of the ridgeline - towards the farmhouse called La Merla (1390m). Although steep and rocky when we first dropped-over the cliff-tops, the path was mostly a gentle zig-zag down the side of the valley to the valley floor where the farm's summer homestead was located.

Lis leading the way down the mountain, with Petites Roches high on her left and (our next destination summit) Mont de la Maya on her right.

On the farm track heading towards La Merla farmhouse, with Mont de la Maya on the right.

In the valley floor, just south of La Merla, and looking back up towards the summit of Le Chasseron.

This is a lovely, flat section of the trail, and we made good time to our next landmark - another mountain farm homestead that annually bursts into life during Switzerland's warmer months - called Le Sollier. From here we turned a sharp right, towards the northwest, and headed straight-up the slope towards the summit of Mont de la Maya.

Lis heading-up the southern slope of Mont de la Maya, with Le Chasseron and La Merla farmhouse in the background to the northeast.

The slope got progressively steeper, such that by the time we were approaching the top we were having to zig-zag back and forward across the slope to gain height. It was too steep to go straight-up. Even though Mont de la Maya is way down on the list of the Jura's highest peaks (1465 metres, and number 54), it felt more like a mountaintop than many of the higher peaks we've climbed. Not surprisingly, the trail to the top isn't even marked on most maps. To most hikers passing by, it's another obscure summit (only climbed by "collectors"). Lis reckons I'm the Jura Mountains' equivalent of a "twitcher" (for those who don't know the term, it's applied to bird-watching enthusiasts "who travel long distances to see a rare bird - which they would then tick, or check-off, on their list".

And after one last scramble over some rocks, we found ourselves at the top of Mont de la Maya. The peak gets its name from the Latin word meta, which means "cone or pyramid", and generally applies to a place with a conical top. We didn't stay there for very long - pausing just long enough to catch our breath, have a drink of water, munch-down a snack bar, and then take the obligatory "proof-I-was-there" photograph.

At the highest-point survey marker atop Mont de la Maya. Roches Blanches lies to the north in the background.

We retraced our steps back down the mountain - to a set of walking trail "cross-roads", just east of Le Sollier farmhouse. We took the lesser-travelled route towards the south, which took us back into the coniferous forest below Petites Roches, and led us towards our final destination - the top of Le Cochet.

Le Sollier farmhouse (1373 metres).

About one-and-a-half kilometres further down the track, we turned-off to the west, and made our way up the slopes of Le Cochet - following a thin sinuous clearing through the forest that was obviously a winter ski piste. We were just near the "La Casba" chalet again.

Lis on the way up the northern side of Le Cochet, with the summit of Petites Roches in the background.

Sometime around 2.30pm, we reached the top of Le Cochet (at 1483.3 metres, it's number 49 on the list). Tick. (It's been a good day for a Jura twitcher - four peaks, and four ticks - bringing the total number of peaks "ticked-off" in my "Jura Seven Summits" project thus far - to 38.) Le Cochet gets its name from the surname of an old farming family who once lived in the district, and probably owned the mountain pastures around the peak.

The top of Le Cochet, with the ubiquitous summit cross. This one was erected on 17 October 1964, replacing the original cross put up here by locals in October 1938.

Sur le sommet du Cochet.

Looking down on Ste-Croix.

Unfortunately, although only mid-afternoon, the day hadn't got any warmer, the cold wind still chilled us whenever we stopped walking, and the clouds and haze blanketed-out any chance we had of getting good views of the peaks on the horizon. So, as soon as we'd taken our photographs, we charged-off down the mountainside, following a rough path that wound its way down the hillside under the ski-lifts on the eastern side of the mountain.

We soon re-encountered the trail that we'd been on earlier in the day, just near "La Casba", so we turned south and headed back towards Ste-Croix. Ironically, as soon as we got back into the lower altitudes, the wind dropped, the clouds began to clear and the sun came out. As it had been in the morning, the countryside was once again bathed in glorious sunshine as we headed back into the deciduous forest.

Lis heading into the forest just above Ste-Croix.

A distinctive yellow diamond trail marker in the forest.

Emerging from the autumn-gold-filled forest just above Ste-Croix.

We got back to the car sometime just after 3pm - making the hike roughly five hours long. As had been the case on every Jura Mountain ramble thus far, we'd had a great time, had seen some great views, and talked about when we'll come back and do this hike again: Perhaps in mid-winter, or mid summer, or .....

Jura peaks bagged:
  • Le Chasseron (No. 14) 1607m
  • Petites Roches (No. 21) 1583m
  • Le Cochet (No. 49) 1483m
  • Mont de la Maya (No. 54) 1465m
  • Putting it into perspective, Le Chasseron is apparently the 6,183rd highest peak in Switzerland.
  • Regarding its name, Le Chasseron is also thought to be derived from the Latin saxon, which means "rocks", and which became sasse, then Sasseron. Other accounts suggest Le Chasseron may once have also been called "Sucheron".