Peck's personal Web site
of the Jura
Winter Sport for all members of the family
(except the small ones)
essay on holes
The Jura's made
of karst limestone and, in many places, riddled with holes. Luckily, hidden holes
hikers are tucked away in the dark
forests (above left) -- on the open pastures, where cows of economic value
wander all about, there are far fewer
holes, and those holes that remain are curtained all about with barbed wire and,
sometimes, stone walls.
one. This nasty hole
(above right), down the southwest end of the Mont Tendre
ridgeline, is probably the only unguarded open-meadow hole in the region, and
seems this time, judging from the tracks, almost to have claimed a victim, poor
chap. Caught in the branches thoughtfully laid over the cavemouth, the unlucky
man or woman seems to have thrashed up and down a bit whilst, from the snowshoe
marks, his or her friends steadied themselves to haul him or her out of it. [Right: Here's
the vicious little thing in summer.]
the forest, however, especially down in the dolines and depressions, where cows fear to tread,
anything goes. In this nasty hole, not far from the Druchaux farm, there's no
bottom in sight no matter what kind of light you shine down it. It's good to tread
lightly in this area.
are many signs to watch for in hole country -- first of all, holes,
of course; and broken snow surface with limestone outcrops, lots of ups and downs,
shadows under the snow, oddly spaced depressions, stone walls and barbed wire
fences (where one reflects "This fence is here for a cow-related reason;
well, am I on the good side of it for cows, or the bad side?"), and a kind
of fern that grows round the base of trees in serious hole country, who knows
why, but always associated with holes in the area.
clairvoyance helps as well -- not infrequently,
one enters a clearing devoid of conscious signs of holes and gets a chill or foreboding
discomfort, one pauses and probes ahead with a ski-pole, and a tiny snowbridge
collapses into a vicious great hole or crack, and despite oneself one murmurs
"Thank you". The sixth sense is not scientifically
quantifiable or capable of replication, but it's helpful with limestone holes
in the Jura.
another. There are several areas in the Mont Tendre region, forested limestone
depressions tucked in amongst the headlands, where the water has nowhere to go
but straight down, and these are called "Creux d'Enfer"
on the maps -- Hell
Hollow would be the best translation. The Creux
d'Enfer de Druchaux (site of the above) between the Druchaux farm
and Mont Tendre, the Creux d'Enfer du Petit Cunay
between Druchaux and the Petit Cunay headland, another between Monts de Bière
and Grand Cunay, and lots more.
slow going down through these things, but excellent sport in winter. Vigilance,
concentration, intense focus required, and only a tiny bit of effort or risk --
in fine, a gentleman's sport. Not
nasty holes are in depressions, but this one is on a little rise in a forest clearing
in the Creux d'Enfer du Petit Cunay; it drops down about 10 feet and then angles
off into places we hope we will never get to know about. It's about 100 meters
west in the forest from a very vasty hole marked on the map as La
Glacière -- there are at least a few more of these in the region,
and they refer to holes and limestone chimneys so deep as to retain permanent
ice throughout the summer. Here's another Glacière . . .
hole called La Glacière de
Saint George, or Le
Gouffre, deep in the forest high above the village of St. George
(and not far from the Eau Pendante, or "Hanging
waters"), is a protected natural monument with sturdy ladders leading
one down about 40 meters to the ice, and lots of daunting passages leading away
from that -- more on that later.
another littler one in the Creux d'Enfer du Petit Cunay
-- don't stumble across that in the twilight. No bottom in sight. Snowshoes
and skis often help in such circumstances, however -- more than a few times in
recent years, in careless moments, snowshoes refused to be swallowed up where otherwise one's leg would
easily have been. "Gagged the shark", so to speak. And once in 2001
the hapless narrator, in still another careless moment whilst reviewing his favorite
TV sitcoms in his mind, did not get swallowed up in a situation in which a person
of, shall we say, "more modest girth" likely would never have been seen
in the Alps, in the Jura most holes that eat people stay open and visible (in
daylight and good weather) all through the winter. And most of the smaller
snow-covered holes merely tug at one's ankles or, on rare occasions, break them.
But there is always that frisson, the possibility
of a hole somewhere in between the harmlessly invisible and the charmlessly obvious,
that draws hikers back to the Creux d'Enfer in winter.
example! Dr Pirri taking a luckily brief trip into a well-hidden
hole in the forest of Grande Rolat, January 2002. Simple cautions, like "Watch
Your Step", have no meaning for Dr Pirri.
undeterred, Prof Pirri returns to check another monster hole
as if lessons were not for learning.
Dr Pirri's capacity for falling into holes is virtually inexhaustible.
essay on holes
all holes in the Jura are as obvious as this one in the Creux
d'Enfer de Druchaux. In some places, fields and fields of open holes and
cracks in the limestone forest floor can provide hours of targeted winter entertainment
when the lads venture into the area on a warm and sunny afternoon in January 2002.
it's that kind of January, a Republican
January, you might say. Nine of the
ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1990, when the Republicans legislated
a ban on research on alternatives to wholesale dependence upon the fossil fuels
which frequently make a select few of us extremely rich. Not me, of course, and
not you, but . . . well, pretty much just our presidents and vice-presidents and
the kindly folks who pull their strings and get all the tax cuts and what not.
Pirri, leading the expedition whilst recounting
amusing anecdotes from his youth, almost disappears into a shallow crack or chasm
in the forest floor. Not far from a humongous hole in the forest floor (left).
Dr Pirri labors to extract himself from the forest floor, his colleague(s) dart
about in all unhelpful directions seeking still funnier camera angles.
in Mr Pirri's predicament, his colleague(s) blow off the better part of a roll
of film hoping to chronicle just the right moment when physics
and irony meet, and Dr Pirri disappears straight down, leaving behind only
a ski pole and the aroma of aftershave.
moments later, having charged Dr Pirri with negligence and taken over the lead,
Mr Peck of Bassins, Switzerland, wanders into a similar fate and lodges
his snowshoe into a narrow crevice . . .
. . which evidently likes his snowshoe a lot and schemes to retain it indefinitely.
snowshoe -- if we disengage it from our feet, it will descend quickly out
of reach, into the bowels of the earth as it were, and we'll only have one left
(snowshoe, that is, not bowel. Well, that too.). So we keep on tugging at it,
as afternoon drags on into evening and our mozzarella sandwiches begin to dry
out in our backpacks.
with a shall-we-call-it Herculean effort we yank!
the reluctant plastic out of the earth, at the cost of about 80 grams of knee
cartilege, and regain our freedom, something devoutly
to be wished for a lot of people around the world in these fallen times.
than just cartilege: the following week the whole snowshoe fell apart three hours
out from the Col de la Givrine. Shouldn't have Yanked it so hard - diplomacy might
have worked better.]
freedom is not always the same thing as standing upright,
and -- as so often is the case -- the standing upright part of it takes up another
handsome length of time. Throughout which, former President J. J. Pirri was making
himself sick with laughter at the contemplation of our plight.
last laugh, as Mr Pirri dives in again moments later. (The penultimate
laugh, actually, because shortly after this one, we went in again, too.)
. . . once out of the blimey limestones and heading back at the end of the
day, we remember why we've come here in the first place. Sunset, 26 January 2002,
on the far side of the Col du Marchairuz.
no theoretical limit to how many more embarrassing pix of Dr Pirri falling
into nasty limestone holes one could put up here, so this page will probably always
be "under construction". Bookmark this page and come back for more holes.
And write to Dr Pirri and encourage him to wander in the forest still more negligently.
on the point of disappearing into a lovely great hole in the forest
of Grande Rolat, February 2005.
and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 January 2002, revised 3 February 2014.