hard work keeping up with Dean Pirri's enthusiasms, and sometimes it's easier just
to go along with them, up to a point.
may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught
up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Pirri has been obsessing about the Grottes à Chenuz since we stumbled a
few years ago upon this little hand-hewn tunnel in the steep forests on the side
of Mont Tendre, and we have finally decided that the only way to get some peace
will be to take him back there. So here we are, in early December 2006, getting
ready to go check out the action down the hole. So to speak.
whole mountain is hollow in these parts, known as the Roches Blanches for the
white limestone caves and boulders everywhere. We're at about 1440m in the steep
forest northeast of the Mont Tendre summit, above the village of Montricher. The
tunnel was dug by pickaxe by the Montricher postman Mr Chenuz and his friends
in the 1930s to make a 20 or 30m entrance to the caverns.
Chenuz founded the Speological Club of Montricher in about 1930 and with a few
friends explored the whole area above the village -- according to the stories,
when they got into this cavern they found four skeletons of bears "en parfait
état de conservation" (which, as I understand it, is one of the main
qualifications for sainthood). Thus the cave is also known as the Grotte aux Ours,
or Cave of Bears.
Pirri, trembling with joyful anticipation, prepares to fulfill his dream of exploring
the Grotte à Chenuz.
speedily sprints out of sight into the interior.
only exhalations behind.
we first wandered in here a few years ago, aimlessly, there was a ridiculous old
rotten wooden ladder propped up in this place, probably something that Postman
Chenuz slapped together in his garage during the Great Depression, but this metallic
looking thing is a lot more encouraging.
With no ceremonial preliminaries, Dr Pirri dives in.
on the cavern floor, Dr Pirri sets off to make an inventory of the surrounding
far we've got a few stalactites, and a few stalagmites, and a whole lot of general
of the party are looking nostalgically back at the ladder, as we begin to poke
around in little Nooks and even littler Crannies.
lots of gorgeous cave slime all about and a constant drip of chilly slime water.
of little exits from our cavern, poking off in all directions.
Pirri peeks inquiringly down one of them, and then . . .
. . peeks inquiringly up another.
nice big piece fell off the right wall of this passage but didn't get very far.
Not whilst we were there, of course. All of the house-size boulders strewn all
about could be fit jigsaw-puzzle-like into exactly similar holes in the roof far
down towards the ladder for a look in the other direction.
nice, comfy metal ladder bolted to the wall. Discarded down to the right is the
laughable old wooden one, its predecessor, which a speleological Web site from
just a few years ago described as "pas très solide" -- well,
President Pirri getting himself organized.
lined up for the obligatory celebratory photo opportunity.
find another ladder still, and, predictably, Dr Pirri leaps upon it and almost
disappears from view in seconds.
Pirri taking a good look round. More former 1930s' wooden ladders strewn underfoot.
looking round, photographed this time with the zoom lens on.
time to start thinking about a graceful exit. Which,
for some of us, at this very late stage in the life of our knees, is not assured.
Dr Pirri, from natural agility and long practice, springs upon ladders and descends
at a fireman's pace, others in the party took ten minutes just getting turned
around and onto it when we first came in. We're hoping that getting out of here
will be a little less painful.
easy crouchy trot to daylight. How Postman Chenuz pickaxed his way accurately
to connect to the grotte is quite a puzzle -- in fact, he nearly missed it in
the end, popping out on the roof of the cave, as you've seen. Mr Chenuz must really
have been a bold postman to be reckoned with, and handy with his tools.
Pirri, a lifelong pedagogue, demands to know what we've learnt from this experience.
narrator, already very well acquainted with pedagogues' tricks, gives him the
steep forest on the side of Mont Tendre, where enormous trees grow straight out
of the cliffs. (And where about every third tree in the neighborhood has recently
been whacked down by the busy foresters.) Following our little lookabout in the
cave, we continued our upward bushwhacking walk, circled above the Pré
Anselme in some very significant winds (no joke in these diseased old forests),
and ended a wonderful walk just at nightfall.
this day, the temperature was 15°C in Geneva (59°F) - as the English radio
station WRG-FM pointed out, this day last year it was -10°C (14°F). We
wonder how Mr Bush would explain that! A 25°C Global
Warming leap in just one year! Shame on the Republicans and their bosses.