Dwight Peck's personal website

Summer 2005

Vers l'Eglise, Lac Retaud, and Bretaye

A brief weekend in Vers l'Eglise and rain-soaked environs

You 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.

Some of us are losing patience with the wayward weather these days, and the weekend of 6-7 August 2005 did not improve our mood.

(Whilst living in the resort of Leysin, we used to smile sympathetically at the Belgians and Dutch who'd come for their holidays and found impenetrable fog all week, and not much to do but watch the curling team practice down at the ice rink. The sympathy was real, but the smile was because we lived there and had merely to wait out the fog. Now the shoe is on the other foot.)

We decided to go to Les Diablerets and take our chances. Well, not exactly Les Diablerets, which has mainly newish resorty hotels and the more interesting inns were fully booked -- so here we are in nearby Vers l'Eglise (1125m), on the road up from Aigle and Le Sépey, and not far from Leysin, in fact.

And the lovely Auberge de l'Ours, built in 1833 and renovated in 2001, run by Mady and Dirk Krauter who really know how to mix up a great wok and keep the guests smiling despite the forbidding weather. It's not much of a town and much the better for it. Just the eglise, the auberge, a few other beautiful old buildings, and a train stop on the way to Les Diablerets.

The church is fairly old, the Chapel of St Théodule dating from the 14th century, and must have particularly fantastic acoustics, because for many years it has been the site of a much prized musical series in winter, and more than once, whilst living in Leysin, the narrator drove down to catch the odd string trio or quartet.

The eglise from our hotel window. The room, rented to us as a mere double, had an upstairs loft with a row of bunkbeds for ski groups in the winter. And two showers instead of merely one.

From the hotel room looking past the church towards the Leysin Tours in the distance between the buildings.

There they are, in a fine blue sky on the morning of our departure: the Tour d'Aï on the left and the Tour de Mayen on the right.

Beautiful downtown Vers l'Eglise, the church and auberge on the right, train station in the background. And that's pretty much the lot of it.

Purple flowers on our balcony

Pic Chaussy and its abandoned skilift station looming to the north. Many grim wintry adventures have been had up there, mainly from the other side over Les Mosses.

Wherever in the world a poor kitty may try to hide, Kristin will find it.

A blank and cloudy weekend hike near the Lac Retaud

We're off for a short hike to have a look at the famous Arnensee (or Lac d'Arnon) from afar.

The mountain restaurant at Lac Retaud (1685m), on a grim sort of Saturday, 6 August 2005. The little lake lies just above the Col du Pillon (1546m) on the road between Les Diablerets and Gstaad to the north.

The Lac Retaud, not much of a lac but a popular tourist place for a nice day out -- linger over a huge cheese dish for lunch and gaze across at the Diablerets massif in a wonderful surrogate alpine experience.

The restaurant at Lac Retaud -- no time for a fondue or raclette today, or giant ham sandwich, because we're on a mission. The Diablerets is hidden in cloud, but anyway we're headed over the Col des Andérets to have a peek down at the Arnensee, for old times' sake.

The farm of Isenau (1855m) at the end of a dirt road above Retaud. The narrator used to have a good annual running route through here up to La Para ou Tournette (2540m), behind the stuff on the upper left, so this was a kind of much slower homecoming. [This place used annually to be the summer-festival home of the world's biggest rösti, stirred with 3-metre rakes, and may still be.]

Kristin at the Col des Andérets (2034m)

From the Col des Andérets we gaze down upon the Lac d'Arnon (1542m) to the north, and the dammed ravine leading out to Feutersoey on the road between Gsteig and Gstaad.

Turning a circle from the Col around La Palette (2170m) up on the right, cunning hikers turn southeast in a drizzly rain towards the Old Chalet (Chalet Vieux) at 1950m, with the bottom of the Oldenhorn across the valley in the distance.

Looming above the Chalet Vieux, on the far side of the Col du Pillon, the Sanetschhorn (2924m, left) and Oldenhorn (3123m, right) in the distance. The narrator once saw over 100 chamois in one day there whilst coming down from the Glacier de Tsanfleuron through the Oldensattel (2737m).

(That's a one-day chamois record except for 120 near the Col de Base above Château d'Oex in 1990 but that was an overnight and included counting the nearby pitterpats of tiny hooves, like raindrops on a tin roof, in the early morning hours.)

A look back at the Arnensee before vacating the premises. The col at the far left is the Fenêtre d'Arnon (1885m), a key milestone in our beautiful annual running route from Leysin to Gstaad. Back in the day.

Under lowering clouds and an ominous drizzle, we turn famishedly towards dinner.

The Chalet Vieux (1950m) in a drizzle, from the southeast.

With the Diablerets summit and glacier hidden in cloud, Kristin pauses to recall the high points of the dinner menu at the Auberge de l'Ours.

Back to the Lac Retaud, just as the dinner gong rings out with a voluminous echoing call back to Vers l'Eglise.

Around the Chaux Ronde from Bretaye

We're just here for the weekend, early August 2005, and have NO patience with this foul weather. Well, actually, we LOVE this foul weather, many people look askance at that and can think of nothing to say in reply, but be that as it may, foul weather's no good on the glaciers.

Our planned escapade over the path laid down on the Glacier of Diablerets (technically, the Glacier du Tsanfleuron) is undoable, which saves us the expense of taking the cablecar up from the Col du Pillon (a LOT of Swiss francs) but leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out something else to do with our holiday besides going to the movies and watching Brad Pitt in French.

So, by consensus, it's the Lac de Bretaye, where rain doesn't matter very much, except for the wetness. Bretaye (1805m) is on the "far side" of Le Chamossaire (2112m) from Leysin, overlooking Villars-sur-Bex and at the top of a skiers' cograil train from Villars. We've driven up a little mountain road from our auberge in Vers l'Eglise to the Lac des Chavonnes (1690m) and walked on up to see where the party's at.

The hamlet around Bretaye is looking forlorn and unrewarding on 7 August 2005, and one can only hope that things will improve soon, before the inhabitants get cabin fever and go barking mad.

(A sunnier visit to Bretaye, June 2014)

The auberge at Bretaye, dripping dejectedly. Well, this is silly, plodding about wondering if the rain's going to stop. We've just had a coffee in the nearby skilift restaurant, and now we've got to make a decision.

Do we go back to the hotel and read enlivening articles from The Guardian and MondoWeiss to one another all day, or do we grip the bit between the teeth and get still wetter?

We grip the soggy bit between the teeth and set off to circumambulate the mountains overlooking Bretaye on the east, above Villars. First we have to clear the Star-Wars-modern skilifts at Bretaye, at the top of the cograil train, leading up to the summit of Chamossaire, and turn abruptly east again.

Here's the hamlet of Ensex (1785m), all the way around the Chaux Ronde from Bretaye. We're doing a loop over the col at L'Encrene (1936m) and hoping that the gods, to whom we are as flies to wanton boys, will relent with this rain and not drench us for their sport.

Ensex, where evidently in ski season there are teepees with great views and nearby cuisine, and they march the ski-lodgers out in the snow from the railhead just the way we've come. One wouldn't want to do that wearing ski boots and dragging a suitcase!

Ensex street scene

"Excuse Us! We're trying to have a private conversation here, do you mind?"

Ensex on a dreary day


"Richardson Septic" on the hat, and no apologies

Le Chamossaire from the "back side", the side facing away from Leysin, on our way back to the Lac des Chavonnes

Le Chamoissaire from the "front side", facing Leysin, January 2005.

Back in a rainy August 2005, we're completing our circuit from Bretaye and arrive at the cute little hamlet of Perche (1790m)

A brief pause in Perche to converse for a few moments with a cat sitting up on a balcony. We've come from Ensex over the col on the horizon.

The Lac des Chavonnes, such a beautiful little lake.

Kristin on the lakeshore. Water levels are way down.

The little restaurant on the Lac de Chavonnes

And then, packing it up, we're blessed with a fine albeit cloudy view of the Leysin Tours from La Forclaz as we drive back to the old feedbag at the Auberge de l'Ours.

The Truex, seen from across the ravine in La Forclaz.

The Leysin towers, the Tour d'Aï and the Tour de Mayen.

A good hike to the Col des Andérets, and a soggy hike near Bretaye, and then -- as the weather finally clears -- we say farewell to the Inn of the Bear in Vers l'Eglise, recommending it to all similar vacationers who don't require the discos of Les Diablerets. Website: http://www.aubergedelours.ch/, info at info@aubergedelours.ch.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 September 2005, revised 8 May 2008, 22 June 2014.

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