Dwight Peck's personal website

The Fontaine Valier

It's out there somewhere

Good snowshoe hiking in late January 2013

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.

The Fontaine Valier lies along the Lake Geneva side of the Swiss Jura mountains southwest of the Col du Marchairuz. There are a couple of marked hiking paths along the front side of the ridge, but the rest of it is all fairly confusing, but also beautiful, and there are no crowds in the winter.

"Font. Valier" is said to be the only spring along this whole stretch of Switzerland's porous limestone Jura mountains. All other water sources in the higher pastures and forests are trucked in or rain-caught in polyethylene pools.

We're leaving Dieter our VW mascot at the layby just south of the Col du Marchairuz, 27 January 2013, and levitating up into the forest.

There's excellent snow in the Jura this year -- today this part of our hike is made easier by a track someone has already laid down a few days ago.

We're going southwest above the cliffs that overhang the Marchairuz road that goes over the Jura ridge to the Vallée du Joux.

The track that makes the going so much easier is not a surprise, since we made it ourself on Thursday.

We're topping out and starting down the other side of this big knob in the forest.

The hiking path from the Col du Marchairuz -- the main, signposted hiking path is usually packed down solid within days after a new snow.

Now we're on an unmarked path but preceded by another large crowd who yesterday made a local circuit in a jubilant single file.

We will leave their convenient track now and seek our own way in life.

Near the top of the Jura ridge, we take a few moments to go over and visit the Old Chemin des Crêtes, and then come back and continue our Expotition.

Now, we'll go up the little hill that's parallel to the line of the ridge . . .

. . . and glance back down it.

First-class snow, cold powder on top of a firm base

Normally, when we're here, we try going up to the right, but today we'll try down to the left.
(Things seldom work out quite as we'd planned them.)

Now down a long ramp below the cliffs that guard the ridge . . .

. . . until we hit another set of cliffs. That's Lake Geneva in the distance.

That's not the best way.

Farther down towards the southwest

And surprise, the Fontaine Valier -- purely by luck, as it happens. Just beyond the sign is a trail that leads up from the pastures of the Pré de Rolle onto the old Chemin des Crêtes on the far side of the ridge.

Self-photo as it's all starting to get drizzly wet.

This is surely not the most convenient way back, but we found an old snowshoe track along the ledges amongst the cliffs. We'll assume that our predecessor was a knowledgeable old hand who knew where he or she was going.

Finally we gave up on our predecessor's example and struck off on our own, unwisely.

In the end we shuffled onto the marked trail we crossed earlier, so now we're taking the easy way northeastward towards Marchairuz.

The hiking path runs along under another set of cliffs just below the radio tower at the top of the ridge.

Heavily trod paths are convenient but not interesting, so we turn southeast down into the forest again. There's a good track to ease our labors.

As it turns out, we are walking down through some levels of cliffs that we've never visited before (except last Thursday).

Down through a little notch in the line of cliffs

Here we jump.

It's a very beautiful place, at least in the winter, and it's probably not more than 300 metres below the hotel at the Col du Marchairuz.

The first level

The second level

The third level

When stymied by things in the way, we'll follow Thursday's track.

But it's all very messy.

Along our little balcony for a ways, and then down.

The drizzly snow had stopped but it's starting up again.

There's a little dell below with a funny something in it.

Ah, it's just a door with a padlock on it.

The snow comes in again, a beautiful day. We've found out a lot about some perplexing parts of the forest, but raised still more questions.

We'll come back soon and look for some more answers.

A week later

It's a sunny day, 3 February, we've come back, and we've brought Dr Pirri along this time.

Dr Pirri, in fact, wants to lead (our old track is there, but he may not have noticed it).

We're going to get left behind.

Up into the top of the forest

A high point in the forest, and we're starting down the farther side.

Avoiding any suspicious holes in the forest floor

A fabulously beautiful part of the forest

We're on a kind of promontory that drops off on all sides (as will we).

Forest views

So far, no sign of any other human tracks, but . . .

. . . now we're down onto the hiking trail from Marchairuz.

Sometimes it all looks the same.

Disagreements about the way forward

We've been over the ridge for a look, and now back down the way we came up.

Down a long and beautiful track nestled onto a ramp amongst the lines of cliffs

It's easy to benefit from the confident tracks of our predecessor (me).

Out to the edge of another line of cliffs; Lake Geneva in the background

Our guide is waiting for us, we'll hurry along.

The Fontaine Valier, not a surprise this time; we're finally getting the hang of finding it.

So what's next?

Over the Jura ridgeline, we're now on the old Chemin des Crêtes on the far side.

The present Chemin des Crêtes is down one level to the left, on the France-facing side of the ridge, but the old trail is more beautiful, though sometimes hard to follow without the old trail signs.

We're confident we've got it right, this time.

Now we're back on the well-trod path from Marchairuz . . .

. . . tiring of which, we're bushwhacking downhill again.

The convenient little chute through the awkward places

Dr Pirri plunging earthward

Dr Pirri approaching cruising speed

Woods near Marchairuz

Following a barely discernible old track down the next level

The door of mystery

Out of the hollows to the little carpark


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Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 11 February 2013.

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