Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2013-2014

Dispatches from way, way behind the lines in Switzerland

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 Creux d'Enfer du Petit Cunay

27 October 2013

Today we're going to poke around in the Creux d'Enfer that's hollowed out between the headlands of Petit Cunay and Druchaux in the Swiss Jura above Lake Geneva. The trailhead, near the Pré de St-Livres at 1400m, is as far as we're willing to take this low-slung Volkswagen tank up the old road.

This farm road is legally only open after 1 October, when the cows have gone down, so there's only a small window before the snow closes it off again.

A drizzly day

After this stone wall at 1461m, we turn up to the left. This wall runs in a straight line for several kilometres, and we'll meet it again later today.

This is an old path up into the Creux d'Enfer.

A confluence of ancient stone walls

We're making a brief detour towards Druchaux to revisit this big hole in the ground.

That's it.

Now we'll retrace our steps back into the Creux d'Enfer.

The old track continues up the right side of the Creux d'Enfer, but we'd rather explore aimlessly for a while.

We're going to hop the wall here and stumble off to the southwest.

A creux d'enfer is a large hollow or doline in the forest from which water has no natural escape and has dissolved down into the limestone in fascinating and sometimes disconcerting ways. There are several of them named and identified on the local maps (see below), and many smaller ones that have been left unnamed. In general, any ground in this region that has not been cleared for pastures centuries ago will have been left as unusable, visited only by the foresters and occasional hikers.

Clearing this for livestock grazing would certainly have been a challenge.

Right, we'll retrace our steps and go around.

But not this way. Creux d'Enfer could be translated as 'Hell Hollow' and places like this here and in France have historically been associated with devils, evil, and of course the road down to hell. (There's a yellow mark on the rock that indicates that the spelunkers have noted this one.)

The road down to hell, perhaps . . .

. . . and an unlucky place to be wandering after dark.

We're clambering up layers of little ledges along the southwestern side of the combe.

It's a time-consuming way to go for a walk, but there are lots of interesting surprises.

A little hole, actually just an aperture between boulders under the turf

Now we've popped out of the hollow just down the hill from the pastures of Petit Cunay, where the foresters have been busy.

That's our stone wall again, and there's a way out down there back to the path we came in on.

But instead we'll go south and check out the action over this way.

It's slow going (and it gets slower every year).

With a few places that we shamelessly slid down on the seat of our trousers . . .

. . . like this one. Muddy trousers. We're going to go looking for the huge hole that's near here somewhere.

Along the hillside, there's a curious absence of hillside just ahead.

Bingo, that's one of the four or five biggest holes in the region.

I could probably scramble a lot closer, clutching bushes for security, and get a better photo, but I won't.

But Dr Pirri would have, and did.

All right, that was fun, but now we just want to go home.

Brilliant. Out onto the pastures again, in late afternoon.

from SwitzerlandMobility (http://map.schweizmobil.ch/?lang=en)

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Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 November 2013.

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