Dwight Peck's personal website

Winter 2017-2018

In the dreadful, and hopefully only, Year of Trump

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.

Winter scenes from the Jura

This is the hotel-restaurant at the Col du Marchairuz, 1446m, on 31 March 2018.

There's a grim day in prospect, and subzero temperatures at the moment, and we're standing out here freezing half to death waiting for our hiking companion. Who'll probably be arriving any moment now.

The place will be filling up later in the day -- they're advertising special menus for the Easter weekend.

The fine wood sculptures are by Paul Monney of St-George. Here are a few more.

-1°C. Jeez.

Now we're organized and ready to set off. We don't use trails, though, so here we go.

We're only 90 seconds out and, apparently, already lost.


Our bushwhacking obsessions don't always work out well for us.

Needs must

Wait up!


Some guide!

We're marching northeast from the Col du Marchairuz and have crossed one of the known paths, without however any tracks on it yet from recent snows. Now we're dashing along a little known combe that, here, is roughly parallel to the marked trail up on the left. And now, with cliffs in front, we're turning down to the right, to the southeast.

The snow is perfect for walking today, a few centimeters of recent snow on top of a harder base.

This is in effect a dead end. At the far treeline, that's an old farm road, and that wouldn't be true bushwhacking.

So our guide has retraced our steps a bit, and we've turned back northeast into one of a few parallel combes bounded by mini-cliffs along one side.

And now we turn up left. We're working on unreliable memories at this point.

A clear way forward

A joyous sun bursts forth, very sad news in fact, because all that new snow on the branches, within ten minutes, will become tree-avalanches.

Don't stand under the tree!

A tree-avalanche minefield. Hats on, collars buttoned up.

Our guide wishes to know where we'd like to go today, and we reply 'Let's let destiny take its course'.

We've crossed another marked hiking path and have now plunged down into a trackless interminable confusion. [In fact, the following week, similarly lost, we came across this track by accident, so this confusion wasn't literally trackless by then.] [But we were still lost.]

There's something about a lovely solitary snowshoe track. Or ski track, we would once have said.

That looks like sort of a bad idea.

Told you so.

Still a bad idea

Tense seconds pass. Never one to accept defeat gracefully.

We know where we are now -- a fine long ridge eastwards up towards the three-sided shed on Mont de Bière.

Lovely snowshoe tracks on a sunny day

A three-sided cow shed in the offing

A lone chamois track -- we seldom see very many of those nowadays.

The Grand Cunay a kilometre off to the northeast

Our guide has finally acquired a sense of purpose.

A passerby

The three-sided shed (no photo of the missing fourth-side today, but there are hundreds on this website)

The cistern and well, fed by rainwater off the roof through that pipe

Another bad idea. I dare you!

Neatly done!

Three minutes later, the three-sided shed is actually still visible up there. Squint.

Bored excruciatingly with our known surroundings, we're diving back into the Great Unknown.

Looking for recognizable landmarks. In one sense, nothing is familiar, but really everything is.

We're completely lost now! But the good news is that in this region, if you just walk in a straight line and don't cross your own tracks, you've got to come to a known trail or road eventually.

But there, quite a ways below us, is our track from earlier today. So now what?

Dr Joe is perplexed, as well he might be. But then, what? We've just become aware that we're standing in fact precisely on a known trail, somewhere between trail markings that can serve to confirm us.

And here's our landmark, a place where the marked path (there is in fact a yellow-diamond trailmarker on that tree, invisible from here) goes up a kind of ramp to the next higher level of the forest. We think of this place as 'the ramp'.

It's snowing now -- a full winter's weather in one day.

Now we're out onto a trail that leads directly to the Col, parallel to the main Chemin-des-Crêtes path where, on fine winter days, folks walk out a packed-down path two kilometres to the chalet of Monts-de-Bière-Derrière and back for their fondue in the restaurant.

There's been a large group through here today, in the hours since we set the first snowshoe prints on it.

We've been passed by a friendly family heading outwards, late in the day, with little kids in backracks and supplies on sleds pulled by sled-dogs.

Back to the hotel at the col

And we part until next week. Cute little red car.

And a very cute little nondescript silvery sort of Volvo

Down from the Col du Marchairuz

It was only in the early 1990s that this road was cleared in winter, and it wasn't uncommon for people to ski up the road from either side of the col, the Lake Geneva side or from the Vallée de Joux.

Storm over Lake Geneva

And sun on the highway at the far end of the lake

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 9 April 2018.

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