Thursday, August 1, 2013

Crêt des Gouilles (No 41)

The top of Crêt des Gouilles (with Mont Blanc in the background).
"Gouilles" means a puddle, water hole, or pond.

Blink, and you might just miss it. Although 1524 metres in altitude, Crêt des Gouilles is more a bump on the Jura landscape than a real mountain, and, being "dwarfed" by its far more impressive nearest neighbours - the Balcon de Jura peaks of Le Chasseron and Petites Roches - it gets overlooked in just about every map and guidebook, and of course by almost every Jura trekker. The peak sits somewhat forgotten and forlorn amid alpine pastures about 200 metres east of the main Jura Crest trail - between Le Chasseron and Petites Roches.
Unless you know it's there (and know what the tiny pile of stones mean .. and really want to tick-off another named Jura peak), you're unlikely to ever find yourself standing atop the "cairn" (like some Jura "twitchers" we know).

Standing atop the "cairn" at the "summit" of Crêt des Gouilles.

Despite its lack of reputation, and recognition, the Crêt des Gouilles does provide a wonderful destination for an easy hike, especially since one can go from there to Le Chasseron, and enjoy one of the best places in the entire Jura to walk, picnic, or simply enjoy life in the wonderful Jura Mountain air. It's easy to get to from Ste-Croix, or one of its satellite villages - Les Replans, Les Rasses or Bullet. We chose to set-out from Les Rasses, which is right at the base of the ski lifts that haul thousands of skiers to the top of the mountain every winter.

Checking-out the (winter) information panel in Les Rousses.

Not quite a straight line, but one can make out the route from Les Rasses to the top of Le Chasseron.
(Strangely enough, the Crêt des Gouilles doesn't feature on this map.)

Of course, being mid-summer, there were no lifts operating, so (at about 9.45am) we left the car in the spacious car park on Route de Chasseron (1200m), crossed the road to pick-up the walk trail, and then started on our way up the hill. The first kilometre or so of the walk was through luscious, shady forest which helped keep us cool as we sweated our way up the slope. The trail was well marked with the characteristic yellow diamond markers, and we soon found ourselves at the Club Alpine Suisse (CAS) mountain refuge at Le Rocher (1370)

The CAS refuge near Le Rocher.

Passing-through a trail turnstile near Le Rocher.

Another about another half-a-kilometre up through the forest, we suddenly reached the Chasseron alpine pasturage, with the Hotel du Chasseron prominent on the horizon about 800 metres ahead of us. True to a sign that we encountered there, the landscape was lush with thick grass and wildflowers, and was putting-on its very best face on this glorious, sunny, summer's day.

Flora sign on the trail to Le Chasseron.

We followed a few other day-trippers on the well-trodden walk-trail that led up the hill towards the hotel for a few hundred metres, before we veered-off to the west towards the "summit" of the Crêt des Gouilles. Needless to say, no-one else was going in our direction, and there were no footsteps, or well-trodden paths, to follow. Once at the Crêt (quite an unspectacular place), we stayed just long enough to take a few photographs - including the obligatory flying-the-Swiss-flag celebratory shot (and appropriately so, with the day being August 1 - the Swiss National Day).

Sitting on top of the cairn at Crêt des Gouilles.

The view towards Petites Roches.

The summits of Le Suchet, Mont de Baulmes and Aiguilles de Baulmes.

Flying the flag on Swiss National Day at the top of Crêt des Gouilles.

Duly ticked-off, we left the Crêt and wandered over the pasturage to pick-up the Jura Crest Trail between Petites Roches and Le Chasseron. Conveniently, there was one of those particular walk-trail turnstiles directly in our path, so we soon found ourselves back on the main trail.

Arriving at the Jura Crest Trail - Chemin des Crêtes du Jura.

Now standing on the edge of the Chasseron cliffs, we stood for awhile to take-in the magnificent views - of the Petites Roches to our left (towards the southwest), the Mont de la Maya (west), the Roches Blanches (northwest) and Le Chasseron (northeast). Behind us (to the southeast), lay the Crêt des Gouilles and far, far, far away - on the horizon - Mont Blanc and the arc of the Alps.

The northwest-facing cliffs of Petites Roches.

Looking down on Mont de la Maya (1465 metres).

 The grey-white cliffs of Roches Blanches (No. 50 on the list of Jura peaks).

Looking up towards the summit of Le Chasseron from the Stone of Peace.

Our first destination in this neck-of-the-woods was the "Pierre de la Pax" (the Stone of Peace) - which we'd visited (and written about) when we last trekked up here - in October 2012. (You can read all about it by clicking-on "Le Chasseron" in the list of Jura peaks on the left ... so I won't write about it again now.) Suffice to say the Stone of Peace is reputed to have a special, positive energy field that adds to the well-being of anyone who touches it. On this occasion a small giant of a man was sitting on it, like a leprechaun on a toadstool - apparently absorbing its energy through his rather ample derriere, and showing no interest in moving away so I could get a clear photo of the stone. Not a problem, but I had to strategically position my "model" some metres in front of the rock to get a "clear" photo.

Feeling relaxed at the Stone of Peace.

The Pierre de la Paix was apparently deposited in the down-slope village of Bullet after the last ice age, to where it was transported by glaciers thousands of years ago, and left there until 2002, when it was chosen for a new mission up here, near the Chasseron ridge. Having had the infinity sign carved into its gneiss surface, along with the symbols of five major religions (by artist Jacqueline Jeanneret), it was brought up here to inspire and invigorate travellers on the Jura Crest Trail. It's got a good view.

 A shot of the Stone of Peace from our October 2012 visit.

 Re-energized, we headed up the trail towards the Hotel du Chasseron. Its terrace was buzzing with lunch-time guests, who were sitting-out under the bright red umbrellas and enjoying their mid-day meals and the wonderful views out over Lac Neuchâtel, the Swiss plain, Lac Léman and the arc of the Alps. It really was a very special place to have a hotel. We stopped just long enough to take a few photos - first from one side, and then the other - before walking the last 100 metres up the hill to the summit of Le Chasseron.

Approaching the Hotel du Chasseron.

 The view over the Hotel du Chasseron towards Mont Blanc.

 A closer view of Mont Blanc.

By the time we reached the top, there were already quite a few people wandering around near the geodesic pyramid that marks the summit, and the nearby panorama interpretation panel. As it was approaching mid-day, the place was buzzing with trekkers, tourists, strollers, runners and mountain-bikers. We wandered around for awhile, taking-in the amazing views ... and taking lots of photos - in every direction.

 The panorama table and geodesic pyramid at the top of Le Chasseron.

Looking south over the panorama table towards Mont Blanc. 
The Hotel du Chasseron in the middle distance.

 The view southwest - with Le Suchet, les Aiguilles de Baulmes 
and Petites Roches in the centre.

 The peaks of Le Suchet, les Aiguilles de Baulmes and Petites Roches

 Looking southwest along the cliffs - with Mont d'Or and the Piquemiette cliffs in the far central distance.

 Checking-out the yet-to-be-climbed Roches Blanche - number 50 on our list of Jura peaks, and still ahead of us.

 Looking northeast - with the giant aerial at the summit of Le Chasseral in the far distance.

We wandered a short distance away from the summit and found a small rocky outcrop, with a convenient ledge - right on the edge of the "Balcon du Jura" and settled down for lunch. Fortunately we were mostly finished by the time we were joined by the hungry-looking Labrador from the hotel - who joined us on our superb vantage point. Soon after he left, we were joined by a nimble little stoat (also known as a (h)ermine or short-tailed weasel), who entertained us for minutes as she/he darted in and out of the rocks.

 Lis with our lunch guest.

 The nimble stoat.

After lunch we settled-back for awhile. lazing in the mid-day sunshine and listening to the sounds of summer. Somewhere down below us a herd of cows were also enjoying the day, and their summer pasturage no doubt. We could hear their bells tinkling-and-clanging in that distinctive, only-in-Switzerland  way. Memories of Hans Christian Anderson came to mind.
In his epic "O.T. a Danish Romance", when writing of "The Switzer's Homesickness", he wrote:
                    "Sure 'tis fair in foreign land, but not so fair as home;
                    Let me see thy mountains, grand glaciers, and snowy dome!
                    Let me hear the sound that tells of climbing cattle, 
                    dressed with bells"

 Relaxing after lunch. Mont Blanc in the far distance, cowbells closer.

 Taking-in the amazing panoramic views from the top of Le Chasseron.

 Looking towards the Alps - over Lac Neuchâtel and Yverdon-les-Bains.

 The Swiss plain, Lac Léman and the Alps near Mont Blanc.

Well-fed, well-rested ... and once again re-energized, we eventually tore ourselves away from the mountain-top and commenced our return journey towards Les Rasses. First, we stopped again at the Hotel du Chasseron - to check-out the observation deck and its panorama table, and have a peek inside the old inn. There were quite a few people there ... as well as the cheeky Labrador who'd obviously finished his door-to-door scavenger hunt among the picnickers on the hilltop.

 The observation deck at the Hotel du Chasseron.

 Checking-out the panorama table at Hotel du Chasseron.

 Leaving Le Chasseron.

Sometime around 12.30pm we took our leave of the mountain, and started retracing our steps back towards Les Rasses. Although we stopped from time to time to check-out flowers, or take photos, or a closer look at one thing or another, we were soon on the outskirts of Les Rasses - too soon it seemed, as this was a walk that we would have been quite content to drag-on, much later into the afternoon.

 On the road back to Les Rasses, near Le Rocher.

Instead, before we knew it, we were back in Les Rasses - at about 1.15pm. It had been a three-and-a-half-hour walk, although it could easily have been just a couple of hours, but it was a beauty. I'll mark that one down for a return trip, perhaps in mid-winter. We saw lots of snow-shoe trail markers along the route.

Jura peaks bagged:
  • Crêt des Gouilles (No. 41) 1524m
  • Le Chasseron (No. 14) 1607m 
       (Previously climbed in October 2012. See previous trip report here:

  • Climbing Crêt des Gouilles marked the 50th Jura peak that we have summited since starting the Jura Mountain Rambling "project" in January 2012.