Sunday, September 14, 2014

Crêt au Bovairon (No 66)

Crêt au Bovairon was another of those Jura anomalies - a named peak that, once you were standing on its highest point, you had to wonder why it was a named peak, while so many other summits across the range - many of which are far more spectacular - are not. Not that it really matters, it still provided a great destination for a great hike. It's actually number 66 on the list of the highest named peaks in the Jura and, although there were higher points in its immediate vicinity, it's registered with 1440 metres as its highest point.

La Givrine - our starting point.

We (Lis and I, and fellow-hikers-for-the-day Mandy and Klaske) set-out from the car-park at La Givrine at about 10am, passing-by the La Givrine restaurant and heading-up the road towards the La Genolière and Le Vermeilley homesteads - both of which do great fondue service in winter, but were now focused on their summer business - managing their herds of cows and producing lots of Jura milk. It wasn't surprising therefore that our day turned-out to be something of a a "Day of the Cows", with regular reminders that, at this time of the year, much of the Jura is focussed on getting the most out of the alpine pastures before the coming of the colder months and the "Désalpes" - the "Descente de l'alpage". This is an annual event - on the eve of the first snows of winter - when the mountain communities bring their cows down from the summer pastures. This is usually a grand occasion, with flugelhorns blowing, much pomp and circumstance, and all of the cows bedecked with their very best bells and ornate head-dresses of flowers. If we get along to one of them this year (just about every village along the Jura has a ceremony), I'll post a couple of photos.

We passed a small herd of cows more or less as soon as we'd left La Givrine - a bunch of very content-looking Montbéliards (the characteristic Jura breed). Montbéliards were developed as prolificly-productive dairy cows over the centuries by Swiss Mennonite farmers, and officially accepted as a new breed in 1889. The red-and-white pied cows weigh between 600 and 700 kilograms and produce copious amounts of milk that is perfect for cheese-making. They are ubiquitous in the high alpine meadows in summer - making it very important to watch where you're putting your feet as you cross their pastures. There's lots of "cow bombs" for the unwary to step in. Yuk!

Day of the Cows: Our first sighting - just metres out of La Givrine.

The road (which we've previously snow-shoed along many times in winter), gradually swung around to the east, and took us deeper into the Parc Jurassien Vaudois protected area. This part of the Jura is a multi-use regional park - with a mix of uses including strict nature protection, grazing, silviculture (forestry), and recreation. In summer it's predominantly a mix of farming, forestry and hiking. In winter, the white landscape is popular with skiers, snow-shoers and day-trippers heading for one of the farm homesteads that convert to buvettes - serving cheese fondues - when all of the cattle have been taken down to the low-country.

Entering the Parc Jurassien Vaudois.

Looking back down the road coming up from La Givrine.

We soon passed-by the first of these homesteads - La Genolière (1348m) - which is tucked slightly away from the trail, a couple of kilometres northeast of La Givrine. In winter there would have been a steady trail of day-trippers heading up here now to get a table for a winter-perfect pot of hot cheese fondue. But today there were just a couple of hikers, and a handful of mountain-bikers who rushed past us downhill, heading in the opposite direction. We stopped at La Genolière only long enough to take a couple of photos, then headed further east along the trail towards our next way-point - Haut Mont - which was 15 minutes further along the trail.

 Signpost at La Genolière (1348m).

 On the road east of La Genolière.

As we were passing the farm, we witnessed more reminders that the Jura is as much a productive pastoral and silvicultural landscape as it is a walking paradise. We stood-aside at one point as the La Genolière farmer passed-by on his tractor and, soon after, walked past a huge pile of logs that had been cut from the adjacent forest and stacked-up awaiting their transport to a local timber mill. It all seems to work in quite some harmony up here.

 Turning-point at Haut Mont (1343m).

Before we knew it, we were standing under the trail sign at Haut Mont, at which point we turned left - off the road that led to the Haut Mont homestead - and headed north towards Le Vermeilley.

 Heading into the forest north of Haut Mont.

We cut through a patch of forest - marked "Entre Deux Vyes" on one side (our left), and "Rochefort" on the other (the right). It was nice to be back in the forest again. However, unfortunately, it didn't last long, and we were soon back out in the open and approaching Le Vermeilley - the second prominent farmhouse along this stretch of the trail.

 Le Vermeilley homestead.

Once again, we stopped just long enough to photograph the trail sign, and to double-check the map, before heading north towards a landmark ahead of us marked "Plaine a Gallay" on the topographic map.

 Trail sign at Le Vermeilley (1320m).

Far ahead and high above us we could see the summits of Mont Pelé and Mont Sala - which we'd climbed in January 2013. (You can read the blog about that trip here.) However we weren't going anywhere near that far today, and would soon be changing direction towards our (shorter) destination - Crêt au Bovairon.

 On the trail north of Le Vermeilley.

Trail sign at the T-junction north of Le Vermeilley (at 1319m).

At the T-junction we turned left (towards the west) and began climbing-up the trail towards Crêt au Bovairon. The track was once again a sealed access road - heading in to a couple of the farm homesteads that are tucked away in the Jura folds in this neck of the woods.

Heading west towards Crêt au Bovairon.

We passed a turn-off to one of these homesteads - Pré du Four - to the west - a little further along the track. At the turn-off there was another reminder that we were in cattle country, with an ancient stone-walled watering point a feature in the pasture below us. It was an immaculate construction - no doubt the results of many hours of painstaking work during construction.

Road to Pre du Four via Combe aux Cerfs.

 The stone-walled cattle watering point and well.

Three or four hundred metres further along the track we came to a fork in the road (marked 1382 on the topo map) - at which point we turned north (the "main" track swung around to the southwest - towards L'Arxière farmhouse. Up ahead we could see the forested ridge of Crêt au Bovairon, which we intended to approach from its most northeastern end, and then follow the entire ridgeline to its southwestern end point.

 Turning north (to the right) at 1382 - towards Crêt au Bovairon.

Right at the apex of a big bend in the road, we stepped off the trail and headed cross-country up the Crêt au Bovairon ridgeline. It was a lovely patch of thick (mainly fir) forest showing all the signs of summer being past and winter on its way. Dead gentians, active giant ant nests, and browning vegetation all signaled a change in the seasons. Although in thick forest, once again we saw plenty of reminders of being in alpine pasturage: old dry-stone-walls, hoof prints in the mud, and lots of cow dung. If anyone ever follows this track, at this time of the year, be careful where you put your feet.

 An old dry stone wall on the Crêt au Bovairon ridgeline.

Heading up the Crêt au Bovairon ridgeline.

We hiked the entire Crêt au Bovairon ridgeline - for about a kilometre - and reached, and passed, the 1440 "summit". Somewhat underwhelmed, we then headed to the top of a visably-higher crest (at 1498 metres) where we pulled-out the Swiss flag and took our customary couple of ceremonial pix. Klaske and Mandy joined-in the fun of flying the now-well-travelled Jura Mountain Rambling flag. 

Bovairon is derived from "bouvier" - which means a cattle guard or herder - someone who takes care of the cattle. Sometimes it refers to a guard-dog, but more commonly applies to the human-kind: a young guarder of cattle, or cattle herder. Its origins come from the Latin word bovarius, and old French word buvier - which becomes bouvier in more modern French - and means cattle guard. It's quite an appropriate name given the bovine prominence that this hike has had. This neck of the woods has obviously had a long heritage as highland cattle country.

 The celebratory "summit" shot on Crêt au Bovairon.

Objective achieved, we scouted around for a bit to find a nice place out of the wind to sit-down for lunch. We checked-out an interesting looking place where someone long ago had formed a square of rocks (and someone more recently tied-up some Nepalese or Tibetan prayer flags), but settled on a sheltered rocky edge that looked-out over L'Arxières farmhouse and the southwestern ridgeline leading up to Le Noirmont.

Looking down towards L'Arxières farmstead, 
with Le Noirmont rising on the right.

We had a fab trail lunch of bread and cheese (local Gruyère of course ... but maybe not from these particular La Givrine Montbéliards), washed-down with some hot tea ... and a piece of dark chocolate. (Gotta do our bit to support the local industries.)

With no particularly brilliant views to keep us enthralled, we packed-up more or less as soon as we'd finished the last square of chocolate, and started heading back down towards La Givrine. Walking southwest, we dropped down to the valley, and roadway, just east of L'Arxières, and then up the slope on the opposite side of the valley - where we picked-up a trail leading to the Club Alpine Suisse (CAS) cabane at Carroz

 On the trail east of L'Arxières.

The cabane is only four or five hundred metres in from the "main" road, so it wasn't long before we found ourselves standing at the gate, and admiring its strong stone structure, and striking red shutters.

 The Cabane du Carroz of Club Alpine Suisse (1508m).

We skirted around the western side of the cabane and picked-up the hiking trail that connected the cabane with the next dwelling to the southwest - Pré du Four. Fortunately the trail was well marked - with red-and-white striped signs on trees and rocks all along the way - so we were able to spend lots of time admiring the beautiful countryside that was all around us.

Following the red-and-white Carroz trail markers.

 Cutting through a stone wall on the trail below Carroz.

We had great views down the valley to the west and southwest, and at different times could see La Cure on the Swiss-France border (and the distant Jura hills of France further beyond), and La Dole way across the Col de la Givrine.

The trail between Carroz and Pré du Four.

Off to our right (the west) we also got some good views of the rocky ridgeline leading up towards the summit of Le Noirmont, which we'd climbed in December 2012. (You can read about that hike here.) It was kind-of fun looking around at all of the peaks in this part of the Jura, knowing that at some time or another we'd been to the top of all of them. For example, we could see peak after peak diminishing in size right down the valley, with Crêt de Chalam (October 2013) in the far distance.

 Looking west towards Le Noirmont ridgeline.

It didn't take us long to cover the single kilometre from Cabane du Carroz to Pré du Four, which we passed-by before following the marked trail further south until it hit the La-Givrine-to-La-Genolière road (which we'd hiked-up at the start of the day).

 On the track south of Pré du Four.

This time we turned west and started on the last stretch back into La Givrine. Right on cue, a herd of Montbéliards decided to join us - making a bee-line for their watering point that had been temporarily set-up right alongside the road. Thirty cows on the march, with their cow-bells clanging (in anything but unison), was quite a spectacle. We followed them for about half a kilometre, then skirted around them when they stopped at the water troughs. It was good to leave the din (and odour) behind.

 Beaucoup de vaches.

 Waiting at the traffic jam on the road near La Givrine.

Needless to say, it wasn't long before we were back down the hill at La Givrine - arriving there at about 2pm. Unlike the cloudy conditions that we'd experienced when we'd set out earlier in the day, it was not basking in glorious sunshine. We debated extending our walk - perhaps along the trail across the col - for about ten seconds, and then decided it would be more fun to drive down to St Cergue and have a cup of coffee or glass of beer at the local auberge. And that was what we did.

Arriving back at La Givrine.

Jura peaks bagged:
  • Crêt au Bovairon (No 66) 1440

  • Like all of Switzerland, the Jura is famous for its cheeses. There are hundreds of varieties of cheese all across the country, with a huge proportion of these (including some of the most famous) made in the Jura - many only made and consumed locally, and thus unknown to the rest of the world. 
  • When hiking through the Jura countryside one often sees "fromageries" or "fruitières" marked on the maps - in town and country. These are the diaries where local milk is crafted into tasty cheese. Hiking to Crêt au Bovairon, we passed not far from an area marked on the map as "Fruitières de Nyon" - referring no doubt to all of the alpine farms tucked away in the Jura folds above St Cergue and La Givrine.
  • Some of the better-known Swiss Jura cheeses include: Tête de Moine, Vacherin Mont-d'Or, Montagne du Jura, and Gruyère du Jura Suisse (Jura Gruyère). 
  • Others (from both the French and Swiss Jura) include: Appenzeller, Bleu de Gex, Cancoittotte, Chaux-d'Abel, Comté, Crémeux du Jura, Douceur du Jura, Gruyère alpage, Jura Erguel, Jura Mont Soleil, Jura Rebell, Morbier, Mousseron Jurassien, Raclette, Tomme de Montagne, Tomme Vaudois, Vacherin Fribourgeois, and Vallgrotte.

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