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JCT 7: Le Pont – St-Cerque

    After my return from my sisters place high up in the alps I was kind of sick for an entire week. During the last years, sickness started always in my throat – something just felt not good. So, after idling for a week, I got really bored.

    Date: 23. April 2018, Miles: less than 30

    What do you do when you get bored? Some people may get out to do party or head out to the lake here, to relax and drink beer. However, I feel much better with no beer or no alcohol at all.

    There is no webcam on top of Mont Tendre. I really struggled to find out more about the snow heights there. Social media rescued me. I found the pictures of a guy who claimed to be on top of it two days ago. His IG account didn’t leave the impression to me that he planned to do the Patrouille des Glaciers or otherwise was into more serious skiing tours. It was more the opposite. He said, he has done a road trip with his older Renault minivan. He seems to like his car, although it is nothing special – I like this kind of people. For me, that was green light to go to Le Pont.

    Nicer than in winter, Lac de joux

    To reach Le Pont from Zurich you need to do a three-hour train ride. With apps, you always know when to change trains and which one to take to your next destination. I change the trains four times but made it to Le Pont without problems. Initially, I planned to visit my parents place after the hike, so I packed a lot of stuff I would need for my civilian life into a separate backpack and cached this one in Yverdon les Bains – this is Switzerland, there are convenient lockers at all railway stations, accessible for everybody. We have heard from the horrible attacks with explosives elsewhere but see little need to chance our lifestyle because of it. Terrorists could store a huge bomb in these lockers and potentially kill hundreds of people – the lockers face the trains after all.

    It wasn’t just fun. People ended up in Dachau because of it or were shoot by nazis.

    My mood is further improved when I smear sun screen to my legs not even six feet away from the memorial for the brave smugglers in Le Pont. Everybody could tell good from evil during the time of the second world war. Today it is no longer that easy. A young man has made headlines this week here, because he poured beer over a local politician in a bar after a football match. The politician is known for ordering his police force to restrict the movement of asylum seekers and advancing other restrictive policies. Was the young man right in doing so, was this even an antifascist gesture?

    I can hike again! I get really excited. I fly out of Le Pont into the Jura mountains. A fox is strolling over a field, I can watch him for minutes. As always in the Jura, I am well protected. Although, this time the openings for the canons in one bunker have been closed with concrete and the fake house is no longer maintained, so the disguise is obvious. Doesn’t matter, we have several other bunkers here as well. And tank barriers everywhere, even on top of small hills. It is obvious, that these barriers in some places were built as a measure to keep people busy. The next step would be to construct them in true vertical rock faces.

    The old stone walls were carefully restored as well for many miles here. This could only be done by the civilian service, as it is way too expensive for the land owners to do it with a commercial company. I think it is meaningful that the state helps to keep the landscape in shape. Here the shape is truly remarkable.

    Every time when I cross the streets many motor bikers take a break. They must have a hard life as they clearly look tired. It is not even ten o’clock in the morning but they already seem to need a cigarette to reduce their stress. I don’t have stress at all.

    The sun is shining and there is spring crocus. So many, that the fields get a white shimmer. Boars feel at home here, I can clearly see the results of extremely fresh digging work. Sometimes there are footprints, so fresh that you may think the boar family has just left minutes ago but they must have been here last night.

    It is warm and beautiful, I am maybe two miles in. And we are in the snow. Slushy melting snow. Thank goodness, only the first 2 inches are slushy. Underneath it, it is kind of solid but not icy.

    I see an older couple in front of me. They have no micro-crampons and they are clearly struggling. I have micro spikes and although I am not that enthusiastic about them, they help me to get upwards. I am able to move much faster without any sliding. We have to go up about 1000 feet or 300 m. Shortly after, I see a second couple, also without traction devices. They don’t look particularly happy and I believe they turned back soon afterwards. I could not see them later anymore. Not only do they slide with every step they take, they also have a higher natural base weight. I can understand why somebody don’t likes hiking with these parameters.

    Lake Geneva

    I crush the snow for twenty minutes alone, then another couple comes from the opposite direction, down. They ask me from where I come, and they can’t believe that I am coming up to here from Le Pont, which is only eight miles away. I reach the summit of Mont Tendre without bigger problems. People are swine, they use the beautifully restored stone wall as a toilet or to range their cigarette butts.

    I assume snow will be over soon, as we are now at 5250 feet or 1600 m and theoretically it should. It will not. It takes me only 18 miles to get out of the snow. My poles don’t work in the snow. I didn’t mount the bigger baskets and the poles it selves are a little fragile. As I walk fast but put my weight on the poles for two steps their shaft is not happy when he has to move through the snow. So, I can only use them when going down on snow free sections.

    Had to go up the snowy part on the left side. The hill on the horizon is La Dôle.

    Slushing through the snow is surprisingly easy. As usual I don’t wear waterproof shoes or socks. It is difficult to hike over snow free sections as everything under my ankle is kind of frozen. At the same time, it is so warm, that after five minutes you wish to be back in the snow again.

    From Mont Tendre I have to reach the Col du Marchairuz. In the vicinity of the restaurant many families are underway, clearly nobody is enjoying the conditions. It is tricky to walk. I overtake an older woman with a special hiking style: She rams her heavy hiking boots down vertical into the snow to get a secure stand. “Vous venez d’ou?” she asks me. “De le Pont” I answer after the salutation with “Bonjour”. “Oh, la la ça cest beaucoup de marcher!” she answers and “Bon après midi” “Pareillement” “Merci” and of I am. It is not a lot of marching however. My watch says it is only fourteen miles or so.

    Soon after I reach the restaurant. Hundreds of people, it is packed. Even the parking space, where you can inform yourself conveniently about the newest BMW bikes. Somebody must be a fan of Tibet here, as there are Tibetan prayer flags everywhere.

    After Marchairuz it gets more serious with the snow and everything else. I hike without my spikes and changed my gate to sliding when moving downwards. However, sometimes there are little edges under the snow and every five minutes or so, I take a dive. My leg gets submerged over my knee. This is a huge problem when there are steep inclines towards west and in the shadow. There is almost always like a small ridge line exactly in the middle of the way, which is stable. Sometimes it is so small however, that I slide down into the deep snow.

    After Marchairuz nobody passed in the last days. There is only one pair of footprints, but they are melted around the edges. The person who left these prints didn’t like the snow as she or he carefully avoided it whenever possible. The tracks lead into small streams now and I have to take alternative routes. For hours I follow the open terrain something which can be found only in the Jura. Often, I come by lonely farm houses which are “Buvettes” in the season. Now they are all closed. On sunny weekend days in the summer there must be hundreds if not thousands here. I am glad that I can do it now. It is truly a solitary experience as I see nobody during hours.

    A big deer crashes through the brush. Deer is extremely rare here, I did more expect to see chamois. If I could speak Deerish, I would have told him best wishes from his companions from the Surselva chapter. A young road deer grazes in the open. It watches me coming nearer for half a minute. Then it slowly moves away, showing no signs of stress or whatever.

    Finally, after nine hours of snow, I descent to under 1400 meters. Tourists, dog owners, everybody. I even spot couples in the grass and have to turn my head to the opposite direction for privacy reasons. Clearly, you can do this during maybe ten days of the year only. Afterwards the mountain tankers will be on the loose again and if you don’t believe in the healing power of cow shit and cow swamp, which will be a swamp not because of rain or ground water, if you know what I mean, you will not enjoy the experience of lying in these patches, regardless if with a loved one or without.

    From Mont Tendre you could see La Dôle in the distance. Thanks to my flawless sense of orientation I confused it with the Chasseron (just 50 miles away or so) in the east. And thanks to my careless believe in electronic tools I didn’t study the height profile in advance. Of course, I lost cell signal several times today, almost always when the way was covered in snow anyways, so my app couldn’t help me to find the way again. Several times the phone number of REGA, the Swiss SAR service, was indicated on the signposts, also when there was no cell signal. Instead I found a memorial placard for Fritz Bühler, who was president of the REGA until he died in 1980. The placard is near a military radar installation but not on the way.

    French providers by the way don’t like Swiss data. Sometimes there was French Bouygues coverage, but they seldom managed to bring 4G, let alone to push these maps to me. And yes, I had the necessary settings turned on and I even pay for them to work (where do you think my astronomical monthly rate comes from?).

    As the mysterious mountain came nearer during the day I got it, that it can’t be the Chasseron. Instead the last section of the Jura Crest trail would go up to it. After ten hours in the snow something let my alarm clock ring. I consulted my other app, Swiss Map Mobile. It is from the government and you can zoom to a scale of 1 to 5000. What they have to say about La Dôle was not good. First of all, the La Dôle is nearly as high as the Mont Tendre. This means snow. Although I carry not one but two headlamps and one of them pushes out 800 lumens (thought to see if the bobcats and the boars have cleaned their tooth later in the night) I take the hard decision to stop. It is 19 o’clook I would have had one hour of daylight left. But I don’t know the conditions up there and I don’t want to be that guy.

    Can you spot the jet d’eau in Geneva?

    LNT? Unheard of in Switzerland.

    Without snow? Would not have stopped a single second in St-Cergue, just toped up my water and hiked up there without rising even one eyebrow. Through the night in all the forests, I would have seen hopefully tons of wildlife. As hunting is forbidden in the canton of Geneva, maybe the boars would have been in a better mood than those in the canton of Baselland.

    I will be back here, although it is clear that I can’t afford a train ride to St-Cergue just to hike the ridiculous last 15 miles to Nyon and to the end of the Jura Crest Trail. It is more likely that I come back here as soon as I have a tarp, a bivi bag and a quilt.

    I am just a little bit special but so is my outdoor-gear-developer friend. If you want to buy the latest and greatest in packs, but you don’t want to settle for something as ordinary mass produced as Pa’lante (so 2018), go to CIMORO. He will have restarted his website as of first of may. I guarantee you, if you hike a triple crown trail with one of his packs, you will be the first person to do so.