Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hiking Rochers de Nayes

Linda was out of town on the weekend for a conference, so rather than mope around at home I decided I would instead take myself out for a couple of hikes around Switzerland; something I've been meaning to do for a long time.

Having never really done much walking in Switzerland, I decided to pick what I thought would be a relatively simple first hike, up the nearby Rochers de Nayes. I even thought I was being easy on myself by starting at Caux, which is half-way up the 2041m Rochers de Nayes.

I arrived at Caux without really any idea how I was going to do the climb, but I had faith in the Swiss system of marked walking trails, and even found an extremely dodgy tourist map of the trails. The map indicated a more difficult route up the mountain, by the Dent de Jaman rocky outcrop, which of course appealed to me immediately - so off I went!

The start of the walk was quite sedate, along a road and through some forrest, and at some point I decided the route I was on didn't quite match my expectations from the map, so I headed up a side path that pointed in the right direction. This turned out to be an incredibly steep path of loose rocks, and I was exhausted by the time I got to the top of this stretch, but was rewarded by a much more interesting walking track than the road I had been on.

At some point I reached an altitude where I could no longer see where I was going due to the thick fog, so I just followed the path until eventually I was sure I was lost. I asked some kind people who pointed me in the right direction, but I think they misdirected me and again I was off the path that I expected to be on.

What I really wanted to find was the Grottes de Nayes, which is a system of caves that you can explore. I didn't have a head lamp and I didn't actually want to go into the caves as such, but the route sounded quite interesting. Anyway this is something for me to do next time.

Instead I traversed the mountain below the cliffs of Rochers de Nayes, and then climbed a very steep 'path' that looked more like a rock fall of loose stones. During the climb some mountain goats ran across the path. It was amazing to see since before then the only wildlife I had seen was some snails that had come out after the rain of the previous night.

I stopped for a while to see if there was more goats, and there was. Another group ran across the path, and then while I was waiting I saw some more looking at me from on top of a rock downhill from where I was sitting. I had put my camera away for the difficult climb, and when I reached for it out of my backpack they ran off.

The last part of the climb was also steep, and by the time I got to the top I was exhausted and really felt like collapsing for a while. I restored my energy with a Swiss mountain meal of sausage, gravy and chips, plus one of those Ramseier Jus de Pomme drinks we've become addicted to in Switzerland.

For the walk down I left my camera in my bag - I just wanted to make a quick descent and not muck around taking photos. I took the easier route back to Caux, which is along the long ridgeline from Rochers de Nayes, and then a traverse across the valley to Caux. It was also a very nice walk, and I'd like to do it again some time when I've got more time and energy.

When I was arriving in Caux I heard the train coming down the mountain behind me and I realised I'd have to run to catch it. So I jogged to the train and fortunately made it on time, but I really didn't need that run at the end of my long day!

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