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We’re now hiking on the paths of the Doubs and the Jura since 4 days with 4 friends. From Les Rousses where we left Arthur and Simon behind us, we will continue with Marlène and Quentin to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine passing by the famous crests of the Jura. We’ve decided to change our itinerary to left the GR5 for a moment and walk a bit of the GR9 and get up on the crests sooner than what we’ve intially planned to enjoy the views over Lake Geneva and the Mont-Blanc. Without knowing it we’ll get on a 4 days trip which will be more complicated than we expected…

Hiking to the Jura mountains

We’re leaving Les Rousses with our backpacks full of cheese, bread and charcuterie. We’re not sure we’ll find anything to get some food up on the crests. Or is it simply becuase we’re just a bunch of gluttons? Well, we must admit that this second option is most probably closer to the truth! The path we’re following is taking us next to a small waterfall in the middle of the woods just a few kilometers outside of Les Rousses. We let a group of tourists already standing in front of it blocking the view and continue our way towards Lajoux where we’ve planned to spend the night before going up on the crest of the Jura the next morning.
The first kilometers are not the easiest ones. We’re walking on Les Rousses ski station, going straight up the mountain throught the trees. After a good picnic we’ll finally hike the rest of the day through a pretty forest that allows us to peek, from time to time, a few views over the first snowy summits of the Alps on the horizon.

In Lajoux we still face the same problems than in the villages before : the hostels or other hikers stopover are closed, the few opened hotels refuse to let us have a shower even if we pay for it, and if when we want to have a beer they install us out of sigh of other customers. We even have to pay to fill up our water bottles after we eat in a restaurant and pay for 4 dinners and a few beers ! Quentin who was already in a bad mood since the begining of the after for no reason has no something to pest on ! We finaly set up our camp in a piece of grass just outside the village with a wonderful moonrising, thinking that tomorrow we’ll be up on the crests !

Sunset in Lajoux
Sunset in Lajoux

The Jura crest trail : on the Grand Mont Rond, the Combe de Gex and the Crozet pass

Today, motivation is at its top ! We’re going up on the crests ! But we have first to leave the GTJ (Grande Traversée du Jura – Great Jura Crossing Trail) to reach the GR9 above Mijoux on the other side of the valley from Lajoux where we spent the night. Morning will be hard, going all the way down in the valley and then all the way up to the ski fields on the other side. Quentin, who is still a bit grumpy from yesterday, speed up throught the sunrise lights like a torpedo, with a very serious goal in his head : the hope to find a hot coffee and fresh croissants at the hotel in the ski station.

And that small little dream came true ! Simple things are best, some would say. This second breakfast gave us wings ! We get on track hiking swiftly towards our next goal : the summit of the Grand Mont Rond ! Walking accross the station is not charming, but we’re looking up after every little ups : « is it the crest yet ? ». But that goddam summit seems to be never there ! We’ll finally get there by the end of the morning, sweatting like hell under a super hot sun.

Up there we use the presence of other hikers to get a picture of the four of us together. From here we can see the path we’ll follow during the next day. The track on the crest draw itself clearly along the abrupt cliff that overlooks the large valley between Jura and Alps which is draped in blue bu Lake Geneva. Somewhere down there is the border between France and Switzerland, but from here it all seem totally absurd : the landscape doesn’t have any fences ! During that small pause we also discover the plague of the crests of Jura : thousand of little flies assaulting every bit of skin they can to drink from our sweat.

We shoulder backpacks and stard walking along the crest quite slowly, subjugated by that incredible panorama which lay in front of us. The forecast is perfect, offering us a spectacular view on the Mont-Blanc enthroned on the Alps. We stop every five minutes to takes pictures of that scenery and soon decide that should better take a lunch break and enjoy it for a bit instead of filling up our memory cards with photos all looking the same than the others. Few kilometers after our delicious lunch made of cheese and charcuterie, we reach the summit of the Combe de Gex, where graze the cows with the milk of which will be made the delicious blue cheese Bleu de Gex. We try to take another break here, but we shorten it once again to run away from those damned flies. We can understand it, there is abolutely not a single drop of water on the Jura crest trail. The water tanks for the cattles are empty, there is no source on the trail and no villages. Talking about it we must take a decision about our plans : we still have 3 days to walk. We must refill our water bottles. A quick look at the GPS allow us to realise that we can hike to the col du Crozet next to which is the Refuge de la Loge, a mountain hut with accomodation and a restaurant for its overnight guests. We hope it will be open (with all the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemia we can’t be sure) becasue we’re right on a nature reserve where we cannot wild camp. We also have a plan B : if it’s closed there is a chairlift going down in the valley that must be open because we meet a lot of hikers in this area without big backpacks.

Fortunately the Refuge de la Loge is open ! Franck and Cathy welcome us warmly. Finally a bit of luck with local shops. And let us tell you that this encounter is worth all the shitty adventures we experienced until then on that trek. It’s still early in the afternoon, Franck and Cathy are in their « quiet hours » fo the day. The sun is shinny ! Life is beautiful. We rest in their outside couchs drinking a well deserved fresh beer and a blueberry pie talking with Franck like if were ten years old buddies ! As the evening comes the Refuge de la Logeis getting busy : group of hikers start to get there, pots are smelling damn good from the kitchen filling the place with smells of local sausages cooking in white wine. But before we finish our plates later, we have the pleasure to enjoy a daily artistic show from Mother Nature : a wonderful sunset over the pine trees forest of Jura.

The Jura crest trail from the summit of the Grand Mont Rond.
The Jura crest trail from the summit of the Grand Mont Rond.

Sunrise over the Alps from the Col du Crozet

It’s 4AM when the brutality of the alamr clock rings us out of our dreams. We get dressed with all our layers of clothes, set up our torches on our heads and meet with Marlèe in front of the Refuge de la Loge and start to walk in the dark, our eyes still a bit sticked. Quentin (#2) has decided to stay in his sleeping bag. Luckyly the Col du Crozet is a ski station, so the path is more like an highway than a hiking trail. We get up on the pass in a bit less than one hour and find a wonderful lookout over Lake Geneva, Switzerland, the Alps and the Mont-Blanc. The first rays of sun are struggling to pierce through the horizon. It seems that the world doesn’t want to wake this morning. Slowly the shape of the summits of the Alps is drawing in the dark veil of dawn. The Mont-Blanc is adorned with a dress in pastel shades of pink and orange. Lake Geneva, at that time of the day is an amazing amber mirror, shining with a thousand lights sending back to the sky the rays of the solar star. But it’s when the first quater of the sun passes over the horizon line that the show really begins : the rays of light are now powerful. They are painting the whole atmosphere with a comforting warmth, yellowing the entire color palette of the world. The rays of the great gold disc, still low, catch all the subjects which could be between their source and our lenses. The first flowers and the cows seems to revel with that sudden heat. Insects and birds get our of their nests. The world is finaly awaking on a new day that seems radiant, and as for us, we’re walking back to the Refuge de la Loge for a morning coffee before heading back on the edge of montains to continue our hike.

Sunrise over Lake Geneva from the Jura crest trail
Sunrise over Lake Geneva from the Jura crest trail

Back on the Great Jura Crossing : from the Crêt de la Neige to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine

We’re leaving the Refuge de la Loge with our eyes still full of that divine morning light. The sun is already up in the clouds and the temperature quite up too. The day will be hot… We are packed like donkey, mostly with a large stock of water, because from here we don’t have any knowledge about where to find a source of water along the trail until we’ll arrive to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine, tomorrow evening. There is only one alternative for water : walk down from the crests of Jura to a village down in a valley, then walk up again. If we can avoid that we’ll be happy.

Vegetal world is still awaking, flower slowly open, bees start foraging without beeing too quick. A delight for our macro lense. There you are little bugs ! The track we’re following is going up, and we’re soon back on the crest of the Jura. But the landscape has now drasticly changed compare to yesterday. The large meadows are now replaced by a more mineral setup where rocks share the place with small bushes. Trees make their appearance here and there, in the form a pine trees mainly. Morning is not yet finished that we already sweat like we’re in hell. The heat is such that we start to get worry about the quantityu of water we took compare to what we drink now. The small pine trees do not offer a lot of shadow. We must scout the trail on our maps to estimate the distances lefts and our options considering the hot weather. The best option seems to make us reach a small sky station called Menthières today to end our trail the next day at noon in Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine. Quentin (#1) has some pain in his right foot, and start to be worried about it. But we haven’t got any choice, now we’re here it’s quite difficult to get down. So let’s go !

On our way to the Crêt de la Neige, the highest point in the Jura mountains
On our way to the Crêt de la Neige, the highest point in the Jura mountains

At noon our GPS signal a cave not far from our path. The official GTJ trail get around it, but going there is not a big detour. We decide to get in to have a lunch break and seek the freshness of the cave, hoping it won’t be just a simple small hole in a rock. It’s been two hours now that we’re back in yellowish gras pastures without any shadow and not even the slighest sign of wind. The sun has made the temperature up to around 35°C. That break will be very welcome. The path to the cave is only a few centimeters large and make us progress on the cliff side. On our left : a rock wall going up, and on our right a super steep slope diving 800m down, directly to the valley below. We must focus ! There, in the rock wall, the cave open a large hole where we drop our backpacks and enjoy that moment in the cool air of the cave with our lunch.

We don’t really want to leave. The afternoon start in pain for Quentin. His Achille’s tendon pulls, his malleolus start to swell… He must unlace his shoes to continue. We must get through another large pasture made of ups and downs along the edge of the cliffs. We have cleary under estimate the total elevation of that part of the trail. Or maybe its the heat and our water going low getting on us ? A little bit ahead we pass by a closed hut next to which is a water pump ! Miracle ! Unfortunately a sigh clearly says : « Non drinkable water ». Stupid as we are we haven’t taken any filter or purifing tabs. Whatever, we’ll still enjoy it ! Here we are in our underwears taking a cold shower.

After that refreshing break, we enter a dense forest. The nearly empty bottles of water and the pain in Quentin’s foot make us take the decision to get down to Menthières. We won’t have enough water to stay on the crest, and Quentin’s pain getting worse it doesn’t seems safe to stay on the crests. From there we’ll be able to walk to Bellegarde-Sur-Valserine by the valley or to take a car in the worst case.
As we were drinking a beer at the village’s pub looking at the green ski fields Quentin realise something « Hey guys ! I know that place ! I’ve been there before. I know that chairlift ! That’s where I learned to ski with my uncle when I was a kid ! ». The owner of La Gentiane, the hotel/pub/restaurant explain us that today, due to global warming, it more and more complex to count on ski season for business. So instead of abandonning the village they decided to devellop other mountain activities for all seasons. We had a wonderful welcome from all the people we met in Menthières and we really hope that they will manage their way through the changes of our world and give a new life to that great little place. As for us we spend the night at the bottom of the ski fields and take the decision to walk down by the valley in the morning. Quentin’s foot as swollen like a small balloon now…

On the Jura Crest Trail between the Crêt de la Neige and Menthières
On the Jura Crest Trail between the Crêt de la Neige and Menthières

The next day, after a painful walk down the valley we finally arrive to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine were got in Quentin’s (#2) car with which we drove in 2 hours the distance it just took us three and half day to hike. We get back to Simon and Arthur in the Lac des Rousses, exactly where we left them, a chocolate waffle in hand, exactly how we left them 🙂

Back in Normandy, Quentin has seen a doctor and ended up with a beautiful tendonitis. Simon and Arthur are more than motivated to renew the trekking experience with us. So we might re plan something of the kind with that new team someday…

M. & Mme Shoes

Macros from the crests of Jura

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