Walking the rim of the Creux du Van

Approach Creux du Van from behind and it’ll surprise you.  Walk over Le Soliat from the south and it looks like the rest of the Jura – a pretty landscape of rounded mountains covered in woods and meadows with the odd bit of limestone sticking out of them.  But as you walk towards the northern side of the mountain, a crescent moon of rock appears, dropping roughly 150 metres deep and stretching around 1,400 metres wide in-front of you.

Creux du Van
Creux du Van

The Creux du Van is a limestone cirque formed by erosion and landslides caused by the water from a long-gone glacier.  It sits in the mountains a short drive from Neuchatel in Switzerland.  It’s probably because it isn’t in the Alps, that Creux du Van is not particularly well known.  Which is a shame because it is as dramatic as its bigger cousins further east and is in wonderful walking country.  On the other hand, this lack of wider recognition makes it a quieter place to visit than a lot of the tourist areas of the Alps. Read more

Via Ferrata on the Edge

Me on the 80-metre long suspension bridge on the Murren-Gimmelwald Via Ferrata
Me on the 80-metre long suspension bridge on the Murren-Gimmelwald Via Ferrata

Murren is a pretty village of wooden chalets and hotels perching on slopes covered in woods and meadows.  In the summer, men farm the meadows for hay accompanied by the clanking of cowbells.  Tourists sit in cafes or wander streets kept quiet by a ban on all but electric vehicles.  The Eiger, Monch and outlying peaks of the Jungfrau across the valley provide a dramatic horizon of dark rock and bright snow.  Standing in its centre it’s easy to not realise that this quiet Swiss village comes to an abrupt halt at sheer limestone cliffs that drop hundreds of metres to the bottom of the narrow Lauterbrunnen Valley.  It’s this drop that makes Murren a favourite place for base-jumpers and paragliders.  It’s also along the top of these cliffs that a brilliant via ferrata descends from Murren to the village of Gimmelwald by a route that seems designed to test your nerves. Read more