Hiking matters #377: Hiking up Mont Salève, the “balcony of Geneva” in Rhône-Alpes, France

By the cliffs of Grand-Gorges in Mont Saleve

CHICAGO, IL – From Leo Oracion’s house in Valais, Iron Lady Jo Steven and I took the train to Geneva. We had hoped to hike up Mont Noble in Valais, but the snow was too heavy and the weather too bad, so we decided that Geneva would be a better place to stage a more substantial Monday hike. Amazingly, however, the weather improved by the time we arrived, and so we decided to go for Mont Saleve, taking Bus no. 8 just a hundred meters away from the main station.

View of Lake Geneva from Mont Saleve, with Jet d’Eau on the left

Mont Saleve is counted as one of the top attractions of city, and is even called ‘The Balcony of Geneva’, but it is actually technically in France, so from the Veyrier Douane bus stop, we crossed the border to France. Fortunately the Schengen agreement has made things really very convenient — Switzerland joined the borderless zone only very recently. Considering that we only had less than half a day to do the hike and the weather was gloomy, our plan was to take the telepherique from Pas de l’Echelle up, hike through the ridge, and descend via the Grand-Gorge trail.

We started the hike amid alternating drizzles and light snow. Some parts of the trail were muddy, and the winds coming from Lake Geneva were quite chilly especially when we walked in the ridge. As we sought to reach the forested gorge as soon as possible, Jo and I reminisced about some of the wet hikes we’ve experienced before, most memorably our hike of Halla-san, the highest mountain in South Korea. There was heavy rain from the beginning to the end of the hike and really didn’t see anything even if we traversed the mountain (see Hiking matters #103).

Personally I don’t really mind wet hikes as long as, firstly, I know I could get dry before I sleep – either back in town, or inside my tent, and secondly, that none of my valuables would get wet. Sometimes, the clouds and fog also create a unique atmosphere for the mountain. In the case of Mont Saleve, as we entered the Grand Gorge, the mist and the barren trees lent some noir to the trails, and I was reminded that this is actually the very place where Frankenstein sought refuge, according to Mary Shelley’s novel.

Meanwhile. the Gorge featured some reallly awesome descents through some dramatic rock faces, which the forest cover underplays — but it is no less dangerous. In one of the rocks, we saw a small memorial tablet for a climber who we surmised must have died there.

But at least we were shielded from the wind and by the time we reached the end of the steep descents, the rains had stopped and it was just a matter to heading back to the bus stop. Soon we found ourselves back in Geneva, where we had some nice couscous dishes that we hoped would foreshadow a North African adventure in the future!

Hiking matters #376: La Dole, Jura Mountains, Switzerland
Hiking matters #377: Mount Saleve, Rhone-Alpes, France
Hiking matters #378: Le Reculet, Jura Mountains, France

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