Last month, 3 CBC members took a drive south to the land of Toblerone, holey cheese and even holier mountains.
Number1 had some business in Montreaux on Lake Geneva and as he is terrified of flying, decided a road trip was in order.
He invited myself and big Number 2, presumably in the hope that at least one of us would be too busy but neither of us were so he had to take us both.
This was handy as it is two days worth of driving to get there so we were able to share the joy.
On the way down through France, we stopped at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial with its trenches, tunnels and excellent museum. We were unfortunately too late in the day and missed the last underground tour of the extensive bunkers and tunnels.
After that, and as we were nearing the Swiss border, Number 1 remembered that there was a c*ve he could dive in so we took another small detour to the ‘La Source Bleue’ and he disappeared for an hour whilst myself and Number 2 waited in the rain.
We decided to try to climb the North face of the Eiger.
Remembering that Number 1 was scared of heights and that I didn’t know what a crampon was, we scaled down our plan a little and opted for a Via Ferrata at the bottom right hand side of the North Face which would take us up onto the West flank.
Apart from the torrential rain and the force 8 gale, this was an excellent plan and we carried it out with aplomb having tea and selfies in the snowline of one of the most famous mountains on the planet. Plus the sun came out for a lovely dry climb back down. We also found one of the famous windows in the Eiger which are for the Jungfraubahnen, the railway which runs up inside the mountain.
Number 1 had meetings to attend so myself and Number 2 went for a slightly more friendly Via Ferrata just across the valley in Champery.
Although this was a much more friendly looking Via Ferrata it was also technically more difficult for a novice like myself and was really quite thrilling in places. The scenery was stunning and the return walk to the town was cut into the side of a sheer cliff and was spectacular.
We thought we would try some culture for a change so we settled on visiting a medieval castle and walled town which also happened to house the Museum of H R Giger, better known to most as the man who designed Alien. To say his work is epic would be an understatement as would be the word ‘dark’ and Number2 left the museum in a state of shock and bewilderment.
A cross border raid into France to buy cheaper diesel and to go canyoneering near Chamonix. Due to a rock fall on the road leading to the top of the canyon we were only able to do the lower half of the trip but it was nonetheless excellent fun with ropes and slides and water and pretty young girls from Brittany. The guide was ace too even though he was French and we would thoroughly recommend him should you ever be in the area http://oxo-canyoning.fr/
On the way back into Switzerland through the mountains Number 2 showed us the roadside bunker complete with cannon which he had spotted in a pass. We discovered that there were to other bunkers with canon and machine gun ports disguised as a farmhouse and a barn. Switzerland is a veritable fortress.
The van needed to be packed ready for the return home so we thought that a local mountain rummage for some massive underground forts we had heard about was in order. We had narrowed down the search to one sticky-outy bit of mountain which cuts across the valley. In it we found a catholic church 50m up the side of a sheer cliff, a 700m long limestone cave with an underground lake and waterfall and the (very locked) entrance to 2 separate forts inside. Outside the caves, we started to see canon ports in the cliff above and then spotted a small cable car which went into a cave in the side of the cliff above us….a short explore delivered a precipitous hidden path which let to the entrance, but as Number 1 and Number 2 were just entering, an alarm sounded, and we beat a hasty retreat.
We have since found that you can do tours of the forts as long as you book 2 weeks in advance. So…next time.
With a long drive ahead, we said goodbye to Switzerland ( and summer as it happens) and drove back up through France, stopping once again to see some more trenches at Massiges. These were less sterile and a little more intact than the others we had seen and there was a huge amount of found artifacts to see just lying about.
It was very moving.
Apart from the ferry, a KFC stop at Gordano services and the massive cheer on crossing the Tamar, the rest of the trip was entirely uneventful.