Mont Tendre Under a Rainy Sky
Rain, Cows, and Family
A relative was visiting us and, as customary in Switzerland, we decided to go for a hike. The planning for her visit was set in advance, so we left the house in the morning and headed out to Le Pont.
Le Pont is a great place to start day hikes in the Jura region. It's easily accessible by train, included in the GA Travelcard, and sits next to the Lac de Joux.
We arrived in Le Pont, the air was warm, but the sky was becoming cloudier by the minute. No turning back now, though, so we started walking to the beginning of the hike. We had previously hiked the Dent de Vaulion, so the Mont Tendre was next on our list.
Starting from Le Pont, you head out on an 800m climb to the Mont Tendre, and come back down on the western side of the Lac de Joux, in Le Brassus. This hike is quite long, totaling almost 25 km. From Le Brassus, you can take a train or bus back to Lake Geneva.
Reasonably fit people will complete the hike in approximately 6 hours, depending on their fitness level and the number of photographs taken.
This time, I did not take many photographs: one hour into the hike, the rain started, and it did not stop until we reached Le Brassus.
Rainy Hike Checklist
I've read quite a lot about hikers and rain gear. The most useful tip was to bring an umbrella. Which I now do. Every. Single. Time. It can even help under a heavy sun. It's a foldable one. I slip it on the side of my backpack.
More generally, it's always good to have a water (and wind) proof jacket. For durability, you can go Gore-Tex Active Shell or Pro. For those on a budget (like me) and with an umbrella at hand, a lightweight trail jacket will do wonders. It will be super packable. Coupled with a synthetic fleece, you'll stay toasty.
The shoes. Probably the most important item for a hiker. I have sweaty feet, and having breathable shoes is crucial. If you are eco-conscious and want to avoid leather, you'll be happy to know that synthetic shoes are more breathable. I tried different brands and models, but there was always something uncomfortable, either in the stitching or the material used. Then I discovered On.
Finally, depending on what you have in your bag, it might be a good idea to have a rain cover. Most bags nowadays come with built-in rain-covers.
Here's the full gear list:
- On Cloudrock Waterproof Shoes (expensive but so lightweight and comfy)
- Rain Jacket (lightweight and packable)
- Fleece Sweater (it served me well over the years)
- Trail Shorts (any shorts really, keeps me ventilated)
- Merino T-Shirt (it will keep you warm when wet)
- Umbrella (got a good deal on QoQa)
- Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack (I wish I had bought a larger one)
- Merino Blend Hiking Socks (sweet heavens)
- Anti Chafe and Blister Balm (such as Body Glide, the magic potion)
- Emergency Blanket and First Aid Kit (follow a First Aid course as well)
I did not walk the Mont Tendre with the On Cloudrock Waterproof shoes. They were on their way to the shop at the time. I hiked with Salomon Outbound shoes. These are super light, super ventilated, and permeable hiking shoes. The rain rinsed my feet, but it was manageable.
I'd recommend checking the Good on You Brand Directory to check for brands rated Good or above. Adidas, Patagonia, Icebreaker, Jack Wolfskin are all brands I can recommend. Gear-only brands are often not rated, so check their websites for sustainable and ethical labels (such as Fair Wear, 1% for the Planet etc).
Mont Tendre (1679 m)
Being in the Jura mountains, most of the hike is not exposed. 80% of the time, you will either walk in forests or through grazing cows (more on that later). Close to the summit, you'll be exposed to wind, and it can become quite uncomfortable. There aren't many trees up there, and the terrain is a bit rockier.
Generally, watch your steps for wet rocks. It can get slippery (even in woodlands).
By clear sky, the summit of Mont Tendre offers beautiful views of the region of Jura, Lake Geneva, and the Alps. On rainy days, you'll probably wish to go down as fast as you went up to avoid the chilling wind. No pictures this time.
On the way down to Le Brassus, keep an eye on the signs. Because of the rain, we went off-path a couple of times, unable to locate the markings. We ended up on a bike trail and walked down a steep, slippery slope under a mechanical lift. If you come up from Le Brassus, you should not have any problems.
Hearing bells? Welcome to Switzerland! All cows grazing in the mountains will have a somewhat big bell attached to their neck. Farmers can locate them while they "freely" graze around for days.
I must say that, even though you will cross many fences that are there to limit their movement, these cows can roam a fair amount of space. It means they might block your path if they feel like it.
Usually, cows are peaceful creatures. Sometimes a bit inquisitive, they might want to check you out. In particular, if your cross a pasture that's not often frequented by fellow walkers. From experience, avoid loud noises and bright colors. You should be fine.
There is one exception to their peaceful nature: young mothers protecting their calf. Keep away. Seriously. The weight of a cow can go up as much as 1.5 tons. The calfs are super cute. So if you want to take some pictures, zoom in.
Instead of going down to Le Brassus, you can continue to Col de Marchairuz, and continue along the stage 15 of the Jura Crest Trail. Either way, you can then hop on a bus or train back to Lake Geneva. We did that stage earlier this month.
Because of the rain, we ate on the train back to Lausanne (yes, it was empty, and yes, masks are mandatory) instead of on the trail. It felt good. Hummus and slow-cooked bell peppers in home-made baguettes are just perfect hiking food.
I will hike the Mont Tendre again when the sky is clear blue. It's one of the highlights of the Swiss Jura mountains. Next on the list is La Dôle summit (stage 16 of the Jura Crest Trail). I am looking forward to it!
Stay safe, on the trail and off!