“My only wish is to guide your discovery of the wildlife, the vegetation and all the other riches to be found along our paths across the entire Alpine range. I offer service with smile, so let me share with you my joy and passion for life.”
The snow has arrived at last. It suddenly appeared one morning, without warning, and gradually covered the Monts de Genève summits along the border. What perfect timing for our snowshoe hike in the Voirons mountains!
We have an appointment at Chez Juffly in Fillinges. Jean-Marc, our guide, is already waiting for us on the car park. After quick greetings and introductions, we’re off. Snowshoes fastened and poles in hand, we take the path that winds between the houses to the forest.
For a little while we walk in a mysterious atmosphere created by the mist. We’re held in suspense, unaware of the beauty of the scenery that will be revealed to us later!
A chalet soon appears along the path. It’s time for a break Jean-Marc takes the opportunity to light a fire, to warm the place up for later. Then, we continue our climb to the mountain ridge.
Little by little, our bodies warm up. We breathe out tiny clouds that appear and disappear as we progress.
The initially sparse snow cover is now more abundant. Another sign that the actual ascent has truly begun!
Step by step, we progress through the snow and into the forest, in a realm of silence disturbed only by the sound of snow creaking gently beneath our feet. Our group makes a little noise but not too much, in the hope of spotting some of our four-legged friends.
Then Jean-Marc takes over. He tells us little stories about his walks and shows us how to identify animal tracks. Hare, deer, fox, chamois… They’ve all been here in the same woods as us. Some may even have fled on hearing us approach.
In other places the snow is still intact. This makes us feel like great explorers on a quest to discover unknown lands. Sometimes, the light manages to filter through the clouds and the tree branches. This makes the fresh snow sparkle like a carpet of diamonds. It’s magical!
Captivated by all this beauty, we haven’t even realised how close we are to our goal: Notre Dame du Pralère, 1,103 metres above sea level. Built in 1877 to ward off hail and storms, this oratory offers a superb panoramic view over Lake Geneva and the Jura region. Well, clouds permitting, of course!
One by one, we leave the forest to reach the oratory. The sun is shining high in the sky. Below us the clouds stretch as far as the eye can see. The Salève and Jura mountains rise proudly above them at elevations of 1,379 and 1,720 metres. The view is absolutely superb!
We can’t possibly go back without stopping here for a well-deserved break. Sitting on rocks and tree roots, we warm ourselves up with hot drinks, thanks to Jean-Marc who has thought of everything.
At the top, the atmosphere is relaxed. Everyone tells their jokes and anecdotes. Jean-Marc, our guide, enjoys chatting and takes pleasure in sharing his experiences with us.
When it’s time to go back down the mountain, we take a different route to continue our loop trail back to the chalet.
Every now and then, snow suddenly falls on us from the trees or is whipped up by the breeze. Some of the group lie down to make angels in the snow. There’s a merry, childlike atmosphere in the heart of this mountain wilderness.
Little by little, we approach the snow-covered chalets. The landscape seems to be covered in a thick layer of icing, like a scene right out of a fairytale. One of the chalets is the lovely rustic Maison de la Montagne des Voirons.
Inside, the chalet is a haven of warmth. The traditional wooden furniture and the wood-burning stove only add to this impression.
A fondue pot beckons from the centre of the laid table, which is great because our tummies are beginning to rumble. It’s time to prepare the fondue. The smell of the wood fire is soon combined with delicious cheesy aromas. Hmm!
A spirit of warmth and togetherness reigns throughout the meal. Jean-Marc has succeeded in breaking the ice between us from the very start of the day. He has been thoughtful, and funny. He has taken pleasure in sharing his knowledge of nature and the local area, and telling us about the animals he has seen and the people he has met on his walks. Quite simply, in sharing with us his love for these mountains.
Beyond any doubt, the Voirons mountains are his base camp. Come and explore them in his company!