Monday, 1 June 2015

The Striders -100km- full-scale training in the Swiss Jura mountain

View from Le Suchet

The plan


I wanted to do a real-life test of some two or three days to test part of our gear, packing and organisation. End of May sounded good. Early enough  to make any required changes or improvements. I was hoping to have received the packs and boots for the dogs and it would be the perfect opportunity to test them live. Optimised scheduling and I managed to free up time to set off for a 3-days hike into the wild.The initial plan: leave from home and catch up the Jura Crest Trail at the Mollendruz Pass, then follow the Trail until La Vue des Alpes/Neuchâtel and if timing allows it, walk down to Neuchâtel City. Some 110km and 4'200m uphill. Doable.

Out there


Day 1

Châtel

Busy bee. Hectic schedule. Started packing at 2pm. Finally on the trail at 4pm. Our 3 days turned into 2.5! The dogs haven't received their new gear yet. Oh well! there are many other parameters to test for now.
Splendid weather. Bright blue sky. Warm. Very warm - keeping in mind that we are Striders of the Great North...! Backpack fully loaded with food for all three Striders for 3 days and all the gear we will be using on the Nordkalottlden - except for the mat, the one I have is definitely to cumbersome. 10kg  + 2l of water.
For that day, we hiked all the way up from home (722m) to Châtel (1432m) then run down to the Mollendruz Pass (1180m) and headed down to Petra Felix and up to La Dent de Vaulion (1482m). Already suffering from the heat. And looking for water points. I knew there wouldn't be many places to
fill in my water tanks on that stage but I was at least hoping to find enough cows' water trough along the path. Good news: the Dent de Vaulion restaurant was opened and I could get plenty of tap water there. Pitched the tent right under the summit. Stunning view. Ideal spot.
Dent de Vaulion - Valley de Joux

view on the Alps

Day 2


It froze overnight and having no mat, I was pretty happy to have the dogs to keep me a bit warmer...First night, good night. Happy dogs digging holes all around the camp and a hungry strider. I could feel that I left home already tired from last week-end training and a busy schedule. I knew it would be the case and actually thought it would be a good resistance test. But then my body needed to compensate and claimed for more food. The same happened when I did the Alptrekking: after 10 days, I had to eat more and more to compensate for the physical weariness. I am aware of the phenomenon and know I'll have to take on the Nordkalottleden fully rested. I packed the camp and we set off again. Sparta and Nyx were quite mad that morning!
Gorges de l'Orbe
Vallorbe
Vallorbe (749m) - les Gorges de l'Orbe - Le Suchet (1588m). Some really nice paths and view points. Very sunny. Lunch break after the top. The dogs were starting to suffer again from the heat and needed a rest. The next stretch to Ste-Croix would be dry but I was counting on troughs to water the dogs. We set off again, taking another route down through the woods and then a rough road until we caught up the Crest Trail again. No water left. A single trough in sight and it was empty... We kept running along the road dominated by the impressive Aiguilles de Baulmes hoping to find something to drink. Finally an hour later we passed a drinking trough with fresh water for the dogs. Five more kilometers and we reached Ste-Croix (1086m), exhausted by these unusual hot weather conditions for the season.
On the way to Buttes

Le Suchet
Aiguilles de Baulmes
 There we rested for a good while. I could have kept on hiking at the speed I wanted in such a heat. The dogs couldn't. I had to take a decision. Instead of walking up to the Chasseron (1607m) - another summit, more hours in the sun-, I chose to change my route, to take a more shaded trail and to head to Buttes in the Val de Travers/NE. Woodlands, a few rivers, some good climbs, another14 kilometers further and we happily arrived in the small village. Soon we spotted a big fountain! the dogs could drink and bath - well actually, Nyx did - Sparta hates water! I filled in the bottles and flasks and we walked just 5 minutes out of town to find a nice spot to camp for the night. Pitched the tent. Fed the dogs. Boiled water - I had pasta and salmon at the menu that night. Checked the map for the next day. And everyone was in bed early that night.




Val de Travers - Môtiers
Fleurier/NE

Who lost their pants?
Môtiers



Cascade - Môtiers

Day 3

Early birds. Feeling good and motivated. I was really getting into the swing of things. And the dogs too: ready to set off again, eager to put the harnesses on. I'd rather have an early start and rest during the hottest hours if need be. I had changed my route: we would climb to Le Creux du Van and then come back on the Crest Trail in direction of Ste-Croix before heading down to Mauborget and maybe Grandson.
I find the Val de Travers absolutely lovely. It has an atmosphere. The gorges, the waterfalls, the green valley and woodland scenes... There is something truly magic there. And it is the land of the Green Fairy... the magical drink. Absinthe. And a famous race called after it, Le Trail de l'Absinthe. 

Creux du Van

Creux du Van
We reached the very impressive site of Le Creux du Van by 11am. Stunning. Every time I come up there, I am impressed by the beauty of the site. This place... It is magical. Sacred. So peaceful. And on a Friday it is pleasantly not crowded. Lunch break. Legs and paws resting. My feet need to be tend to;  my Inov-8 Roclite 268 are already pretty worn out and seem to be taking revenge on the sole of my feet...
On the way down to the lake Neuchâtel
Grandson Quays
Resting..
Off we are again. On our way to Mauborget. Sparta has a little wound under one of her front pad and is slightly limping on rough terrain and gravel... Not good. I truly think those dogs boots will be useful... For now, we have to keep going ass fat as we can without any further injuries. Les Rochats. La Combaz. Then leaving the Crest Trail direction Mauborget. On the way down I chose to keep going and took the Grandson direction on the Lake of Neuchâtel. Lovely paths. Long downhills. Still so hot and sunny. I wondered if we would reach the Lake or if I would have to stop before if it got to hot for the dogs. Hopefully, there were plenty of fountains and water points along the way. This time I put Sparta in the water to cool her down, and for once, she didn't mind! We stopped many times for a few minutes break in the shade. And by 6pm we reached the medieval town of Grandson and its famous castle.And a well-deserved rest on the lawn on the lake shore.

Final word


106 kilometers in 2.5 days. 3'500m uphill and 4'000m downhill. Not a bad training session considering the conditions!
Despite her small wound, Sparta didn't seem to be really bothered and the next morning she was all ready to set off again! Nyx didn't even seem to have walked at all: nice and fresh as usual! I am probably the most tired of the three!

This training reassured me in our ability to do it: the Nordkalottleden, we are going to make it!




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