In order to give ourselves a little bit of direction during this trip we decided to make our half way point a visit to see my brother and his wife. They live just outside Geneva, on the French side of the border. The drive over the Jura Mountains was great – we had only ever visited during skiing season and so this was the first time we had seen it in the green, instead of white! And, what a difference – the sun, twinkling water and wildflowers made the place almost unrecognisable.
The Fort l’Ecluse via ferrata route is a nice one that gives fantastic views down the Rhone valley. We only really dabble and so don’t know what the rating of this route is, perhaps ‘moderately difficult’ (going by the ratings on Wikipedia!) The climb starts in the car park just off the road and ascends, traversing the rocky hillside, until you reach the upper fort. The way back is a steep track that cuts through the surrounding woodlands and deposits you back on the road, just opposite the car park. This is an old favourite of ours but, given our previous visiting habits, we are normally treated to freezing cold hand-holds and the occasional snow flurry – this day was entirely different.
The fort itself was completed in the reign of Louis XIV, by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the same architect who designed the citadel of Besancon, which we had frequented earlier in the week. Fort l’Ecluse was destroyed in 1815, but was rebuilt, increased in strength and height during the process. In June 1940 the fort held the passage of the Rhone against German forces during the Battle of France. For three days allied forces held the fort against German advance, until they were ordered by the French command to stand down after the Armistice on 25th June.
The sun beat down on us as we made our way up the various sections of the climb. The higher we got the better the views; the River Rhone was a glorious turquoise blue, twinkling along the bottom of the valley, cutting through the leafy banks. The surrounding hills are tree-clad, the summer foliage vibrant and contrasting brilliantly with the blue sky above. The far distance was hazy, hills and towns disappearing into the wash of blue.
My brother’s old doggo (sadly no longer around) was used to being by his side at every second. As she had gotten older, and gone a little blind and deaf, she suffered with separation anxiety in quite a severe way. To stop her stressing and pining the whole time we were out, my brother decided to bring her along for the trip – it was nice to see her super content, cosied up in the rucksack. Her head resting on Andy’s shoulder and getting a kiss and a stroke from me every time I caught them up! A little unorthodox, perhaps – but it worked and was lovely to have her along for the day!
We stopped at the various ledges, taking a moment to cool off and take in the views. At one stop we spotted a kestrel flying at eye level and just below. It seemed to be chasing, and be chased in equal measure by another bird. With its chestnut feathers glinting bronze in the light it was a pleasant sight as he glided past our rocky perch. The bushes and shrubs were in full leaf and wildflowers seemed to be exuding from every nook and cranny. Patches of pinks, yellows and whites scattered the hillside.
As mentioned several times before, Cal isn’t the biggest fan of heights, but comes along anyway; my brother and I usually scamper off ahead and leave him to enjoy it at his own pace. Once we had all convened at the top we trotted back down the hill in the shade of the trees, back to the car.