Dent de Jaman (6151ft) – an easy scramble

September 8, 2012

Around Lausanne, Hiking, Sports

The Dent de Jaman, as seen from the cog rail train to Rochers de Naye.

This week marked my first venture into the mountains above Montreux to do some hiking and scrambling. I have a climbing trip planned for next week with some potential to climb at altitude (up to 12-15,000ft or over 4000m), so I was looking to spend some time hiking and scrambling at elevation. The peaks around Lake Geneva are not very high (6000ft or 2000m), but I figured it was better than nothing, especially given that I have been living at barely 1500ft (450m) for the last few weeks.

One obvious objective that struck my fancy was the Dent de Jaman. At 6151ft (1875m), it’s hardly a giant, but this pyramid-like feature thrusting out of the ridge high above Montreux is impossible to miss. I had inspected the Dent close up a few days prior during an ascent to the Col de Jaman on my bicycle just a few days before. From the Montreux side, the Dent presents an impenetrable, vertical rock face of a thousand feet or so. On the back side, however, the summit can be reached by scrambling up a series of low-angled grassy slopes and ledges. All told, the hike/scramble from the col to the summit involves about 1000ft of elevation gain.

Last Tuesday morning I drove up to the village of Les Avants and continued on up towards the Col de Jaman on a switchbacking, one lane road called the Route de Jaman. I elected to stop and park the car at a point that was about 1000ft below the col, as I wanted to get more than 1000ft of elevation gain in my legs. From there I carried on up the road on foot until reaching the col.

The Col de Jaman is a verdant u-shaped notch between the Dent de Jaman and a pointed knife-edged ridge to the north. The col features a handful of buildings, including a restaurant, and a large swath of pasture, none of which give the slightest hint of the surprising significance of the place. Apparently the Col de Jaman is a key migration corridor for hundreds of thousands of birds and bats from across Europe, who use it as a gateway for their migratory perrigrinations. From August to October every year, ornithological researchers and amateur bird-watching enthusiasts stake out the col to observe, capture and band up to 10,000 birds from roughly 80 different species. High on a ridge overlooking the col, a series of fine nets are installed to entrap the birds, which are then gently removed, identified, banded and released.

According to most trail descriptions, the trip from the col to the summit of the Dent take about an hour. From the col, the trail begins with a steady climb up to join the northwest ridge. I paused for a brief chat with a grad student on the way, who was basking in the sun while waiting for the tell-tale warning sounds that a bird had been caught in the nets up above. I proceeded higher and walked past the nets along a ridge, which ran for about 50 metres and were roughly 10 metres high. A quick scan of the nets revealed no captives at the moment.

From here the trail ascended a series of steep, forested ledges and scree slopes, switchbacking back and forth, with the odd pitch of steep, slippery rock steps requiring the use of hands, along with bolted chains for added security. After 10 minutes the trail began a leftward traverse up and across the scree slopes of the Dent’s north side underneath soaring cliffs. Another few minutes of traversing upward brought me to the northeast ridge, where the trail rounded the corner and spilled out onto the green, grassy and much sunnier slopes of the east side of the Dent. On this side the slopes are much mellower, and one can gain the summit via a series of switchbacks up grassy ledges and rock stairs. The online trail descriptions I read suggested that the trip takes a half hour from this point, but I made it up in less than 15 minutes, and I wasn’t exactly rushing!

The rounded summit of the Jaman is little bigger than your average living room, and features a giant cross. There are 360 degree views, including a spectacular view down to Lake Geneva, as well as views up to the neighbouring Rochers de Naye, and down to the Col de Jaman. After a few obligatory summit photos I headed back down.

Towards the end of my quick descent I paused briefly to commiserate with a small bird that had become entangled in the ornithologists’ net. I couldn’t help but project that he was having one of those “terrible, horrible, no good, really bad days”. Further down I passed a couple of students on their way up to identify and the release their tiny captive. By the time I made it back to the col I had made the complete roundtrip in about an hour. I carried on back down the car, for a round trip total of about 2000ft of elevation gain and loss, all in about two and a half hours. A perfect intro to the Swiss Alps, and an easy shakedown prior to my trip to Chamonix.

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