January came with sub zero temperatures.. We left the frozen Chamonix valley and expected something a few degrees warmer... Little did we know that the Jura is renowned for it Siberian climate during the winter months!
We arrived in Les Rousses in -14 temperatures set for a 3 day expedition on the Grand Traverse of the Jura. Having never been to the Jura in winter before we really didn't know what to expect and we pleasantly surprised at the contrast from the jagged skyline if the Chamonix to the vast rolling valleys and tree lined ridges of the Jura. And what's more we had the place to ourselves, kilometer after kilometer of deserted terrain.
Day 1: Setting off from Les Rousses we headed for Chapelle des Bois a 28 k stage passing Bois d'Armont with 400m of ascent over Les Combettes having never skied that distance before cross country with a back pack with 3 days worth of gear it was tough going. We finally dropped down in to the xx valley and completed the day with a further 8 kilometres on flat terrain until we reached the village of Chapelle des Bois and our hotel for the night. Tiered and hungry we made good use of the hotels sauna, downed a cold beer and tucked into a great meal before crashing out!
Day 2: Wow another cold day -15 at best, from Chapelle des Bois we headed on flat terrain down the never ending Combe des Cives valley which seemed to go on for miles a short climb took us to the Le Pre Poncert and on to Chaux Neuve. We covered another 24k before arriving back at Chapelle des Bois and the Hotel Melezes.
Day 3: For our final day we retraced our tracks back to Les Rousses on a similar route to day 1 with a couple of added variations over the Combe du Vert. With warmer temperatures (-5) and snow forecast during the afternoon this gave us the incentive to make progress and avoid the worst of the weather. We returned to our car by 3pm, cold wet and tried and contemplated our snowy drive back to the Chamonix valley.
80 kilometres in 3 days on skinny skis with overnight kit, madness yet weirdly addictive! A really worth while experience though a real wilderness with miles upon miles of cross country ski trails, we would definitely plan another stage of the GTJ next winter.