Photo: Approaching the communication tower at Chasseral.
A fantastic hike up a gorge to the extensive views at Chasseral.
Route: St Imier – Combe Grède – Chasseral – Nods.
Length: 13.1 km, +944m, -848m. Estimated time 4 hours 40 minutes.
Chasseral is one of the most famous peaks in the Jura (the giant communication tower makes it easy to spot from far away). Despite the fact that I see it almost daily on the horizon this was only my 2nd time ever going up Chasseral (I went up by bike almost exactly 2 years ago, a route that has been updated since and looks much better now so I need to redo that – ideally with a detour down to Orwin instead).
Season: May-October. The Combe Grède is technically closed from the end of October to start of May.
Arrival: Train to St-Imier from the main trainline at Biel (or slightly shorter if you start from Villeret). Bus from Nods to rejoin the trainline at Biel via Ligerz or La Neuveville.
Supplies: Shops and restaurants at the start and end. The Hotel Chasseral at the mid-point serves food and drink.
Alternate routes/shortcuts: Limited buses run over the pass so you can start/end at Chasseral. An alternate route is to carry on along the ridge to Orvin (21km total) or Chaumont du Signal (25km total).
Exposure/Hazards: The ascent up the Combe Grède is steep and requires mounting a few short ladders, nothing overly technical but the limestone might be very slippery if it has rained recently. Otherwise the route is mostly below the treeline.
Notes along the route
Arrival is easy into St-Imier. The walk can be made sightly shorter by taking the (much slower) regional train to Villeret – as we did thanks to a few problems which disrupted our rather different original plans.
The climb up is in the Combe Grède – a very deep gorge typical of the Jura. The ascent is steep but beautiful. There are a few bits which need a bit of care – like the ladders which might freak some people out. I wouldn’t call it dangerous, though the limestone can be very slippery if it is wet.
Coming out of the gorge there is a little section of forest and meadow before reaching the ridge at the top
Chasseral around the hotel and tower was very busy. Hardly surprising on a clear sunny Sunday afternoon (especially when the hotel has a big car park).
We went up along the ridge towards the tower (featuring a rare Swiss war memorial) then took a shortcut from the tower across the meadow rather than following the footpath properly back around the hotel. Something that my Swiss friend assures me is OK in the autumn.
Nods is a pleasant little village with some pretty Jura farmhouses. The shop by the ‘Nods, école’ bus stop sells local cheese (and even does so 24/7 with a vending machine). Not the worst place to wait for a bus.
The bus from Nods runs down towards La Nouvelle where you can get a Regional train to Biel or Neuchatel for Intercity connections. The connection might be also quicker changing from the bus to the funicular at Prêles and riding down to Ligerz – the funicular is a beautiful ride in itself with fantastic views over the lake, and has the novelty of probably being one the few funiculars to change language.