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Le Moléson: via ferrata La Face

Published by Stijn , 30 September 2014, 19h47.

Region: World » Switzerland » Fribourg
Date of the hike:27 September 2014
Via ferrata grading: D+
Geo-Tags: CH-FR 
Time: 5:00

Another sunny September weekend gave me the chance to tick some more via ferratas off my list. I made use of an open invitation on CouchSurfing from Eloïse and Patrick, a friendly couple living in Hauteville on the shores of the Lac de la Gruyère. Together, we made our way to the most famous mountain in the area: Le Moléson.
From Moléson-sur-Gruyères we take the packed cog railway up to Plan-Francey. A single ticket costs 7 CHF, and you also have to pay 4 CHF for access to the via ferrata; a rather unusual practice, but I guess still an acceptable price. After Eloïse and Patrick have rented their gear, we quickly reach the start of the via ferrata.
There are in fact two completely separate via ferrata routes that ascend Le Moléson in parallel. The leftmost route ("Le Pillier") is slightly easier and follows the northeast ridge of the mountain. The rightmost route ("La Face") is a little harder and goes up the shady north face. Since large, slow-moving groups are blocking the first route, we choose the latter, which is just slightly less crowded. It's a good thing that there are two parallel routes here. Having everybody on one route would be as much fun as the Gubrist tunnel on a Friday afternoon.
After an initial easy traverse, the "La Face" route quickly gets more difficult with some longer vertical or slightly overhanging sections (K4+). There is also a short slightly overhanging traverse, which might be the most interesting bit of the entire route. There are plenty of iron rungs everywhere (rather too many for my taste) that make the whole verticality less problematic than it might have been. It's just a matter of powering your way up without needing to do much thinking.
Near the top, there are a different variations available. The variation marked "TD+" has a more severe overhang (K5), which however is only 2 meters long and again has plenty of comfortable iron rungs. As long as you don't "hang around", it's over before your arms have a chance to get tired. If in doubt, you can choose the slightly easier variation marked "TD-". Directly afterwards, you can take an immediate exit, or complete one additional challenge, another short overhang (K4+). The cable continues for a while, which is briefly useful when walking up some slippery rocks. As soon as you reach the summit ridge, though, it becomes more of trip hazard than anything else.
The "Pillier" route also tops out here, just before the secondary summit of P. 1936, which is marked by a large white cross. A nice path connects P. 1936 with the main summit at 2002m, where the 360° panorama is complete. In perfect visibility, we see Mont Blanc, Titlis and everything in between. The most stunning perspective, however, is where the visibility isn't perfect: hazy layers of Hochnebel give the Lake Geneva area a particularly beautiful ambience. We have to share the view with dozens of other people, but I guess that's to be expected on a mountain like Le Moléson, the most well-known and accessible summit of the whole region.
Instead of taking the cable car and the train down, we walk around the west of Le Moléson (past P. 1663) to Plan-Francey, and further down via Moléson-la-Baron to the car park.
The day is completed with a visit to the historic village of Gruyères. Cheese, meringues with crème double, flag throwing and alpenhorns, the Giger "Alien" bar: in one hour we get the whole tourist experience. My favourite, however, is when, away from the tourists, we stumble upon a choir rehearsing in the local church, singing beautifully.
The "La Face" via ferrata is challenging but not particularly creative. It's a beautiful region, though, and I'll certainly be back to do the other via ferrata, or one of the many interesting-looking alpine hikes in my brand new SAC Alpinwandern/Gipfelziele Freiburg guide.

Hike partners: Stijn


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