What is There to See in the Lake

What is there to see in the lake is a question that people have frequently asked me. For at least two years I would go diving nearly every weekend. I would dive in the Lac Léman, the Lac de Bourget, the Gouille Du Duzillet. I also dived the English channel in November. I dived all year round. In summer we would cook in our dry suits and in winter our hands were sometimes so cold that we couldn’t take off our dry suits.
Lake divers are an eccentric, hardy bunch of people. I used to say that the beauty of lake diving is that it is not affected by weather. You’ll get wet anyway and if you go below a certain depth water is always at 5°c. I’m in Spain at the moment and I decided to go snorkelling with my semi Dry Suit around El Portet. This is the cove where I worked on getting my rescue diver certification. I snorkelled by the rocks to the west at first. The waters are shallow and I did see a school of juvenile fish. As I finned further I saw some slightly larger fish and urchins.

After a while of searching I finned to the other side of the bay. New sand has been deposited along this beach. As a result of this new sand visibility has suffered near the beach. By the rocks the visibility is still good.

From the image above you can see that the water is really clear. I thought that with such clear waters I would see a lot. I was hoping to see fish, maybe an eel or two and maybe some crabs. It’s good to dive and snorkel close to marine reserves. In marine reserves fish are allowed to mature and grow and eventually they branch out to other areas. As a result diving and snorkeling are more rewarding.

It’s at the supermarket fish section that I saw the most fish. It’s a shame that they were lying dead, on ice, rather than swimming underwater. In effect I see as many fish in the mediterranean as in the lakes of Switzerland and France so you travel for the climate rather than aquatic life. People need to allow the seas and oceans time to recover. It’s a shame not to see much aquatic life. I should try again in a different location where there are fewer people. I might be luckier.

Learning about Tiny Houses

Learning about Tiny Houses is interesting. There are a number of features/documentaries online where people build their own tinyhouses either from shipping containers, trailers or other structures. The aim of these tinyhouses is to maximise space and reduce costs. Some of these homes are entirely off the grid. They collect rain water and solar panels provide power. The bedroom is often built above the kitchen and climbing wall holds are used instead of ladders or conventional stairs.

One home folds out from a truck to become a castle. One tower serves as a toilet and the second one serves as a shower. The space above even features a bath.

Another Tiny home is designed as a tree house providing a beautiful 360° panoramic view of the landscape around.

This tiny home is interesting because it’s built out of half a shipping container. For a change the bed is below and the living room is above. The kitchen and office are next to it and there is a shower from which to watch birds.

I have seen a lot of people speak about minimalist living, living off the grid and living out of cars, campers and other vehicles. By watching videos about tiny houses you begin to understand that there are certain basics that you need to have and that these basics fit in to small spaces. If you have a van, a caravan or other vehicle then you can live as comfortably as these people.

This last video would make for a perfect summer home for recent university graduates or high school graduates. It’s small, light and mobile. You’re self sufficient to a great extent and as long as it’s warm you have your own space. It’s amusing that in at least three videos we hear about people learning to be neater through living in such small spaces.

As a scuba diver, rock climber, cyclist and geek the biggest challenge for someone like me would be to find a place where I could store my diving gear and especially the scuba tanks. They’re bulky. Diving gear also needs to dry properly to avoid the smell of the lake (as I used to dive weekly in the lake).

My view of living in a tinyhouse has changed through the watching of these documentaries. It shows you that what you want is functionality rather than size. You want “gadgets” as these maximise how you use available space.

FIFAD; The day I finally got to experience a Paragliding flight

During the FIFAD event I was invited by one of the people I was working alongside to try paragliding. This is a sport that I have thought about trying for more than a decade by now. Many years ago I bought a book about the theory of flying parapente and I have often watched them take off from places like the peaks near Lucerne, from St Hilaire du Touvet, land close to home and more.

I was invited the previous evening and the next day I went to the zone where they were landing and I watched them fly and then land. Some were novice fliers. Some of them were learning to land within a small circle and others were flying in tandem. I spoke to the person and he told me to come back at 1500 so I had two or three hours to occupy.

The area where we flew
The area where we flew

During the wait I took some pictures of Parapente as they flew around and when I saw the paragliders flying where they are in the image above that is where I wanted to go. I saw them ascend and as their flights were lasting so long I thought that the wait would be longer than anticipated. They had found some rising air and were playing with the backdrop that you see in these images.

A parapente flying near Les Diablerets
A parapente flying near Les Diablerets

When it was finally time to get in to the minibus to go up I was worrying about how the motion of paragliding would affect me and I was thinking about whether I was scared or not. I seemed to be impatient rather than scared. I felt excited and happy to have such an opportunity. Two years ago when someone asked me whether I wanted to go ice diving as there was a space free I had said no, that I did not feel ready. That friend had said that there would always be next time. Before “next time came up he died on a professional dive”. It is for this very reason that I really wanted to grab this opportunity.

The person who took off just before.
The person who took off just before.

The image above shows the zone from which we took off. To the right you have the Tour D’Aï and to the left you have the Diablerets. The fields are near a farm where the farmer processes cow’s milk to make cheese and other products before bringing it down to the valley. At this point I asked about the safety briefing. It was short and to the point. As a climber the thing that surprised me is the notion that you are using a “seat” rather than a harness. You wear the seat without tightening it. You sit in that seat for the flight. I was also told to lean forward and to walk/run forward when I felt the sail go up.

When the sail went up I felt that we were pulled backwards a little before we started moving forward. Within just two or three steps we were flying. We banked right to try to find a thermal but as this failed we banked left towards Les Diablerets towards the trees near the Creux Du Champ to find ascending air. The feeling as you head towards the trees relatively close to the tree tops is a strange feeling. I also noticed that I felt motion sickness at one or two moments but I quickly made sure to look in the direction of travel rather than the other way.

As we flew I could hear some beeping from my right shoulder. I had my gps watch on my wrist tracking the flight out of curiousity but the device I could hear indicated whether we were gaining or loosing altitude. The faster it beeped the faster we were rising.

Finding ascending air was a challenge. The pockets were very small so we had to be patient, turning and travelling until we found the right pockets of air. Eventually we did rise quickly. That was an interesting feeling. You see the ground get further away and you feel as if you are not moving that fast. You look at the chalet and the cliffs. At one moment you are below them and two or three passes later you rise above them and then you see the chalet at eye level and then you are above them. We turn again and we catch another thermal and we rise to the half way point, a picnik table with a view over the Creux de Champ. Eventually we were at 1800m in altitude and I wished I had taken a thicker layer as it started to be colder up there. I didn’t want to interrupt the flight just because I was a little cold though.

Eventually it was time to head back to the landing zone and the festival, for another night of work. On the way back, above the village I was allowed to pilot for a bit. I tried a right turn and then a left turn and then I gave the controls back to the pilot. We did two corkscrews and pulled two and a half g’s. The feeling was fun.

We landed on our feet and it was soft, softer than when you jump. The flight lasted about 45 minutes. Not bad for a first flight. The GPS track from that flight is here. I want to fly again. I enjoyed the sensation. The people I flew with are from paraventure. Flights range in price from 120.- CHF for a discovery flight to 200.- CHF for a thermal flight. They also do via ferrata, canyoning and other sports.

FIFAD Day 4 – Youth and Alpinism

The fourth Day of FIFAD could have had the banner of youth and children of Alpinism. It began with a conference by Swiss university students who had travelled to Siberia for their projects, a short documentary about the actress who played Heidi in the recent film, disadvantaged youth who went to the mountains to help on a farm, The Makers of Dreams about the Geneva CAS branch and how it encourages young people to experiment with Alpinism and trekking. The last documentary of the evening was about Polish and British people going to the base of K2. Their parents were alpinists who went to climb the mountain but never came back.

K2 Touching the Sky

K2 Touching the sky was an interesting documentary because I cannot make up my mind as to whether the documentary is about death or whether it is a documentary about Alpinism and being a parent. The documentary starts with the question “Can I be a mother and an Alpinist” and ends with a shot of that same woman holding a baby next to a river. This documentary explores how children react and feel to the knowledge that their parents died doing what they were passionate about.

Face to Face

Degrees North is different from the other films because it shows nice images of two mountain guides climbing and having a conversation about the difference in attitude between climbers in different parts of the world. They speak of the Japanese climbers who spent one month working to ascend the North Face of the Eiger as well as of other routes and groups of people.

Degrees North

Freeride films are all alike once the people strap on the snowboard and head down the mountain. What makes the documentary or film relevant is how those people get to the mountains, the steep slopes and more. This film is fun because it combines parapentes, a propeller and drop-offs straight on to the mountain. They say “If we were using the parapente now we could be up the mountain in 10 minutes rather than spend four or five hours climbing up. They also speak of the ability for reconnaissance and appreciating the routes that are spotted.

Voyous à L’Alpage

Disadvantaged youth who have been locked up for a number of reasons at a young age are allowed to go up to a farm in the mountains and help with the daily running of the place. This is an opportunity for them to learn new skills in a nice Alpine setting. Imagine misbehaving in this part of the world and being sent up to spend time up in the mountains like this. In theory they can run away and one or two do but overall this is a great way to experience something else than the environment in which they might live or grow up.


The mountains provide a beautiful environment in which for people to grow up and enjoy snowboarding, via ferrata, rock climbing, alpinism and more. There is of course an inherent risk of death which did figure prominently in some of the documentaries. At the same time as the mountains are deadly they provide opportunities for the enjoyment of sports, people and more. Yesterday’s selection of films highlighted this well.



FIFAD Day 2 – a day of introspection about exploration.


FIFAD’s second day’s documentaries were introspective. They looked at mining in Bolivia, Jean Troillet’s life of adventure and the film Sherpa.

The peaks we see from the Festival
The peaks we see from the Festival

Tous Les Jours La Nuit

Tous Les Jours La Nuit is a documentary by Jean-Claude Wicky who passed away recently. The documentary looked at the lives of Bolivian miners who have to work for up to 20 hours a day in mines where the air temperature can reach up to 50°c, where the life expectancy is between 40-45 years and where they barely earn enough to live. In this documentary he looks at some of the pictures he took when down in the mines. He tells us stories about the people who are photographed and tells us about their culture. At the end of the film he comes back to the country once again and meets with some of the miners and their communities. He donates copies of the books to individual miners as well as their community. The aim is to document the hardships faced by these workers.


Sherpa is a beautiful and powerful film because it teaches us about the Sherpa people, the Everest climbing industry and explores the social challenges posed by professions that can lead to accidental death. The documentary looks at the subject from the perspective of tour operators who are responsible for their clients as well as Sherpa. We also see how Sherpa families see the opportunities but also dangers that come from the industry around summiting everest.

The strength of this film lies in that it provides us with the discussions, sights and concerns of people on site at the time of the tragedy. In the documentary they say that as tourists want an increasing level of comfort when climbing Everest the Sherpas have to climb through the Khumbu ice fall from 20-30 times per season to take up supplies and equipment. The clients, tourists or adventurers, whichever name you prefer face the crossing just twice.

The Khumbu ice fall is a snow waterfall “cascade de glace”. On the day of the tragedy a 14,000 ton bloc of ice came lose causing an avalanche that crossed the entirety of the ice fall.

This film highlights the need for adequate social cover for the Sherpa and their families so that, because they do a dangerous job, that their families are cared for. One of the Sherpa, the leader had been approaching 22 climbs of Everest. I will write no more. Enjoy the film when you get the opportunity.

Jean Troillet

Jean Troillet is a Swiss explorer with 50 years of experience of the mountains and fourty of those on expeditions. He holds the record for the fastest climb of Everest and has climbed ten summits over 8000 metres. In the main film projected at FIFAD we see him spend a week in a tent and receiving guests to speak about previous adventures and experiences. Some time was also devoted to him providing his home crowd, people from this region of Switzerland with the opportunity to listen to personal accounts and more.



From the 6th to the 13th of August 2016 The International Alpine Film Festival, FIFAD, is taking place in the Alpine town of Les Diablerets. This is a week long festival of Alpine films covering the environment, extreme sports, adventure and more.


Alpland is a photo exhibit outside of images of Alpine life in black and white. The images were taken by Romano Riedo

The Flying Frenchies arrive

The image gallery below shows the Flying Frenchies arrive at the film festival. The drummer flew with his drum kit, the guitarist flew with a guitar and amp and the saxophonist arrived with his instrument. They played their instruments while up in the air. Watching this in person is interesting.


Baraka Films and the Flying Frenchies worked together for this fun and entertaining film. This film looks at the Flying Frenchies coming together to combine slack-lining, parapentes and other extreme sports with musicians. The Flying Frenchies arrived at the event on parapentes.The film metronomic shows cliff based stunts. It combines acrobatics on a cliff face with slack-lining and rope based stunts. At one point the guitarist, the drummer and the Saxophonist are swinging in space and playing at the same time.

The Freeride evening

The evening was dedicated to freeride sports, mainly extreme skiing and a discussion with the Falquet brothers and Jérémie Heitz. One of the images that really marked me was the climb up to a pyramidal peak so that they could ski back down. The reason they climb rather than use a helicopter is to assess how good the snow is and whether it is safe to sky down. Some of these films had some impressive images, including at least one unsuccessful descent.

The films on this day showed the beauty of extreme sports both with skiing slopes that are over 50° as well as with flying musicians. As people get habituated to certain sports so the scope for diversity and creativity expands.

Via Ferrata and Edelweiss

Via Ferrata and Edelweiss can be combined. I was reminded of this when I was looking at Salanfe’s Instagram account images last night. I saw an image of a chamois and her young and then I saw the picture below of an Edelweiss and I wanted to share that I had also seen Edelweiss.

I saw edelweiss on the Via Ferrata de Rougemont on the 31st of August 2014 according to Google Photos. These are rare but nice flowers that grow in Switzerland. They are also used as a symbol of this country. They are quite small and fluffy with thick petals. They are so rare to see that despite years of hikes, climbs and other sports I have only spotted them once.

A few Edelweiss
A few Edelweiss

“There is a flower known to botanists, one of the same genus with our summer plant called ‘Life-Everlasting’, a Gnaphalium like that, which grows on the most inaccessible cliffs of the Tyrolese mountains, where the chamois dare hardly venture, and which the hunter, tempted by its beauty and by his love (for it is immensely valued by the Swiss maidens), climbs the cliffs to gather, and is sometimes found dead at the foot, with the flower in his hand. It is called by botanists the Gnaphalium leontopodium, but by the Swiss EDELWEISS, which signifies NOBLE PURITY.” Source.

To complete the poetic irony I also took pictures of a chamois on this particular mountain outing. You can see it standing on bare rock with the clouds and valley below. From these two sightings it seems that the flowers are visible in August so that is when we should look for them.

where the chamois dare hardly venture
“where the chamois dare hardly venture”

On the day when we saw Edelweiss it was interesting. As a person who grew up in Switzerland finding an edelweiss had been a decade long project and goal. Other people in our group were indifferent. For me it was a reward from years of looking. For them it was “yeah, so what?”. I was happy and proud when I saw those flowers at the top of that Via Ferrata.


1st of August – Fête national Suisse in St Prex

The First of August, in Switzerland is a national holiday. This is the day when Switzerland celebrates its own existence. The Swiss are celebrating the Pacte Fédérale from 1291. I saw a tweet saying that Switzerland is about 725 years old. They have only been celebrating this since 1891 when the confederation was 600 years old.

Fireworks on their way to St Prex
Fireworks on their way to St Prex

On this day rafts covered in firewood are brought out on the lake and placed next to cities. The raft that you see in the image above is covered in fireworks. The Sauvetage boat would do another two or three trips that I noticed.

Some people are even lucky enough to go sailing
Some people are even lucky enough to go sailing

This year I was able to swim and go sailing once again. Sailing on the lake is a pleasant and fun activity although as usual for this time of year there is a lack of wind so you spend a lot of time waiting for it to pick up and looking for any sign of wind from other parts.

Some people go fishing
Some people go fishing

In theory since there is no wind you might as well get your inflatable boat out with some fishing lines and justify being stuck in the doldrums with fishing. If I want to see fish I usually go scuba diving. They look more natural underwater and lake waters in summer are nice and pleasant. When you get to the surface you feel warm again. In Summer you want to take off your dry suit and have a barbecue.

Others go paddle boarding
Others go paddle boarding

A sport that we see more and more frequently is paddle boarding. I was looking at the price of paddle boards in Switzerland and you would expect to pay between 790 CHF to 1000 CHF. It is not a cheap sport but compared to scuba diving it’s affordable. It also provides you with a full body workout. (I had to sneak in some fitness didn’t I?)

Swimming and Jumping in St Prex
Swimming and Jumping in St Prex

Of course the sport with the lowest barrier to entry is Swimming. In St Prex they have a structure in the middle of water you can swim to and then climb. You can jump or dive from any height with no risk of hitting the ground.

If you were looking for something a little more formal

If you were looking for something a little more formal then on the Lausanne side of St Prex you could go under the white tent, get some saucisse frites, sit down eat and then dance. Once those forms of entertainment were finished with you could head out and watch the raft covered in wood burn while waiting for the fireworks to start. On this day you can see fireworks fly up and make patterns around the lake. It would be interesting to see from the top of the Jura or some other mountain. In fact I’d like to see the 1er Aout from a place like Moléson. From there you could see three or four cantons celebrating.

First of August fire
First of August fire

Networking around Pokemon Go

Networking around Pokemon Go is less interesting now that everyone plays the game. I have heard non geeks talk about Pokemon Go. They spoke about the large crowds that are staring at their phones in places like Ouchy. The value of social movements is to be part of a small, passionate group of players where the community is large enough to be fun but not so large as to become mundane.

With a game like Ingress players were more sparsely distributed. When we met other players there was an immediate connection because we were few and far between. You would walk around certain cities and villages and you would not spot other players for hours of game play. When you met another player you wanted to meet, you wanted to interact.

Communities are fun when they are small. Pokemon Go has risen in popularity at such a rate that old social networks may be privilieged over new ones.

I was at the Chateau de Prangins a few days ago playing ingress for a short period of time raising the level of Ingress portals. During this time I saw at least 5-10 adolescent boys playing Pokemon Go, walking and running around the park.

Pokemon Go is like alcohol or snowboarding. As everyone plays the game the opportunity to create new social groups is reduced. Why mix with new people when your core group of friends is already playing?

The Facebook, telegram, slack and Google Hangout groups are alive and well this summer so people are connecting with new people. Although a new network of people is forming around this game I feel that it is hindered by the popularity of the game. Introverts can connect online via these groups, Meeting new people face to face may not be as comfortable due to the large crowds.

It’s great that a location based game is encouraging people to run around while staring at their phones. Phone screen replacement companies are very happy with the increase in demand for their skills and external battery sales are going up. Prices are going to go down and innovation is going to go up. If you’re an introvert, bad at small talk, then Pokemon Go has reached its peak usefulness and you can revert to other less popular activities. You can skip the craze.


A satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture

When we’re 14-28 years old the idea of going to a music festival to see the artists we spend our free time listening to is fantastic. Imagine all that drinking, that mud, that food, those opportunities to seduce and best of all that ambiance. The prospect of going to a music festival is so appealing that we fantacize about going to work as bénévole to have the full experience. I have been through that experience several times as a result of which I chose to have a week off from socialising to recover. Now that I have provided you with context I want to take a satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture for those of us who have grown too “old” to know which artists are playing.


The most evident form of torture is traffic. This comes in the form of passengers in trains, buses and to some degree cars. In trains and buses you will have the pleasure of standing in work clothes next to youths in t-shirts, drinking beers and possibly listening to music and generously allowing other people to listen. Imagine how pleasant this experience is when you’ve just finished a ten hour work day and you want to listen to an audiobook. “If I wanted this experience I’d have stayed in London” is something you might hear the locals say.

Of course this is not limited to public transport. Private transport too is affected. In this case you’re on the motorway and you want to go home but you get stuck in a column of cars so long that it stretches from Gland to Rolle and beyond. This is amusing. As I joked about with a passenger yesterday as I drove back from a day of climbing and filming that traffic jam is usually around Villeneuve or between Lausanne and Morges. At least for once it had the decency to migrate. What a pleasure to be stuck looking at cars in a different place. From here we can see the Rolle vineyards and out towards the Léman and the Alps.

If you want to get off in Gland or Nyon you’d better be patient as there is an excellent chance that you will be stuck for half an hour getting off the motorway. It is for this very reason that when I offered to drive a person I said that I would drive to Coppet to pick her up rather than Nyon. I wrote “In the morning I can pick you up from Nyon but in the evening I will drop you off in Coppet. This turned out fantastically for three people at the end of the day.

Two people were heading back to Geneva and catching the train from Coppet meant that they were on the TPG network. The third person lived in Coppet so my avoiding a music festival provided her with a climbing wall to home village solution.

You see this. A music festival inconvenienced me and yet I still make an effort to simplify the lives of others. That is a demonstration that despite the intense dislike I have for a music festival I still know to be kind and courteous to those who do not inconvenience me.

Noise pollution

Traffic, in isolation is often a nuisance but worse than traffic is noise pollution. The countryside is quiet. The noise of the nearby river is so normal that you do not notice it until you listen to a recording of normal every day sounds. Add to this the summer sound of crickets and birds and you’ve described the noises. In the distance you can hear the train de St Cergue as it makes it way up and down the Jura.

During the music festival you get to hear sound checks from 11am onwards. You hear the sound of the kick drum, voice microphones and other instruments. This goes on until two or three more bands on the Grande Scène have finished their sound check. As a young adult this is nice, this is part of the euphoria of “having a music festival in your back yard” as Americans would say. This is not a nuisance. The torture comes after ten at night.

In Switzerland you are not allowed to shower, take a bath or make noise after 2200 hours under risk of a fine if you do not get along with your neighbours. This makes living in Switzerland civil. Working professionals know that after 2200 they can go to bed and nothing should wake them up.

During the music festival common decency goes out of the window. From Tuesday to Sunday morning if your bedroom is facing towards the music festival you will hear booming and howling until 3am every day. That is the noise that is transmitted through double glazing, thick walls and a layer of insulation. If you open the window you can sometimes make out who is singing. I remember hearing Faithless or other bands when they played years ago when I was still familiar with the artists.

If you’re not working or you have flexible hours then you can shift your sleep pattern to match the music festival. You can wake halfway through the morning and so the impact is neutralised.

Yesterday I did not have that luxury. I am passionate about rock climbing and the great outdoors. For who share this passion usually like to wake early and get to the mountains before the sun is too warm. The music festival kept me awake until 3am and and by 6am I had to wake up to pick people up and drive to the mountains. I had between two to three hours of sleep and waking up was not easy. We arrived at the meeting point early so I had a short siesta in the back of the car to refresh myself at least slightly. I did feel better as a result of this siesta and was able to climb and to film others climbing. I had a good time but I was sleep deprived. If I had not committed to driving another person in the morning then I would have aborted the climbing day and I would have slept. I would have lost a day of doing two things I love thanks to the selfishness of festival goers and the sound gremlins (my name for music festival sound engineers) who flood the countryside with noise.

When I got home and sat at the laptop I could no longer hold my head up. I struggled to prepare dinner and when I ate I was fighting to stay awake. Eventually I gave up and went to bed with the laptop and youtube videos providing background noise to cover the music festival’s inconsistent noise. After the fire works were fired I slept until this morning. I woke but was unable to stay awake several times this morning. Eventually at 9 I woke up and had a deep desire to write this blog post about music festivals as a form of torture.

I don’t want music festivals to stop and I don’t want people to be prevented from having fun. I want sound engineers to do their job. I want sound engineers to design music festival sound so that people at the festival can hear it but so that surrounding villages and working professionals can still sleep properly and work. Sleep deprivation is a torture method and music festivals, for all of their social ideals should respect that not everyone wants to go to a music festival. Music festivals should respect the locals.

I avoid using the name of the festival that inspired this post to avoid giving them free advertising. 😉