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The hiking paths and routes of Salève face

The hiking paths and routes of Salève face

In blue

Official and regularly maintained paths. They are practicable in any season, except maybe during winter at Grotte d'Orjobet, because of the ice, and at Corraterie, because of snow. However, during these last relatively mild and snow lacking winters, the crossing of these passages was prevented only during very short periods. These paths are the only ones that are listed in the guide "Pays du Salève et du Vuache" from Fédération Française de Randonnée Pédestre, August 2005.


In yellow

Inofficial and steep paths that are however passed through on a regular basis. These paths were mentioned in the guide "Randonnées au Salève" from the CAS, published 1984. These routes require a steady foot and a total absence of giddiness. Certain short sections can be qualified as dangerous.

In red

"Paths" being more related with mountaineering routes and which are indisputably dangerous. They were mentioned for the last time in the "Guide du Salève" by B Wiedlisbach. And, although this guide is a climbing topo-guide does not mean that the rock climbers are more at ease on these paths. The ground, often bad, does not allow a correct belaying. Thus, they require experience of crossing through steep grassy, earthy and rocky grounds. Thus, a steady foot is essential, just like the experience of climbing very bad rock (however, the grade is often not very high).

1 The Grande Gorge

2 Corraterie

3 Orjobet

1 Bûcherons

2 Buis

3 Sentier des Chamois

4 The Petite Gorge

5 Sentier des Buses

6 Sentier du Solitaire

7 Chaffardon and Etournelles

1 Bûcherons Inférieurs

2 Sentier des Chèvres

3 Passage de la Catelle

4 Corniche des Bûcherons

5 Pitons Veyrassat, Pas de la Coterie

6 Grande Gorge Intérieure

7 Sarrot-Saut Gonet ledges

8 Gorge du Sarrot

9 The Grande Varappe

10 Gorge du Palavet

11 Gorge de l’Evorse

12 Rosselet ledges

13 Variations crossing Corniche de la Lamin

The Grande Gorge

It is the path of the mountain’s face which is, along with the Sentier d’Orjobet, the most travelled. The great difference between Grande Gorge and the Sentier d’Orjobet is that this first one is really passable at any season, by all kinds of weather and at every hour. This path represents a pleasant excursion at any season.

I can tell you that in order to set the path after a snowfall, one has to stay up very early.

This path was created back in 1854. The decision to arrange this new way followed upon a number of accidents which had then occurred in this zone (one can suppose that the original path followed more or less the route of Grande Gorge Intérieure).

This path climbs more or less up the slopes of the mountain toward the bottom of the Grande Gorge making, later, a broad bend towards Petite Gorge. It then reaches Rocher de Onze Heures, splendid viewpoint on the bottom of the gorge, and climbs up afterwards, a dark and wet gully: Creux du Feu.

Besides, there is an error in the 1984 topo-guide. The Reposoir is set at Rochers de Onze Heures in this guide. In fact, the Reposoir was, at the time of the inauguration, at the beginning of the great crossing towards Petite Gorge. A bench had been placed there, which probably explains the origin of the place’s name. But already in 1899, one deplores its disappearance. As such, the vandals existed already at that time. From the Reposoir, one can reach Grotte Juillard and Rocher de la Poupée, but this is a tour reserved to experts.

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Sentier de la Corraterie

The name of this path has its origin coming from the name of a street of Geneva. What is the relationship between the town of Geneva and the mountain of Salève? Frequenting. As this path offers a splendid landscape and an incomparable panorama, a lot of people travel it. It is thus a very frequented path. Like a street of Geneva.

One can distinguish two distinct sections. The first being located between Grande Gorge and the angle of the vaults near Corraterie. This part proceeds mainly in an under wood, causing the path to be often muddy and slippery. The second part proceeds under the vaults and reaches Trou de la Tine (or Creux de Briffaut). This latter is the most spectacular part (most impressive also). The orientation of the rocks makes it a delicious place to appreciate the heat of the sun during winter months.

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Sentier d' Orjobet

Created in 1905 by the Geneva section of Swiss Alpine Club, this path became among one of most popular of Salève. Its name was given as a dedication to Orjobet (or Orjelet), peasant from the Coin having accompanied Horace-Bénédict de Saussure at Salève and having shown him the famous cave.

It leaves the junction of the road towards Croisette, climbs up the mountainside by innumerable laces. It crosses then Grotte d'Orjobet, spectacular and surprising cave, to climb afterwards toward Croisette. It then reaches the road following Salève crest between Croisette and Crêts.

A certain number of variations exist. One can mention, in particular, a way directly leading from the old quarries of Coin (starting point for the rock-climbing routes) to the path of Orjobet, below the first rock wall crossed by this path. One can also mention the connection with Corraterie, which makes it possible to quickly reach the foot of a small rock wall bordering Trou de la Tine.

This path is worth an excursion and one meets very often people there.

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Sentier des Bûcherons

This path follows a ledge on its full length between Vallon de Monnetier and Petite Gorge. It leaves just below Oratoire Notre-Dame Salève, on the path towards the Croix.

Well marked, it requires a total absence of giddiness, since the place where the ledge is narrowing (below Rocher de Haute Serve, prominence being located just to the right of the cable car) is very airy and spectacular. The place where the ledge is narrowing is called Canapé.

In spite of the fact that Canapé is absolutely splendid, this path is not the most beautiful of the range. Two reasons contribute to this fact. On the one hand, the place is noisy, since one overlooks the quarries and the motorway. In addition, years of throwing trash from Restaurant de la Croix and Table d' Orientation, make that one often finds some insalubrious objects.

It reaches later the top of Petite Gorge, just below Echelle de Jacob, last section on Petite Gorge path before the top.

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Sentier des Buis

Back in 1948, this path was still called "Route de la Carrière" and had a different layout above Rocher des Buis as of today. This rock is visible from the foot of Salève, since it is the large rectangular plate that comes off slightly from the slope of the mountain.

The extension of the quarries contributed to the disappearance of the original start of this path and to the building of an new path, crossing a small rock wall using a cable.

This very steep and stony path, requires prudence since the precipices are significant. However, I recommend the climb of Sentier des Buis rather than the one of the nearby Petite Gorge, the ground being less earthy and thus less slippery.

The excursion on this path will enable you to cross some rock faces on small slopes where the use of the hands is almost obligatory.

The path reaches then that of Bûcherons, just before this one reaches the path of Petite Gorge.

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Sentier des Chamois

This small path makes it possible to reach the route of Petite Gorge from the one of Buis by crossing below a splendid vault. It does not show up any particular difficulty for those who are able to climb the routes of Petite Gorge or Buis.

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The Petite Gorge

Among the "official" paths indexed in the guide of Swiss Alpine Club of 1984, Petite Gorge or Ortis, and mainly the lower part (until Sentier des Buses) is by far the most dangerous. Until Couloirs de Chantepoulet, kind of crests bordering gullies, the path crosses excessively steep slopes of earth dominating small rock faces. Slipping off is out of question.

I personally never felt myself at ease in this section of the path, except maybe in winter, with snow, when I carried out the course with an ice axe and crampons!

The upper part is also dangerous especially when hikers want to descend this path, because the bottom of the gorge itself leads to a cliff. The path itself does not follow the bottom of the gorge, but a side gorge.

The whole path is extremely steep and it is really only when has climbed Echelle de Jacob, which is the final part of the path climbing up in a diaclasis of the gorge, that one reaches a flat ground.

The route leaves the Bossey golf and goes first slightly to the right to turn later to the left in order to cross steep earthy slopes, and reach an angle bordering the left gully of Petite Gorge. This crossing is the key section of the route. The path then goes up this angle, called Couloirs de Chantepoulet, to reach the top of a crest and later reach another angle bordering the same gully, with the intersection of Sentier des Buses and Sentier des Chamois. The continuation proceeds in the bottom of this gorge to finally reach the intersection with Sentier du Solitaire, at Echelle de Jacob.

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Sentier des Buses

It is a small piece of path linking the Sentier de la Grande Gorge and Sentier de la Petite Gorge. He crosses the right-hand side gully of Petite Gorge, which is the place which requires the most attention. He then reaches the Sentier de la Petite Gorge, at the intersection with Sentier des Chamois.

As the time goes by, one finds there tires, wheels, remainders of cars, trash and other objects thrown from the top of Ortis.

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Sentier du Solitaire

This route is parallel to the Sentier des Buses, but a "floor" higher. In spite of the fact that two fatal accidents occurred there, I do not consider it as being particularly difficult or dangerous. However, it is a problem for those which are not accustomed to "reading" the ground. Indeed, the path always follows the closest to the foot of the rock walls. Thus, when one leaves Grande Gorge, there is a place where it is necessary to frankly climb up several meters to gain the foot of the walls located above. Failure to do so will very quickly lead oneself to reach very steep and very dangerous grounds.

This path leaves from Grande Gorge at Rochers de Onze Heures reaches Ortis, or Petite Gorge, at intersection with Sentier of Bûcherons.

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Chaffardon and Etournelles

The sector of Chavardon is, in my opinion, one of the of most beautiful places of Salève, with the area of Sarrot. Moreover, it is loaded with history, since objects have been found that are dated back from the Neolithic until the Roman time. One can still see traces of this frequenting at Portail de Chafardon, where steps were cut in the rock, as well as a notch, having probably been used to slip beams in order to shut down the passage. After Portail there is a a vault where notches are still visible. They were probably used to close the vault, for more comfort.

This path passes near spectacular places, such as Sphinx and Bonhomme, Grotte de la Mule (leading to Trou de la Mule), Grotte de la Table and Portail du Sphinx.

Although it is very airy, its course does not present any particular problems and has the advantage of crossing "healthy" grounds. (Thus no huge earthy and slippery slopes).

This path leaves Sentier d' Orjobet little after the first stairs. It crosses almost side wards (with nevertheless some climbs and descents) to join a sharp angle of the wall. This is Portail du Chavardon, splendid point of view. An excursion at this place is an unforgettable experience in autumn, when the leaves are changing colour. It goes then down again on a steep slope, where a barrier helps for the progression. After having crossed right through the broad ledge of Chaffardon, one reaches the foot of Sphinx, from where one climbs up Cirque des Etournelles (also called Amphithéâtre), while passing in front of Grotte de la Mule and Grotte de la Table. After the latter, the view on Sphinx and Bonhomme is absolutely splendid.

As the path leaves Cirque des Etournelles, the path changes its name into Sentier des Etournelles. At this place, one can reach to the left, Portail du Sphinx (formerly called Fenêtre du Sphinx, but renamed since the "lintel" collapsed).

The route then follows vertiginous ledges where some cables help to the progression. The trace reaches Sentier d' Orjobet just above the cave. There is an alternative climbing up directly to Trou de la Tine and Couloir du Grand Atténaz.

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Bûcherons Inférieurs

The route of Bûcherons Inférieurs follows a ledge located below the one of Bûcherons. This path is very airy and show up serious difficulties at the crossing of Petit Détroit (passage of crawling).

It leaves at the end of Vire du Canapé and continuously follows the rock wall until reaching Sentier des Buis.

One can make the same remark as for Sentier of Bûcherons: it is noisy.

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Sentier des Chèvres

This is a remainder of a path which originally, and before the extension of the quarries, reached the Vire du Canapé directly from the path of the old Salève railroad. This one started from Veyrier, crossed the main road and the SNCF railway, and made a broad curve to cross the hillside towards Monnetier tunnel. It is in this curve that Sentier des Chèvres started.

From Sentier des Chèvres there were also starting the accesses for this sector’s caves: Grotte des Faux-Monnayeurs, Grotte Pisseuse and Trou du Parconnaire (or Parconnet). These have been made inaccessible today.

Sentier des Chèvres passed by at the foot of Aiguille des Chèvres, or Pierre Longue, which has disappeared, because it has been dynamited.

Today, there is not any interest for this path, except for the access to the foot of Dalle de Veyrier.

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Passage de la Catelle

It is a small step of easy climbing linking Sentier des Bûcherons with Vire du Canapé.

It starts at an obvious place, where the small rock walls are showing a zone of weaknesses.

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Corniche des Bûcherons

This route allowed, a long time ago, to reach Pitons de Veyrassat and Pas de la Coterie. A section of the ledge collapsed and it is no longer possible to cross this place, unless to arrange it with cables and ladders, like a Via Ferrata.

It leaves the path of Bûcherons before arriving under the cable car, and climbs up at the best the slope to reach the last ledge and continues under Rocher de Haute Serve, prominent rock mass located to the right of the cable car. Under Rocher de Haute Serve is a beautiful terrace.

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Pitons Veyrassat, Pas de la Coterie

These two passages (in fact it would be worth to mention a third in the sector, called Pas des Très Arbres) were originally reachable by Corniche des Bûcherons.

Pitons Veyrassat is a climbing section having iron pins sealed in the rock. Originally, they were sealed with lead. One can imagine the effort that the transport of this quantity of lead from the plain represented.

These three passages cannot be reached any more but from the top, or from Montée des Treize Arbres, leaving Sentier of Bûcherons little after Canapé. However, this Montée des Très Arbres is a difficult section reserved to mountaineers.

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The Grande Gorge Intérieure

Without being really difficult, Grande Gorge Intérieure has some tricky passages which can push back those not accustomed to these grounds.

However, the views are splendid there, because completely unusual for this mountain. One is, indeed, below Tour of Sarrot, with its large rock face.

The track leaves Sentier de la Grande Gorge at Reposoir and crosses the ravine resulting from the bottom of Grande Gorge. It is worth, to make a small excursion here, to have a look at Grotte Juillard, at the foot of Moulin de l’Isère. This mill never existed and does not have any relation with the French department. Isère comes from Isé, bird in patois.

The path reaches a flat ledge being located behind Rocher de la Poupée, to later climb, on the opposite side to the spire, through ledges and rocks. It continues then, with some laces, to reach the foot of Tour du Sarrot. There, it takes to the left to join a rock gully, where the use of hands is necessary. It then reaches the bottom of Grande Gorge itself after having crossed Trou du Chat. Not far from there is the junction towards Rochers de Onze Heures and Vires du Sarrot Saut-Gonet.

Before having travelled this route for the first time, I had a long time sought to understand what, for me was a enigma: in the guide "Salève" of H-C Golay, dated 1948, it is mentioned that to pass Trou du Chat, one can "cross it or cross by the top". The explanation is simple. It is a rock strip which one can span over. This strip is pierced with a hole, the Trou du Chat. Thus, one can also cross this strip through this hole.

Among the variations one can mention a ledge it which leaves to the right at the foot of Tour Sarrot and reaches two caves in the sector of Grande Varappe.

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Vires du Sarrot-Saut Gonet

This route leads to a splendid and wild world of Salève. The path itself is very airy, with some tricky sections at Tours du Sarrot, at Gorge du Palavet and at Saut Gonet.

It is a ledge, which crossing enable to reach Esplanade de la Lamin, and thus, Esplanade des Etiollets, leaving from Grande Gorge. The trail crosses at the foot of very wild gorges: Sarrot, Grande Varappe, Palavet and Evorse.

One from the most beautiful point of view is at the angle between Gorge du Palavet and Gorge de l’Evorse. There is a superb sight on Tour du Sarrot at Grande Varappe.

The route leaves Grande Gorge path at Rochers de Onze Heures and goes down to the bottom of the Grande Gorge in order to climb up steep at the opposite side, in order to reach same altitude as at the beginning. From there, the track practically evolves on the hillside until Gorge de l’Evorse. There, it goes down frankly to reach Canapé ledge, a large collapsed ledge that is visible from Geneva. This crumbling happened back in 1879 and it is said that the rumbling was heard in Geneva. This collapse covered a part of Esplanade de l’Ours.

The track then reaches Saut Gonet, climbing section leading to another ledge that continues above the first one. This ledge, very narrow at the beginning, widens as one approaches Esplanade de la Lamin.

From there, one can choose to cross Trou de la Mule, which is a tour reserved for climbers. Or, one can cross Pas des Chèvres to reach Esplanade des Etiollets.

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Gorge du Sarrot

Originally, Gorge du Sarrot was climbed from the foot of the mountain, starting from the surroundings of Rocher de la Poupée and crossing the Thermopyles gully. However, the ceaseless rock falling into bottom from the gorge, lead to the fact that I always stood away from the lower part of Sarrot.

The more "convenient" (and it is also the most beautiful part) way, is leaving Vire du Sarrot-Saut Gonet having crossed the bottom of Gorge du Sarrot, to reach the edge of this one. At this edge is the first difficult passage: "Pas de l’Araignée". After this section, one goes up to the foot of the rock wall to then follow, to the left, one narrow ledge. One then sees distinctly that Gorge du Sarrot is separated into two by a spire. The left gully is called Petit Sarrot, while that of right-hand side (you have probably guessed it), is called Grand Sarrot. Petit Sarrot can not be climbed up, thus the route goes up the corridor of right-hand side. One then passes in front of Trou des Gogneux, also called Tunnel du Sarrot, curious cave allowing one to cross through the spire and to throw a glance at Petit Sarrot. The continuation of the route climbs up through a surprising cave in the shape of a pipe bowl.

Curiously, one sees clearly this separation of Gorge du Sarrot from the plain, only during the longest days of the year in June. Only then the sunlight penetrates in this very boxed place.

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The Grande Varappe

It is a historical place. According to what is told, it is from there that the term of varappe (climbing) holds its origin.

The integral course of Grande Varappe is an undertaking reserved for climbers. On the other hand, the top, above Vires du Sarrot-Saut Gonet, can be climbed without too great difficulties.

When coming from Vires du Sarrot-Saut Gonet, one goes up the bottom of the gorge until reaching a rock semicircle. This place is called Gazomètre (gas holder). To the left of this one, a chain make it possible to reach the slopes above. The route climbs up these slopes towards a cave, Grotte de la Cathédrale. From this cave, the route leaves to the left, climbs a small wall and passes under a rock arch. One then soon reaches the top of Tour of Sarrot esplanade.

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Gorge du Palavet

This gorge was called Gorge de la Petite Varappe during a time. Gorge du Palavet was then the small gully between Gorge de la Petite Varappe and Gorge de l’Evorse.

It can be accessed from Grande Varappe by going up a little section of this one above Vires du Sarrot-Saut Gonet, in order to reach a ledge crossing to the right.

This gorge is not of any particular interest, except, perhaps, a variation leaving Palavet to the right, following the foot of rock walls and reaching Sentier de la Corraterie in the forest above.

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Gorge de l’Evorse

It is the penultimate gorge of the face of Salève (the last being the Dévaloir de la Mule). To climb it up is of no particular problem, except that the ground is stony and steep, and that this part is covered with nettles during summer.

It has the advantage of making it possible to easily leave the area of Vires du Sarrot-Saut Gonet.

Its name comes from the village at the bottom, called Evordes.

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Rosselet ledges

These very airy ledges, enable to reach the foot of the walls directly overlooking Chavardon ledge when leaving Sentier de l’Orjobet.

It has a small smooth rock wall which has to be climbed up in order to reach the continuing ledge. Needless to say that this is a section reserved to senior mountaineers.

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Variations through Corniche de la Lamin

Gorge de l’Evorse is not of a particular interest. On the other hand there are a certain number of splendid variations for their views leaving this gorge.

These variations are reached by leaving the bottom of Gorge of Evorse towards the right, towards the foot of a rock wall. This wall foot changes soon into a ledge that becomes narrow for a short section.

A first alternative leaves this ledge following a small gully and climbs up in the under woods to reach the angle of Gorge of Evorse, near the grass slopes visible from Geneva. The second one follows the ledge to reach a small rock shelter which, a few years ago, was arranged with a hut. Beyond this place, when following the ledge, one can reach the grass slopes under Corraterie and reach this path. The last possibility, from these slopes, is to go down to the edge from the wall of Lamin, to follow this one to reach Dévaloir de la Mule. This place is called Corniche de la Lamin. It is very airy and tricky, but enables to easily reach the Portail du Sphinx, and beyond, Sentier du Chavardon.

One can still mention a last variation climbing up the Dévaloir de la Mule to reach Corraterie, just under the white rock plate. This variation has the name of Escalier (or Gradins) de la Corraterie.

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Last update: March 25th, 2021