Dwight Peck's personal website

The Grottes de Naye

Is there or is there not a new stairway on the outside?

The search for the legendary External Stairway of Naye.

The Grottes de Naye are a complicated reticulum of channels, tunnels, sinkholes, and nasty cracks in the limestone left behind when the glacier inside the Rochers de Naye mountain, above Montreux, Switzerland, melted out early in the 20th century. Scuba-spelunkers can wander about at their leisure in the vast and narrow subterranean passages, but hikers pursue a 20-minute slippery, muddy dash upward, or slide downward, by following little trailmarkers, or just keeping always to their left (upward) or right (downward).

In recent years, the narrator had heard rumors that an artificial external route had been laid on by the authorities, so in September 2003 he and Dr Pirri went back there to satisfy their curiosity.

Here's the easiest trailhead for a walk through the Grottes de Naye, the Col de Jaman at 1512m, two adjacent farms.

There is a restaurant montagnard, Le Manoire, as well, here at the top of the hair-raising single lane roads up from Caux and Les Avants above Montreux, but the sun wasn't right for the photo. We're headed up over the ridge on the centre-right.

The trail up from the Col de Jaman leads up into the Montagne d'Amont, with the Dent de Jaman on the right (left photo) and, from higher up, the Dent de Hautaudon on the left (right photo). The narrator darted through the caves frequently in the 1980s, once with 11 Arab female college students on a tether, another time on a running route with only a headlamp and water bottle for company, and still another time with brave 7-year-old Marlowe Tyson Peck scampering on ahead in 1992.

Dean Pirri reaches the Col de Bonaudon, takes a good look back down at the Montagne d'Amont below, and then prepares to search for this rumored External Stairway of Naye.

The Dent de Jaman and the high valley of Montagne d'Amont from near the Col de Bonaudon (1755m), 45 minutes from the car, as Dr Pirri is about to pass over the Col and dash towards the Caves of Naye. The Station de Jaman cog-railway stop can be seen just in front of the ridge.

IT'S ALL TRUE! A new stairway winds down the outside of the Grottes de Naye. The red dot indicates the lower entrance of the Grottes de Naye, and the green dot shows the upper exit on a little ledge. The blue dot shows the exit off the external route, if you get the season right.

Another view of the really neat new stairway as the hikers draw closer.

The hikers never did get to try out the neat new stairway, since they were bound for the inner bowels of the mountain -- ehewww, the inner depths of the mountain! Aside from lights, the key piece of equipment for these caves is a set of clothing that doesn't care about MUD.

Half-demented Dr Pirri prepares to leap into the Grottes de Naye.

The lower entrance, quickly to decline into a hands-and-painful-knees sort of thing. The narrator has been here in the wrong season and had to dig down with a little shovel through the bottom of an avalanche pile just to get this far, a precious hour lost just getting off to a good start.

No photos today unless we can school ourselves not to breathe out while focusing the camera.

Dr Pirri, having got up all the muddy passages and over the newly improved ladder halfway up the interior, seeks out new challenges in the bowels, er, depths of the Rochers de Naye.

On trips in 1981, 1984, and 1987, where Dr Pirri stands was all ice and very awkward going -- the passage hadn't melted entirely out. But in some ways, mud's worse.

Overall, we're going up, but you wouldn't know it from these photos.

Dr Pirri exits the top of the Grottes and heads up for the Chaux de Naye ridgeline. The gentleman behind him, preparing to peek into the caves and dart away, had a poodle but no lamp and wasn't likely to get much further anyway.

Majestic Jaman from the Chaux de Naye ridgeline, September 2003, Col de Bonaudon in the foreground.
[More views of the Dent de Jaman.]

The Dent de Jaman on the left, and the Col de Jaman (and my car) down behind it to the right.

Approaching the hotel near the top of the Rochers de Naye (2042m) from the place where the Grottes path comes up onto the ridge.

The colorful steam train from Caux and Montreux passing up out of the tunnel through Naye bound for the hotel. Just above the upper tunnel area can be seen what is apparently the second oldest alpine botanical garden in the world, between the two little rocky things (the oldest alpine garden is said to be at Pont de Nant above Bex). The nearly horizontal path leading to the ridge on the upper left will take you, eventually, to Leysin, in one day if you stride along briskly.


The scenic steam railway of Rochers de Naye, with the narrator blocking a good part of the view.

The "Leysin Tours", the mountains of Leysin, seen from Rochers de Naye. Famelon is the little one on the left, Truex is the ridge in the middle, and the Tours de Mayen and Aï poke up there proudly. The Aveneyre range is there in the foreground -- the only way through it comes over the Pertuis d'Aveneyre, directly under the Famelon in this photo, and descends rightward down the spine into the forest at the center-bottom of the photo, then contours straight across leftward towards the Col de Chaude and up over the Essettes ridge and up near the botanical gardens of Naye.

The path from Leysin comes over the Chaux du Mont at the far right horizon and descends leftward between the two Tours, then passes down into the Grand Ayerne area of the Hongrin military training ground . . . and then up from Ayerne to the Pierre Pertuis.

More scenes of the hotel at Rochers de Naye, with tourist hilarity and good snack dining going on everywhere, and . . .

. . . the Park for Marmots, those sly little whistling rodenty denizens of the high mountains, almost impossible to see close up, normally -- but here they are on view in specially built little vacation homes of their own spread all about within walking distance from the hotel. Tourists can follow the itinerary and get fit and view rodents all at the same time.
[More views of Rochers de Naye.]

Clumping laboriously back towards Jaman, hikers pass the hut at the top of the vicious Sautodoz gulley.

The Leysin Tours can be seen in the distance.

Having thankfully departed the Sautodoz gulley and started back up across the front of the Rochers de Naye towards La Perche on the train line, one glances down towards Lake Geneva in the late afternoon.

La Perche -- here's where the train from Montreux goes into the mountain, to emerge near the hotel of the Rochers de Naye, as seen above. From here it's a mere matter of 45 minutes on old knees back to the Col de Jaman, a five-hour round trip that can be heartily recommended to all those enterprising walkers who yearn for good views, possess a headlamp, and don't mind a little mud.

Grottes de Naye

Marlowe Peck's trip through the caves, 1992

Dr Pirri's trip through the caves, 2003

Highlights of various other trips, 1980-2003

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 22 September 2003, revised 17 January 2008, 26 November 2013.

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