High notes, tall peaks: a bijou jazz festival in Switzerland

Each spring the shores of Lake Geneva resonate to the sounds of the Cully jazz festival, held in a small winegrowers’ village

Iwas here for the jazz taking place far, far below, towards Lausanne; I hadn’t planned to climb a mountain through three-metre snowdrifts. But my new friend, Bernard, had laid the bait: “You really have to get all the way up to the summit deck: the view is incredible.”

A retired local charity worker, showing off the area to his South African son-in-law, Bernard had noticed me stepping tentatively on to the snow outside the 2,000-metre-high cafe below the peak of Rochers de Naye. He glanced at my trainers doubtfully, then squinted at the deep snow on the slope ahead, dazzling under a blazing sun. “But you do know you could break your leg if you fall through the crust and hit a rock?” I smiled. A joke, surely? “It happened to my nephew last month.” I stopped smiling.

Although the nearby Cully Jazz Festival on the shores of Lake Geneva was proving a delightful base, I had decided to venture further afield before that day’s gigs began, taking the cog-wheel train into the mountains, hoping for a stroll amid flower-laden Alpine pastures.

But this canton, Vaud, said Bernard, had experienced some of the heaviest spring snow for years, so I found myself slipping, sliding and lurching my way to the summit. After 30 minutes of lung-busting, ankle-twisting effort I made it to the deck. A 360-degree panorama awaited me: from the Eiger in the east to the Jura mountains in the west. I gazed at the scene in solitude for over an hour.

Somewhere down below, musicians were arriving and soundchecking for that evening’s festival performances.

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