Creux du Van: A Natural Rocky Arena in Switzerland

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Located on the border of the Swiss cantons of Neuchâtel and Vaud is "Creux du Van", a scenic, horseshoe-shaped limestone cliff of enormous proportions. The vertical rock face is 160 meters high and surrounds a valley that is 4 km long and 1.4 km wide. From the top of the plateau, about 1,126 meters above sea level, one can have a commanding view of the surrounding over the midland of Switzerland to the alps on the east, and towards France on the west. It’s a popular hiking and climbing destination in the Jura Mountains in western Switzerland.

This giant cirque of cliff gets its name "Creux" from an old Celtic word that means a deep valley or a hollow depression. The word "Van" is also of Celtic origins, and refers to a rocky valley. At one time it was called “Le Cul du Van” (the bottom of the rock edge) but this was later changed to its current name.

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The geological origin of this spectacular formation goes back to the last ice age, when a small glacier eroded a deep valley at this spot before uniting with the big Rhone glacier on the plain. Erosion by the glacier in combination with the repeated freeze-thaw cycle weakened the rocks causing a section of the mountain to fall into Areuse river valley leaving the exposed rock. At the bottom of the depression, the subsoil below the debris normally remains frozen during the whole year. Over this grows a forest of arctic-alpine flora. Chamois, ibex, lynx and numerous other wild animals inhabit the pristine natural landscape, which is protected by a 25-square-kilometer reserve.

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Sources: Wikipedia / Myswitzerland.com / Architectural Papers / Jura Mountain Rambling

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