What is a Mountain Shelter in the Alps?
A mountain shelter is different to a mountain refuge in the French Alps. A mountain shelter is the term generally used to describe a small cabin with a solid structure, either in wood or stone in the mountains. They are left open for passers by to seek refuge but are not manned so what you find inside varies greatly. Most have no running water or electricity. Some have beds and mattresses and most have some form of wood burner or fire for heating but not much else!
In contrast, a mountain refuge is manned either on a part-time basis or all year round with a team of people who cook for you and clean and maintain the refuge. These people are called the refuge guardians. You can also experience a night in a refuge which is a brilliant adventure too.
When the manned refuges are closed, they often have a section that is left open as a 'winter refuge' that is similar to the mountain shelter described above for use in off season periods. Depending on what time of your your choose your night in a mountain shelter adventure, we may use one of these.
What happens on a Night in a Mountain Shelter in the Alps?
When you sign up for a night in a mountain shelter, your guide will prepare your food and equipment for you to share out between the group to carry in. You will need to bring your own reasonable sized rucksack and sleeping bag / mat but everything else is provided. You can hire these if you don't have them. Once all the equipment has been checked you will spend the afternoon walking in to the shelter and setting it up for the night. Depending on the state of the refuge and what has been left there by previous users, you may need to collect water and wood, organise your food and affairs and make up your beds.
Once everything is ready, you will go for a nature walk or snowshoe walk if you are doing this in winter, around the area to explore your surroundings. You may spot chamois, wild boar, ibex, mouflon, deer, foxes or even wolves and there are countless birds to see too including golden eagles and vultures. The advantage of being in the wilderness overnight is that you can also go out exploring at dusk, at night or even dawn when lots of animals are out and about. Just listening to the sounds of the mountains at night in the dark is a very special experience!
This is possible all year round and in winter you may need to snowshoe up rather than walk!
Once evening sets in you will light the fire and prepare your evening meal together as a team. After dinner a game of cards or other evening entertainment by candlelight is possible before you snuggle into your sleeping bags for the night. The next morning you'll pack up and walk back out.
No electricity, no wifi, no phone signal - just you, your friends and family and the natural world for a night!