There is a comprehensive network of mountain refuges all over the French Alps, providing shelter and food to climbers, walkers and mountaineers.
Many of them are owned by the famous "Club Alpin Français" (CAF) but some are privately owned. They can offer a variety of services from basic shelter to a full hotel-like service, including food, drinks and some even have hot showers and flush toilets.
In the Southern French Alps on our multi activity holidays, the refuges we use for the night in a refuge are all 'guarded refuges', which are managed or owned (in the case of private refuges) by the 'refuge guardian' - in other words: the boss!
The guardians and their team live in the refuges for the summer and make their living out of the food and drinks they sell to mountaineers, walkers and climbers. Supplies are helicoptered into the refuges at the beginning of the season. After that they are physically carried in by the guardian and their team, friends and family!
Toilets tend to be dry toilets, water will be directed from a mountain spring and power is usually solar with gas bottles used in the kitchens for cooking. Resources are much harder to come by than down in the valley and it is - logically - frowned upon to be wasteful of energy, water, food or other resources in refuges.
It is important that you take out everything you carry into the refuges including any rubbish you create. There are no bin lorries in the mountains! Make sure you read up our refuge etiquette!
In the Southern French Alps, there are several refuges to choose from for your 'night in a refuge', but the most popular one is probably the Refuge du Tourond. You can reach the Refuge du Tourond from several directions, meaning you have the option of a 1,5 hour walk in or going over a mountain pass from Chaillol. You could even take in the Champsaur Valley's highest mountain, the famous Vieux Chaillol and its 3163 meters of altitude!
At the refuge you will get dinner and breakfast and sleep in dormitory style accommodation. There is a solar powered shower at the refuge as well as a waterfall with natural pools if you prefer a fresher bath!
Other popular choices are Les Souffles, le Pigeonnier and Vallonpierre - all recently refurbished CAF refuges accessible from the dramatic Valgaudemar Valley and the Refuge de L'Ecole in Dormillouse, the last permanently only-accessible-on-foot, habited village in the Alps!