Controversial new bivouac hut in Mont Blanc Massif

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 14/01/2012
The new Gervasutti Hut with the East Face of the Grandes Jorasses behind. leapfactory.it
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In mid-October a new Gervasutti Hut was completed at the site of the old location atop a rocky rognon in the upper Fréboudze Glacier on the Italian side of the range.

The unmanned bivouac hut was traditionally used as a starting point for the classic Hirondelles Ridge on the Grandes Jorasses, and, before the days when route were set up for abseil descents, was a safe haven, often narrowly reached before dark, for climbers descending the Petites Jorasses or Aiguille de Leschaux after a climb on the French side.

The original bivouac hut at 2,835m was a conventional wooden structure built in 1948. It was last renovated 50 years ago, so it could be argued that an update was sorely needed.

However, opposition to the project arose when it was discovered the new bivouac hut would have a "futuristic" appearance, rather than something more in keeping with the remote environment at the head of the Fréboudze valley.

Commissioned by the Turin section of the Italian Alpine Club and realized by the Sottosezione Universitana CAI Torino, it is of modular construction. Each  segment was transported by helicopter to be assembled on site at a total cost 250,000 Euros.

The result is a brightly coloured tube with 12 beds, the front half of which, overhanging the glacier, is devoted to kitchen and eating facilities. There is a large circular window which gives a commanding view over the Val Ferret.

Thirty square metres, 2,500kg in weight, solar powered and with internet connection to allow real time information on weather conditions etc, the construction company LEAP (Living Ecological Alpine Pod) are calling it the bivouac hut of the future.

Justification for its garish appearance is that the old refuge was difficult to spot on the rock rognon, particularly so from above.

There was also criticism of the use of non-traditional materials, though the LEAP factory has noted they will hopefully used wood laminates in future projects, and possibly vegetable or bamboo fibres.

Named after the great Italian mountaineer Guisto Gervasutti, the hut stands in full view of his greatest legacy, the East Face of the Grandes Jorasses.

This 750m ED2 route, originally graded VI and A2 but more recently re-assessed as 5c/6a with two sustained pitches of 6b and a pitch of A1, is now accepted to be Gervasutti's finest climb. It was the hardest in the Western Alps at the time, and arguably not equalled in the Mont Blanc Range until the 1960s.

Leading up to the Second World War, Guisto Gervasutti had no real competition for this ascent and was able to make four attempts spread over five years before finally succeeding over two days in 1942 with Giuseppe Gargliardone.

Gervasutti died four years later attempting the first ascent of a prominent rock pillar on Mont Blanc du Tacul that now bears his name.

The approach to the hut, passes the site of the old Fréboudze Bivouac (2,363m), a tiny wooden shelter built in 1925. It was dismantled some years ago and now resides in a museum.

This approach is not without danger, and appears to become more so with passing years.

As long ago as 1992 Alexis Long, a brilliant French alpinist, pioneer, ENSA instructor, and for a time regular partner of Patrick Gabarrou (there are a number of notable Gabarrou-Long routes in the Mt Blanc Massif), died after being hit by a single stone when serac collapsed as he was walking up the path to the hut.

The Capanna Gervasutti will be opened officially this spring, ready for climbers to overnight at the start of the summer season. There will be a website on which reservations may be made.



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16/01/2012
Yet another eye sore in a place of unparalleled natural beauty. I don't get it, why does everything have to have this modern futuristic twist? I'm 22, so classed as part of this "modern age" and even I think that the companies involved got this wrong.

Perhaps this is to cater for the half assers, the people who can't live without the hustle bustle of day to day life, Those that feel the need to be living in something more than just a hut because to do so would be a crime to everything comfortable.

Oh and what's this, WiFi is also available. Great, so now some idiot can go on a journey of "self discovery" half way up a mountain with his/her only way is Essex mates and Tweet about it? "I'm on the Fréboudze Glacier #coldfeetmuch." Even better, they can put it on their Facebook places so all their friends can think of them as the next great explorer, while they sit in a glorified Travelodge.

I can appreciate that this does make the hut 100 times easier to spot, why should that be at the cost of the beauty around it. Surely there could have been another way to go about it. After all, how did anyone ever do it without this "pod."

What a bad call.
Anonymous User
16/01/2012
Shame the article did contain more photos (here's some http://www.dezeen.com/2011/12/03/new-refuge-gervasutti-by-leapfactory/).

As a one-off it's pretty impressive :-)
Anonymous User
16/01/2012
Looks pretty amazing, a little like a crashed aircraft at first glance. Not one for modern architecture normally but I do like this.
Anonymous User
17/01/2012
its the way forward!! will still smell of sweat and rotten socks inside
Anonymous User
18/01/2012
I like it. Better than the old ramshackle box with a leaky roof.
Anonymous User
18/02/2012
Looks cool-

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