About the Hotel
Refuge de Gouter is a boon for all mountaineers who plan their Alp expeditions through Mont Blanc. The location is very convenient and aptly placed. Here is a refuge for the brave men and women who want to conquer the Alps. It protects them from winds which blow at 300 km/hour and a temperature which rarely exceeds 0 degree Celsius. If it weren’t for such an architectural marvel in the snow laden peak of nowhere, expeditions to Mont Blanc would have been a thing of great danger and not worth the risk. Refuge de Gouter is not just a warm hut in the middle of a snow; it is a world class retreat center with all the latest amenities.
The first call for a rest house on the way to Mont Blanc dates way back to 1784 when Jean-Marie François Coutet Guidet and some hunters decided to plan the expedition. But it still took almost another 70 years for the first shelter to materialize. It was built on stone and nicknamed the “Bird Shack”. Around eighty holders helped in the construction of yet another cabin which is in the same location and in fact the predecessor of the current Refuge. It was a cramped shelter which could barely house around five occupants, that too in a very uncomfortable manner. The boards were poorly attached to each other and the snow could easily fall inside. A thick layer of ice always covered the floor due to the cold. The only limelight was that it was equipped with a wood stove.
This hut lasted for a remarkable seventy years until it became unusable around 1936. A new shelter had been built adjacent to it on 1906. It was also very small and could house around seven people but with greater comfort. In 1942, a private retreat was built with the capacity to hold thirty campers which was later extended to seventy six seats. Helicopters were used to bring up the building material. In 1990, the second shelter – the one built on adjacent to the original on 1906, was dismantled and on its place another shelter which could house forty travelers was built. The construction of the present day building started on July 5th, 2010.
The foundation was successfully completed by mid-October the same year. It took another year, to construct the walls and floors level by level. The stainless steel was coated upon and solar panels were installed in the top. By the summer of 2012, the interiors were being taken care of. It was finally inaugurated with a bit of delays on the 6th of September, 2014.
The Refuge de Gouter is a four storey mountain retreat center with a floor area of 720 meter squared. It is ovoid in shape and can house a hundred and twenty individuals at a time. The ground floor consists of a reception area, locker room and other amenities. The kitchen and dining room are on the first floor while the other two floors are where the dormitories and other suites are located. It is highly self sufficient in terms of energy and uses all the latest technology making the stay truly modern.
The architecture is very scientific and the construction is truly world class. Around seven million Euros were spent in building this architectural phenomenon of which 51% was funded by the French Federation of Alpine Mountain and Clubs while the rest 49% was funded by other public authorities. Its base has a height of three meters and is made by top quality Douglas fir, so as to resist the immense pressure exerted by the strong winds and snow blizzards. The internal structure is made of white fir obtained from the local timber industry.
The fifty odd windows are triple glazed for thermal insulation. The furniture is very comfortable and is made of high quality spruce. The outside temperature usually drops to -20 degree Celsius. There is a double flow ventilation system and thermal regulator which maintains a warm temperature within. The temperature in fact rises above 35 degree Celsius thanks to the heat generated by the exhausted mountaineers. This excess heat is recycled and used to melt snow.
There is a snow melter in the rear of the building with eight tanks with an overall capacity of three thousand liters. Solar thermal collectors are kept in the slopes of the shelter. The energy obtained is used to make hot water for the indwellers. There is also a waste water treatment plant which filters and sterilizes water before it is let out. Thus no stress is exerted over the ecology. Photovoltaic solar panels with a combined area of 95 meter squared are placed on the roof and are responsible for all the electricity generation. In case of bad weather, there is a provision to depend on CNG or rapeseed oil for cooking and other energy purposes.
The Refuge de Gouter is a top class refuge center which surprises one and all. After long trekking hours in the snow, battling the cold wind and enduring the unexpected blizzard, the refuge is in fact a pleasant surprise. To have such a service that too with all the modern amenities in the middle of nowhere, 3800 meters above sea level is undoubtedly a heaven in the making. To get decent food and warm rooms with clean modern toilets is a huge evolution compared to the services offered by the predecessor buildings of the current Refuge de Gouter. It costs around 50 Euros for a night’s stay and reservations are mandatory due to the huge demand for a night’s stay on the way to the heavy climb to Mont Blanc.
What makes this retreat center truly special is its self sufficient nature. For obvious reasons, it just is not possible to pull electricity lines up the hill for Christ’s sake! The solar panels on top of the roof take care of all the energy needs. The presence of the water treatment facility shows the extent to which care is taken to prevent any damage to the beautiful environment around. A good night’s sleep in a warm and cozy environment is the best you can hope for on top of a mountain where zero degrees Celsius is considered warm.
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How to Book:
Every moment you spend at Refuge de Gouter will be a memory to be cherished forever. To ensure that you make the most of your visit to the place, here are some important words of advice:
- To get a booking in the Refuge de Gouter is not that easy simply because of the fact that it can house only 120 people at a time. The demand is very high as there is no other refuge center nearby. Thus bookings are mandatory and should be done months before.
- Do not forget your camera and be prepared for the breath taking views that can be seen from the windows. It is truly a feast for the eyes.
- Breakfast is at 2am. Don’t sleep off!
- Yummy bread, cheese, ham, cereal and jam are served.
- The prices are on the higher side; but don’t try to compare it with similar packages available elsewhere.
To get warm coffee and bread in a cozy bed is a five star experience to be revered when you are top of an icy cold mountain with the ability to freeze your pee even before it reaches the ground.