(Walker's Haute Route) Arriving at Cabane de Moiry

Staying in Alpine huts: An introduction

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The experience

The curious quiet of living high in the mountains; Alpine Choughs circling ahead, or possibly the sound of cow bells from across the valley; these combine with the mild but actually invigourating privations of communal living, to give hut life its memorable character. Staying in an Alpine hut is a key part of the experience.

What to pack

Our info packs explain the exact requirements for each hut on your schedule. In advance of this, we advise that the needs for huts in general are very light. They amount chiefly to a sheet liner, your toothbrush and a bit of shampoo, and any spare clothes. We'll explain more below.

  The dining hall at Cabane de Moiry    Walker's Haute Route

Dormitories or private rooms

The evening glow over the hills.. the clear morning air.. but without sharing a large dorm? It is possible and it's a common request! We advise with care about the options on each of our treks, to maximise the number of private bunk-bedded rooms for 2, 4 or 6 people as opposed to dormitories. At other points, there might be dorm-only huts that can't be avoided without major changes to your overall schedule. We'll advise on all the possibilities.

As rough guidance for 2017 and assuming our normal itineraries:

Alpine Exploratory: Dormitories on our treks

5 huts of which 3 have private rooms
Alpine Pass Route No huts unless taking our hutty option.. then at the huts, mostly dormitories
Alta Via 1

8 huts of which 4 have private rooms
Julian Alps Hut-to-Hut 4 huts of which 2 have private rooms
Tour du Mont Blanc 4 huts of which 2 have private rooms
Tour du Val d'Annivers No huts
Walker's Haute Route 4 huts of which none have private 2-person rooms, but 2 have 4-bunk rooms
Zillertal Weekend 2 huts of which 1 has private rooms
Zugspitze Tour No huts

Sleeping platforms, bunk beds or private rooms

Three broad categories of accommodation exist in the huts, to further distinguish between dorms and private rooms. A private room might have one double bed, 2 bunk beds, two single (narrow) beds on either side, or might be a larger room for 4, 6 or 8 people but still private for your group.

In the category of dormitories, there is a distinction between two types: firstly a bunk room where you stay in bunkbeds and might be on top or bottom, and secondly the very communal 'sleeping platform' style. The sleeping platforms are wide wooden platforms with mattresses, or one series of mattresses all the way across, on which everyone takes a slot. Blankets and pillows are of course individual but otherwise nothing separates you from the person next door.

  Sleeping platforms at the Prafleuri.    Walker's Haute Route

Hut etiquette... 'Hutiquette'

Certain rules govern life in the hut, spoken or unspoken. These stem from the privations of location and facilities, and are really just common sense. If you think of your fellow guests and their likely reason for being there (trekking) then all will make sense. Chiefly, the considerations are:

Sheet liners are needed on all of our Alpine trips when staying in a hut. In our early years pre-2010, some key huts still supplied paper sheets or real linen, but steadily the system of guests packing in their own sheet liners has become near-universal. This saves the huts on laundry. The huts provide duvets or blankets, and pillows, so there is no need to take anything bulky other than the sheet liner up to a hut. (By sheet liner we mean 'sleep sack' or any form of sheet that you wish. Light nylon or silk ones can be bought in Chamonix or other of our base towns.)

No boots to save on cleaning the floors. Socks are fine and huts usually provide a few slippers; some trekkers bring their own

No noise after a certain time so that trekkers can sleep early and rise early. If your hut also serves climbers on glaciated routes, the early-to-early rule is even more stark.

Once into the swing of things, you'll find yourself loving the hut atmosphere... 'hutmosphere'. (Sorry...)

  Outside Refuge Bonhomme, France    Tour du Mont Blanc

Hut craft

Above the basic considerations of etiquette, or the rules of your warden, there is a knack to staying in a hut. Clients receive in their info packs our suggestions for better hut life; here are some of our pro tips:

A neat dorm space to minimise disturbance of other guests and that early-morning rustling of plastic bags! It can be wise to take a torch if you might go to bed later than others, or know where yours is.

Bags outside is a rule you'll come across at some huts, or at least bags left in the vestibule, to keep the dining room neat and spacious. This is a harder one to get used to after urban living, but in practice bags can be left safely in many places in the hills!

Ear plugs can be useful to block out snorers...

Wet wipes can bridge the gap between hotels/huts with showers.. and huts without! In fact the majority of our huts have showers, some with a token system for e.g. 4 euros per shower.

  The Olperer Huette    Zillertal Weekend


Water is a key consideration in the hills; there is always a way, and we do not feel the need to recommend water purifying equipment or drinking from streams in general, on any of our routes (2016). Our higher huts are sometimes without a running water supply or more than a trickle for tooth-brushing. These huts sell bottled water. They also sell beer and coffee - a modicum of caution is advised - and plentiful soups and squashes/juices. Taking a flask into the hills lets you buy hot water for tea and this can be an economical system.

  Leaving the Rifugio Pian de Fontana    Alta Via 1

Variations across the Alps

It is typical in the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps to take half-board at huts. This means that your bunk, your dinner and your breakfast come as one package - but not drinks or lunch. At dinner and breakfast, everyone eats the same, or chooses from one or two options, in effect a set menu. In Italian and Slovenian huts it's more common to choose dinner and breakfast dishes from the menu, and pay accordingly.

Alpine Exploratory trips include bunk, dinner and breakfast at all huts, except for Slovenia. In Italy, if a hut has choices from the menu then it's a free choice for our clients.

Reciprocal rights
If you have a hut reciprocal rights card (through the Austrian Alpine Club, British Mountaineering Council or other organisation) please let us know: huts normally give a discount on the dorm/room fees, not food or drink, of around one third. On most of our treks including the Tour du Mont Blanc and Walker's Haute Route, all or most huts are private or don't accept cards that aren't of your own national mountaineering association. However, in Slovenia and Austria we are able to reduce your price by the amount of these reductions, and we'll let you know the exact amount as we go through your booking process.

Paying in Slovenia
In Slovenia, there is no mechanism to pay the huts apart from cash during the stay, so we ask self-guided clients to pay their wardens directly for everything. We still make the reservations, we advise on how many euros to take up to the huts, and we reflect this in the trip price. On our guided Slovenian trips, of course your leader pays for the group.

Not so much in the Alps, but in some huts of Eastern Europe, there is a convention of not eating more than one's fair share. This is in recognition of supplies coming either via helicopter or on someone's back. In contrast, portions in the Alps are often plentiful and you might be surprised by how elaborate some meals are!

  Rifugio Bonatti's terrace, Italy    Tour du Mont Blanc


Please email us at info@alpineexploratory.com to chat about the huts on your chosen trek. We like to encourage our clients to try as many huts as fit their schedule, while being conscious that hotels are usually more comfortable!

Guided and self-guided holidays - see them all

Alpine Exploratory
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