Staying out over night in the Alps can be as luxurious or as bare-bones as you want it to be. But whatever comfort level you choose, be assured that what surrounds you will wow you more than the wine and cheese that gets delivered by helicopter the some of the Chamonix-area’s high mountain huts. Of course, I like to climb, but part of what makes climbing something I enjoy is the sleeping out before and after. These situations vary—sometimes it involves tossing down a light sleeping pad between some rhododendron roots and crashing in exhaustion for the night; other times it’s more organized and involves a tent, such and the tiny one pictured at right. Yes, that’s my climbing pal Andy in the tent we sometimes take out—sleeps two—grinning and drinking tea out of the Gatorade container he’s used as a camp bowl since, I suppose, the mid-80s. That camp put us in a cirque above Lac Blanc in the Aiguilles Rouges, from which we could walk up on a ridge and catch views like this of the Dru at night:
In another recent outing, we left the tent in the valley to save weight and instead took only sleeping bags and light bivy sacs to keep us dry in case of weather. Climbers have built several nice rock bivouacs above the Glacier du Tour, which is where we stayed for two nights:
Those ice cliffs, incidentally, are the ones that tripped us up on our return from the Aiguille du Chardonnet, behind me in the photograph below. We climbed the Charlet-Bettembourg, obscured mostly by the clouds in the photo, but you can see it’s start—the thickest snow/ice runnel off to the right on the face.
Of course, sleeping out like this has its challenges, and I don’t look too excited about waking up freezing cold with all of my clothes on. But as soon as I get a warm cup of tea in my hands and turn toward my surroundings, I forget that we’ve been eating cous cous flavored with tomato soup for two days or that my socks are going to be soggy the whole way down.