Life: Alpine bivouacs, huts, camps

Berard Valley campOne of my favorite parts about being in the Alps is sleeping out in the mountains. Sometimes this means sleeping in a tent. Other times, it means making a comfy little bivouac, or sleeping in a hut, or bedding down unexpectedly on top of some rhododendrons for the night. Fortunately, I had a bunch of good camps this summer while out trekking and climbing with friends. Some, of course, were better than others.

On one trip—one that didn’t go so well as far as sleeping goes—I opted to carry my 13-ounce bivy sac up the Berard Valley. I love going light. So while my sister set up her one-person tent, and her friends set up their two-person mountain tent, I just tossed down my sleep kit and rigged up a tarp (camp pictured at right). But the weather didn’t cooperate, and even though I set up my sweet trekking-pole-tarp bivy site and tested it out with a smile on my face…

Traci J Macnamara tarp bivy

I got flooded as soon as it started raining and then squeezed into Jacqueline and Trent’s super-bomber mountain tent:

Traci Macnamara tent poacher

We were all smiles here, but no one really slept well. My feet were scrunched between their shoulders, and I slept with my head on the downhill side of a slope. Nonetheless, we were up again the next day hiking and setting up another camp the next night (Lac Blanc in the background):

Lac Blanc bivy

Basically, night two was the same as the first night—torrential downpour—and I again got flooded out of my bivouac and had to jump into the mountain tent (thank you, Jacq and Trent!). I still like to go super-light, but in the interest of survival, I think I will take a one-person tent (at least) for a proper shelter in the future when the weather report even hints at rain. Most recently, I went up with three others to climb in the Envers des Aiguilles area of the Mont Blanc massif. We opted to carry in our own food and gear, but we slept in the hut.

Envers Crew

In the photo above, we were out relaxing on the Envers hut’s deck when mountainglow flooded the mountains surrounding us, Mer de Glace below. A good moment. The scale of things in the Envers des Aiguilles is just so much greater. While the Aiguilles Rouges and the Berard Valley are stunning places, the granite faces here make everything look small. Try to locate the hut in the photo below:

Envers Hut Piege

If you couldn’t find it, the Envers hut is in the bottom part of this photo just right of center, above the Mer de Glace. And the Tour Verte (2760m) is the highest peak above it on the left. Kristy, Mark, Cedric, and I had a good day out climbing the Verte’s classic route La Piege…more on that in upcoming post…

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One response to “Life: Alpine bivouacs, huts, camps

  1. Great blog. Seriously. I like the photos of this particular entry. Nice! I’m going to test my first bivy rig in 2 weeks on a snowy, windy mountain here in SoCal. Super stoked. I think I’m going to get a heavier military biv to save cashish.

    Cheers,
    Brendon

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