The Refuge du Gouter mountain hut is one of the most popular starting points for climbers attempting to summit Mont Blanc. Building work is currently underway to build a new hut, 200m south of the existing structure, which will accommodate up to 120 people.
Refuge du Gouter is perched up high on the Gouter ridge at 3817m, and is one of the most popular huts in the Mont Blanc range. It officially sleeps up to 117 people but is frequently overbooked and it is not uncommon to see people sleeping on the floor or camping outside (which is forbidden).
It was built in 1962 and was extended in 1990, but the existing building is just too old to benefit from any further renovation so back in 2004 the decision was taken to build a brand new refuge nearby.
The new and improved Gouter hut will be as eco-friendly as possible; windows will be triple glazed and the main building material and form of insulation will be local wood from sustainable sources, St Gervais schoolchildren have been involved in the harvesting of the timber as part of an environmental project! All energy will be provided by solar panels and wind turbines (with the exception of propane gas used for cooking) and biomass energy will be generated by the incineration of rapeseed oil and wood pellets. Water used for cooking and washing will be redirected into the toilets where it will be reused for flushing; toilets will operate partially on a suction system that only requires 1.2 litres of water per flush, as opposed to the usual 5-6 litres. All water will be treated and filtered before being disposed of.
The Refuge du Gouter project has a budget of over 6 million euros, which is being footed mostly by the Club Alpin Français who have introduced similar environmental procedures to all ongoing and future building projects across France.
The new refuge is scheduled to open in summer 2012 and is bound to be popular; you can follow the progress on this website (in French). In the meantime check out this video of local legend Pascal Brun flying the new loos up to the building site on a Super Puma helicopter.