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There’s no better way of making a tour of the Alps in summer than by wandering from hut to hut. From the Alpes Maritime to the Julians of Slovenia there are literally thousands of huts (aka cabane, capanna, refuge, refugi, refugio etc) that offer simple but mostly comfortable overnight accommodation, usually with a gardien (warden or hut keeper) who provides meals and generally looks after the place.
Austria alone has in excess of 1000 such huts. Of these, more than half are owned by member groups of the Austrian or German Alpine Clubs, the rest being in private ownership or belong to separate organisations but are open to all, and virtually every one enjoys a spectacular location. Manned from at least July until the end of September, but often with an open period that extends either side of the high summer period, accommodation ranges from large mixed-sex dormitories (matratzenlager) to two- or four-bedded rooms suitable for couples or families. Simple refreshments are usually on offer to walkers or climbers pasing by, and breakfasts and filling evening meals – with beer, wine, coffee, hot chocolate and tea – available to those staying overnight.
(The Schwarzsee - photo by Kev Reynolds)
Some of the more remote huts may be rather basic in amenities, but a large number are almost inn-like in both size and facilities. And as a bonus, practically everyone you meet there will share a common passion for the hills, ready to exchange up to date trail information.
A hut to hut holiday need not cost the earth, for considerable reductions in overnight fees in huts that belong to the national alpine clubs, can be claimed by members of the UK branch of the Austrian Alpine Club (for membership details contact firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.aacuk.org.uk) – this reduction applies not only to huts in Austria but in all Alpine countries.
Using huts night after night enables you to travel light. A day sack containing waterproofs, water bottle, a change of clothing and a sleeping bag liner is about all you need. The mountain world becomes accessible, and multi-day tours and circuits can fill every week of your holiday allocation. Not just this year, but for the next fifty years. Or so.
With that thought in mind, it’s time to grab my rucksack and go….