When you arrive at the refuge the first thing to do is take your boots off before going in. It's etiquette and everybody does it and most refuges require it.
You book in and are shown the facilities, where to leave your boots and your bed for the night. The refuge will often provide slippers for you to wear
Staying at a refuge on the Tour du Mont Blanc
although as you've probably brought your own this may not be of interest to you. We noted during our 2007 TBM that one refuge provided chargeable disposable paper slippers - another good reason to bring your own.
If the refuge provides picnic lunches now is probably the best time to book yours. We never took them, preferring to rely on our emergency rations or something picked up when last in civilisation such as a saucisson or bread and cheese or alternatively factoring in a lunch stop at a refuge en route.
You claim your bed by spreading out your sleeping liner, grab your wash stuff and change of clothes and head for the shower. In France and Italy showers, toilets and wash areas are usually unisex so don't be surprised to be sharing the area with a member of the opposite sex.
Once showered you probably check the time for dinner and breakfast, buy a coffee or beer and settle down somewhere to write your journal, read your book or plan the day ahead. Alternatively you may decided to explore outside for a while or if the weather is good, sun yourself in the company of other hikers. If the refuge has a reliable drying room (and most don't) you may even decide to wash through your walking set of underwear and your base layer.
It may also be a good idea to see if you can find a socket to charge your mobile phone. In a refuge, wherever there's a power socket, you'll probably find a mobile phone or Blackberry charging. There's a high degree of trust in refuges and phones are left unattended charging in corridors, bathrooms and dortoirs.
Dinner is usually at 7pm and often consists of at least three courses, perhaps soup and bread followed by a meat dish and then dessert. If you're in luck you may have four courses. At one gastronomically remarkable refuge (Bon Abri at Champex-d'en-Haut) we started with an aperitif followed by soup, then a salad tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, then hand carved smoked ham with a potato gratin, then a cheese plate of four cheeses with rye bread, then a chocolate creme dessert. Most refuges though will be less cordon bleu - but all are likely to provide plenty of food. Coffee and wine/beer are invariably chargeable extras.
By the time dinner is completed, the weather forecast for the next day has probably been posted. Now would be a good time to check it, decide what you'll need to wear the next day, and whether you need to modify your intended route.
At some point you'll probably telephone your next refuge to book the following night's dortoir.
Hikers usually start heading to bed from just before 9pm with most being in bed by 9.30pm . This may seem early - but if our experience is anything to go by, you'll drop off to sleep quickly.
The first hiker in bed will probably switch off the lights so have your LED headtorch to hand.
If you need an alarm, don't forget to set it.
Next morning you'll probably get changed into your walking clothes, fill your water bottle, pack your rucksack for the day ahead, and then head for breakfast.
Breakfast time varies from refuge to refuge. Some will start as early as 6.30am, we usually took ours at 7am. The exceptions tended to be when we had a short walk the next day so were comfortable with a later start.
After breakfast is a good time to pay. All but one of the refuges were comfortable with us paying on departure. Their relaxed attitude to the whole process was refreshing. It would be all too easy though to wander off without paying!
Most mornings we started the next days hiking just after 8am. On hot days though an earlier start might be recommended to maximise walking during the cool morning air.
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