Robert L. Peters

7 December 2011

New Refuge Gervasutti

Courmayeur, Italy

Climbers in the Alps can now spend their nights sleeping in a tube that cantilevers over the edge of a mountain. New Refuge Gervasutti provides an optimal combination of comfort, safety, and respect for the environment. Installed in mid October on the Freboudze glacier (in front of the spectacular East face of the Grandes Jorasses of the Mont Blanc Range) this alpine refuge is now ready for use by mountaineers and climbers.

This innovative survival unit was designed by Italian architects LEAPfactory, who specialise in modular accommodation for extreme environments. The tube was prefabricated off-site and airlifted to the site by helicopters. The living area is lit in the daytime by a big panoramic window facing towards the valley and contains a kitchen, a table, and seating. The sleeping area is equipped with bunk beds and spaces for the storage of gear.

The comfortable wooden interior finish recalls a traditional mountain hut and is intended to make a stay in the module a pleasing and relaxing experience. A red pattern (inspired by the shaved straight stitch of mountain pullovers, to evoke warmth and comfort) decorates the structure’s exterior and aids visibility to climbers and mountaineers approaching from a distance.

Owner: Italian Alpine Club CAI Turin

30 square metres of usable space

6 contact points with the ground

2500 kg. total weight

12 bed spaces

2.5 Kwh of solar energy produced

2 days to install unit

For a full description of New Refuge Gervasutti, including drawings, interior images, links, and full creative credits, visit (Thanks to designer friend Oliver Oike for putting this lovely shelter on my radar).


12 November 2011

And if you gaze long enough into an abys, the abys will gaze back into you…

(sage cautions worth heeding in these troubled times)

21 September 2011

If you don't let go, you can't fall off!

—Jerry Moffat

13 September 2011

In this short span between my fingertips and the smooth edge and these tense feet cramped to a crystal ledge, I hold the life of a man.

Geoffrey Winthrop Young (1876-1958), climber, poet, educator, author, and conscientious objector

Geoffrey lost a leg during World War I… though he continued alpine climbing for years thereafter, using a specially designed artificial leg that accepted a number of attachments for snow and rock work. He even climbed the Matterhorn in 1928. Following is a poem he wrote that references his struggles over his loss…

I have not lost the magic of long days:
I live them, dream them still.
Still I am master of the starry ways,
and freeman of the hill.

Shattered my glass, ere half the sands had run,—
I hold the heights, I hold the heights I won.
Mine still the hope that hailed me from each height,

mine the unresting flame.

With dreams I charmed each doing to delight;
I charm my rest the same.
Severed my skein, ere half the strands were spun,—
I keep the dreams, I keep the dreams I won.

What if I live no more those kingly days?
their night sleeps with me still.
I dream my feet upon the starry ways;
my heart rests in the hill.
I may not grudge the little left undone;
I hold the heights, I keep the dreams I won.

10 September 2011

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.

René Daumal (1908-1944), para-surrealist writer

25 August 2011

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

John Muir (1838-1914)

8 August 2011

Back… from a week in the Rockies.

Banff National Park, Alberta

I’ve just returned from a week-long road trip to the splendid Canadian Rockies with Bettie Blue, my trusty Westie companion—more rest, reading, and reflection than climbing this year, but a splendid time of refreshing renewal nonetheless.

You can see more photos in a Facebook gallery, here.

25 July 2011

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot

13 July 2011

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot, and hang on.

—Franklin D. Roosevelt

This is actually a lesson we teach in basic rock-climbing (along with how to prusik back up the rope using only your shoe-laces and a bit of wisdom). For those who are under the impression that I am continually criticizing the USA, please note that the Roosevelt I am quoting here was your country’s 32nd president, at the nadir of the worst depression in your history, with a full quarter of the workforce unemployed (1933-1945).

Just sayin’… hang in there.


12 July 2011

What goes up… must come down.

Zermatt, Switzerland

The first ascent of the iconic Matterhorn (yes, the one on the triangular-shaped Toblerone chocolate package) was made by Edward Whymper, Lord Francis Douglas, Charles Hudson, Douglas Hadow, Michel Croz, and the two Zermatt guides, Peter Taugwalder father and son on 14 July 1865. Douglas, Hudson, Hadow and Croz were killed on the descent when Hadow slipped and pulled the other three with him down the north face. Whymper and the Taugwalder guides, who survived, were later accused of having cut the rope below to ensure that they were not dragged down with the others, but the subsequent inquiry found no proof of this and they were acquitted.

The Matterhorn accident was long discussed in the media, in Switzerland and abroad… newspapers all over the world reported the tragedy and no other Alpine event has ever caused more headlines. Read the full background to this memorable event in mountaineering history here.

Matterhorn photo (cropped) by Juan Rubiano; Illustrations of Whymper et al’s ascent and disastrous descent are by Gustave Doré.

“A single slip,
or a single false step,

has been the sole cause
of this frightful calamity.”

—Edward Whymper


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