The Giusto Gervasutti Bivouac, a wonder within a wonder

The Giusto Gervasutti Bivouac, in Val Ferret, on the southern side the Monte Bianco Massif, is named after “the father of modern climbing”.

Between the two World Wars, Gervasutti (1909-1946) – a mountain climber born in Friuli and known in his time as “il Fortissimo” – was able to merge the “Dolomites style” (with a very advanced technique in tackling steep walls offering many grips, inspired by competitive climbing) and the distinctive methods of Western ice climbers, champions of a cultured and aristocratic idea of Alpinism, practiced on smooth walls of granite, not as steep but at higher altitudes.

An original shelter built in Gervasutti’s name in 1948 was replaced in 2011 by the futuristic one we can see now. The new bivouac was entirely built in a factory, and later transported by helicopter to the Fréboudze glacier, 2,835 meters above sea level.

Designed by Turin-based architects Stefano Testa and Luca Gentilcore – who drew inspiration from their nautical and aeronautical experience to create a modular and eco-friendly structure – the Gervasutti Bivouac has been likened to a spaceship, an aircraft’s fuselage, and a submarine. We might say the 30-meter-wide, 1,980-kilo shelter for twelve people divided in two rooms also resembles a telescope, aimed at the East wall of the Grandes Jorasses.

Of course, the hi-tech project was harshly criticized. But nobody can deny it is a wonder of our time. A wonder within the wonderful frame of Monte Bianco.

December 16, 2013

The Giusto Gervasutti Bivouac, a wonder within a wonder

Courmayeur, Val Ferret