It is sod’s law that during a hut-to-hut ski tour, when the loo lies luxuriously inside the building you don’t wake up at in the middle of the night needing to go. When I toured from Alagna to Zinal with Zuba Ski this spring (see March posts), I had no 3am calls of nature in the Guglielmina (more of a mountain hotel) or the Monte Rosa (a shimmering new eco-creation built in 2009), where the loos are just round the corner from the rooms. In the Schoenbiel and the Grand Mountet, however, where they are in a separate hut, I had to go at least once a night.
The main thing is to be prepared. Before you climb into bed, stash your Crocs or Birkenstocks – or whatever footwear is provided – in a precise spot where you can slip out of your silk liner and straight into them. Plant your head-torch in an accessible and easy-t0-remember spot. Even if it’s spring, I like to have my down jacket stuffed somewhere handy to slip on over my nightwear for the trip outside (I take a separate cotton top to sleep in, worn with long johns or very lightweight tracksuit bottoms).
If you have too much stuff lying around near your mattress, and one of these items is hard to find (especially the headtorch), it can lead to an anxious and noisy scramble to reach that little hut in time…
You can make the journey from bed to loo hut easier by practising before nightfall. At the Schoenbiel, we were there the first evening the hut had opened for spring ski touring, so the path dug from terrace to loo hut was narrow, and in parts slippery. Below the path is a cliff, and the hut is at the edge. At the Grand Mountet, there was black ice on the approach to the loo hut. It’s no problem negotiating these paths in Hausschuhe with a headtorch – as long as you’ve noticed where the tricky bits are in daylight.
When you get to the loo, do not lock the door, even if you are in a country where everything works perfectly, such as Switzerland. A friend of mine – just over the Italian border, admittedly – got stuck in an outside loo once after locking a rusty old latch, and the door virtually had to be unhinged to get him out.
A final word of encouragement: given the right preparation, a loo trip in the small hours can actually be quite enjoyable. If there’s a decent moon and a starry sky, the view of the mountains at night, especially when you alone are admiring them, is magical. And if you’re in the Konkordia Hut in the Bernese Oberland, when you make it to the cubicle, you’ll hear soft music, thanks to a couple of little speakers rigged up among the partitions.
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