The French Alpine Club uses satellite communication to connect mountain huts in unequipped areas
The French Alpine Club
The Alpine Club (French Federation of Mountain and Alpine Clubs) was created in 1874 to promote the mountain and lift youth’s spirit after the lost war of 1870. Today, it counts 88,000 members, and a network of 120 mountain huts. These huts, intended to provide food and shelter to mountaineers, climbers and hikers, are open all year long, but most of them are only watched by a keeper from May to September.
Because of their geographic isolation, mountain huts are not well connected to modern communication networks, or not at all. Indeed, mobile phones rarely work, and most of the time it is impossible to implement ADSL receivers because the relay villages are far, and because of the altitude. The Alpine Club thus needed a viable solution to break the isolation of the mountain huts.
The satellite solution
The Alpine Club decided to equip its huts with an internet connection via satellite in 2010. The Alpine Club covers the installation costs (energy, cables, satellite dish, hardware), and shares with the keepers the subscription and booking fees. In some cases, such as in the Ariège County, huts benefited from public grants.
The Alpine Club will also benefit from European funds to equip some of the huts in the Pyreneans, in the framework of the Operational Program of Territorial Cooperation Spain-France-Andorra 2014-2020 (POCTEFA), which belongs to the ERDF.
Thanks to satellite communication, safety in the high mountains is improved. Communicating with and between huts is much easier, and weather forecasts are frequently updated. Moreover, the huts are more visible for users, as well as better managed, thanks to more enriched websites, and an access to modernised online booking platforms. Most of the keepers already equipped are satisfied, and the number of users has increased. Overall, in the Alps and the Pyreneans, around 80 huts are equipped, 55 of which belong to the CAF. Ten more huts are about to benefit from satellite communication.
“Satellite communication is a good way to optimise the safety of the huts and to improve their management, visibility and attendance” Xavier Basséras, President of Toulouse Alpine Club