Perched at an altitude of 3,290 meters (10,794 feet) in a remote site in the Italian Alps, the new Bivacco Luca Pasqualetti al Morion designed by Roberto Dini and Stefano Girodo seeks to encourage the exploration of the isolated area and its nearby mountaineering routes. The shelter is named after Luca Pasqualetti, a great lover of the mountain who sadly passed away on the apuan alps in may 2014. The project of the realization of the bivouac on the Morion ridge in Valpelline (Valle d’Aosta) is the brainchild of the local alpine guides Espri Sarvadzo (“Wild Spirit” in the local dialect). Along the ridge there are some really remarkable but basically ‘forgotten’ itineraries, like the long traverse leading from the Col of Mont Gelé to Mount Berrio.
The aim of this project is the rediscovery of these places by lightly improving their availability for mountaineering: a simple structure such as a bivouac, positioned in a remote place with a difficult access, is specifically conceived to stimulate a niche alpinism, interested in the beauty of the wild and solitary Valpelline places, conscious of the commitment and respect required by high altitude environment.
The realization of a bivouac in the severe Morion environment was an extraordinary design challenge: the setting-up of a structure isolated from any sort of network, able to withstand the continuous combined action of extreme weather conditions (temperatures even below -20°C, wind up to 200 km/h, heavy precipitations and meters of snow on the ground) required construction choices characterized by maximum simplicity and efficacy combined with a great performance in terms of protection and resistance.
The high altitude context particularly inaccessible and remote, characterized by complex orographic and geological aspects, required a careful arrangement of every logistic aspect of such an extreme building site, possible only during a short period of summer and bound to perfect weather conditions, as well as dependent on the careful planning of the construction sequence and transport of pieces, people and equipment. Every component was sized according to its transport and handling during the final phase of laying and assembly by helicopter, looking for the maximum lightness related to structural solidity.
The bivouac is devised to be completely reversible, following the philosophy of minimal environmental impact. The structure lays on non-permanent foundations anchored to the rock in a punctual and not invasive way through a basement in metallic carpentry and can be removed at the end of itslife cycle without leaving permanent traces on the ground.
All the components were completely mounted dry, without using concrete. They are recyclable and ecologically certified. The high quality of the materials and finishes guarantees durability and wear resistance, preserving the living comfort and reducing future maintenance. The structure made by composite sandwich panels, wood and steel, completely manufactured in a prefab workshop, can be split in four parts sized for transport and handling, to reduce the number of helicopter flights needed for the final assembly operations at high altitude, condensed in one working day.
The bivouac is designed as a simple hut with two pitches, according to the archetypal idea of the shelter. Moreover, in terms of landscape, a structure with sharp edges fits better the jagged geomorphology of the Morion ridge if compared to the classic barrel shape of the “Apollonio” type bivouacs; the chromatic integration with the surrounding rocky context, characterized by the prevalence of rocks with metamorphic origin, is obtained through the grey tone of the metal cladding.
The interior, interpreted as a cozy and protected shell against the surrounding context, is anthropometrically optimized to live comfortably in a small space. From the distributive point of view, the entrance is located on the side so you can enter from a centered position and create inside the division between day and night areas. This allows the opening of a huge panoramic window on the main facade facing east which means more sun, more light and a warmer internal temperature besides the possibility to enjoy the wonderful landscape with the Becca di Luseney, the group of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn. There is a small external niche at the entrance to help protect the door from the wind and precipitations where sticks, crampons and ice axes can be stored.
The living area, facing the landscape, consists of a table with 8 seats on stools and chests; the fitment integrated in the wall contains the sideboard, a surface for food preparation and many storage compartments for backpacks and climbing equipment. The night area is located in the rear side and it’s made of two wooden platforms with mattresses (8 beds with blankets). The bivouac is equipped with a small solar panel with a battery for minimal lighting.
The bivouac, designed by architects Roberto Dini and Stefano Girodo – researchers at the Istituto di Architettura Montana of the Politecnico di Torino – in cooperation with LEAPfactory, has been assembled in a carpenter’s workshop in Aosta between July and August 2017; it has been transported by truck near the Lexert Lake (Bionaz) and inaugurated with a big party on the 27th of August 2017 in the presence of the Pasqualetti couple and a lot of representatives from CAI Pontedera and friends from Tuscany.