Meet the Family Caring for the Oldest Alpine Hut in the French Alps

A historic hut in the craggy French Alps of Chamonix

Who said you can’t go on extreme adventures with children? Meet Sarah Cartier, who takes parenting to new heights.

Cartier is a climber and a hutkeeper who, for 8 years running, has spent 3-month blocks of summer in near isolation, caring for the 119-year-old Le Refuge de la Charpoua. It’s nearly 10,000 feet in elevation and remotely tucked away in the Chamonix mountains.

Oh, and did we mention she does this while caring for two kids under the age of 3?

“I don’t want to go, I need to go,” explained Cartier in the Patagonia film. “I need to escape from the noise of the town, and the telephone. The refuge is … for taking refuge.”

You quickly realize in The High Life that Cartier’s decision to keep returning and to do so with her children is more than just a role as the refuge’s caretaker. Rather, it’s her own deep desire to return to a simpler, more deliberate way of living — without the distractions of technology.

“The idea is to adapt. And in the end, if you’re doing what you love, it can only work out,” Cartier stated.

This is the final season of Le Refuge de la Charpoua, which is both the oldest and smallest hut in Chamonix. After this year, it will be torn down and rebuilt. The old structure has been compromised by rotting wood and wouldn’t last long anyway. It’s a necessary reconstruction. But it also means this is Cartier and her family’s last chance to escape to their refuge.

Runtime: 15 minutes

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  • January 13, 2023