For climbers, nothing beats being up in the mountains, with a view of the Alps, breathing the pure mountain air and surrounded by pristine, er, yellow snow.
Unfortunately mountain climbers, like everybody else, need to answer the call of nature, and there are few toilet facilities on mountains -- with the result that the snow at the top of the French peak Mont Blanc has been getting discolored with what can best be described as mountain manure.
Now local authorities have taken an unusual step to keep the mont looking blanc: They have installed two public toilets near the summit of the 4,800-meter-high mountain. At an altitude of 4,260 meters (14,000 feet), the loos will be "the highest in Europe," said Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of the Alpine community of Saint-Gervais-les-Bains.
"It was urgently necessary," Peillex explained. With 30,000 climbers heading up Western Europe's highest mountain each year, there will be plenty of demand for the high-altitude latrines, and it is not impossible that queues may form outside the two wooden cabins.
The toilets are made by the French company Ecosphère Technologies, which specializes in dry toilets for extreme conditions, and will cost €145,000 ($200,000). At the end of the summer, the unsavory contents will be removed from the toilets and transported down the mountain by helicopter. It was not revealed if les WCs would have seats or be the notorious "squatting" variant common to French public conveniences.