Alps Classics Frequently Asked Questions
What is the climbing like?
Knowledge of basic mountaineering skills, including ice axe arrest, cramponing and roped glacier travel is required. Previous participation in an IMG Mt. Rainier Glacier Skills Seminar and Summit Climb, a Mt. Whitney Climb (with training day) or a Mount Rainier Climb is recommended. The climbing will involve glacier travel and cramponing on moderately steep snow and ice slopes, as well as rock scrambling of moderate difficulty. No previous rock climbing experience is necessary but certainly would help with your confidence level. Prior participation in a rock-climbing program such as the IMG Joshua Tree or the Smith Rocks Seminars is suggested for this reason.
How do I train for this?
The best training program for such a climbing trip is one that includes aerobic activities such as running, swimming and bicycling. Get in plenty of time hiking with a pack or running up and down hills. Strive for longer training sessions - over an hour - and go on hikes during the weekend that gain a thousand vertical feet per mile for several miles whenever possible. Muscle strengthening exercises for the legs, arms and back are also important. Adequate preparation will insure a safe and enjoyable trip for all.
What are the accommodations
All accommodations are included in the landcost fee. We overnight in climbing huts on each peak and hotels between the climbs.
The European huts are quite luxurious compared to those in the States and their convenience has made them popular with climbers throughout the Alps. Sleeping bags and pads are not needed on this trip. Bunks with blankets and pillows are provided by the staff at each of the huts.
Between climbs we will stay in hotels in Zermatt, Wengen and Chamonix. Three star hotels are selected if at all possible, and the accommodations are very comfortable and picturesque. Normal arrangements will be a shared room with private bath. Accommodations prior to the starting date and from the evening of the ending date on are not provided and must be arranged by each individual.
What about food?
Each person is responsible for his or her own meals during the course of the program except at the climbing huts. At the huts, breakfasts and dinners are prepared by the hut personnel and are included in the cost of the program. Between climbs we will have the opportunity to sample local specialties in some of the many excellent restaurants and specialty shops. We normally eat out together as a group when in town, and the camaraderie of sharing an evening meal with the team is an enjoyable part of the trip. Restaurant prices are similar to those in tourist areas in the U.S. There will be opportunity to purchase lunch food in town prior to each of the climbs and the guides will be happy to assist you with this. The hotels include a substantial continental breakfast in the price of lodging.
Where do we meet and how do I get there?
The train system in Switzerland and France is functional and efficient. The group will travel together by train between each of our climbing destinations. The train journey will allow us time to socialize as a team and sightsee without the distractions of driving. Each person is responsible for the purchase of their own train and cog rail tickets as well as telepherique fares on approaches to climbs and for general sightseeing. The rail pass you buy is dependent on the amount of travel you will do before and after the program in Europe, but the minimum pass needed is a 4-day Swiss Flexi Pass. You can buy this pass, or another Swiss pass or Eurail pass upon your arrival in Switzerland at any train station. For more information train travel in Switzerland, check out www.raileurope.com or www.rail.ch.
With the pass you get a further reduction of 25% on some gondola and cog rail train rides required for access to the climbs. If two or more people purchase their passes together, they qualify for a saver pass price which is about $40 cheaper, but this requires that you travel together at all times.
You are responsible for your own travel to and from Zermatt. There are several direct flights from the U.S. to Geneva, the closest major destination. You may also choose to fly to another city such as Zurich, Frankfurt or Brussels on a more economical flight and then take a train to Zermatt.
Participants should be sure to make allowance for the significant time change when arranging a flight to Europe. Plan to arrive at least a day in advance in order to overcome jet lag. Please notify the IMG office of your arrival time and flight plan prior to the start of the program.
What kind of insurance do I need?
We invest in insurance coverage for commercial liability and medical and disability insurance for our employees while participating on our programs. We cannot insure you for your personal needs, but we do expect you to be as fiscally responsible as we are. We require that you insure yourself against potentially expensive difficulties that may arise. First, Trip Cancellation Insurance may provide financial relief should you be forced to withdraw from the program before it even happens. Next, make sure you have adequate Travel Insurance for coverage should you have a problem during the trip. Medical care and evacuation in remote locations can be expensive. For more information, please see our page on Trip Cancellation and Travel Insurance.
What is the weather like?
The weather in the West Alps is similar to that of the Cascades in the Pacific Northwest. One can experience several days of beautifully clear skies or be plagued by storms. However, late July, August and September is generally the best time to climb in this area, for reasons of weather and snow conditions. By bringing the proper clothing we will be prepared for all types of weather. The enclosed itinerary is designed with some allowance for bad weather but may require further alterations. We will attempt to adhere to the schedule as closely as possible, but our goal is to have a safe, fun climbing trip. Some flexibility is important for the smooth operation of the program. The guides will be open to input throughout the trip.
Do I need a passport?
If you do not have a passport, or if your current one is due to expire before, or during the trip, you must obtain a new one. Passports are required to travel in Europe. Passport information is available from your main post office or your local passport agency. At this time, visas are not required for travel in France and Switzerland. It is a good idea to carry Xeroxed copies of your passport and birth certificate to ease matters in case of loss or theft of your passport.
What kind of luggage should I bring?
For travel to Europe, it is a good idea to have just two pieces of luggage: your pack with all of your climbing gear inside and a medium duffel bag for extra clothing and items to be strapped onto your pack at a later time, such as crampons and ice axe. A wheeled duffel is helpful when lugging your gear between train connections. The weather in this part of Europe is much like that of the Pacific Northwest, be sure to bring appropriate summer clothing for travel to the mountains. Keep your street clothes simple and bring a good pair of light comfortable hiking shoes. A sweater should be sufficient for evenings in town. Casual dress will be fine for all of our dining. Hand washable clothing allows you to do laundry in your room and get by with less. There are self-service and full-service laundries at each of the towns we visit.
How much spending money should I plan on?
For spending money, ATM's are found almost everywhere in Europe and give the best exchange rate. Mind the exchange fee and your maximum daily withdrawal limit! Check with your banker to understand the costs and fees associated with using your card in Europe, and then you can get by with bringing less cash or traveler's checks. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are also accepted in most shops and restaurants. Be sure to notify your card company that you will be traveling in Europe to avoid a hold being placed on your card when charges are placed on it from a foreign country. There is a rumor currently that American Express is going out of business, so check with your banker before purchasing traveler's checks. Traveler's checks have been a traditional safe way to carry additional expense money.
Train fares along with related gondola rides and cog rail trains will cost from $300-$500 total and can all be charged on a Visa. I would plan to spend from $1,500 to $2,000 total during the trip for all meals, train fares and personal expenses.
What's worth reading beforehand?
We encourage you to do as much reading on the area as you can. A little research on the history of Alpinism in Europe can add greatly to the experience once you are there. A good basic guide book that describes the climbs we will attempt is The Alpine 4000m Peaks by the Classic Routes, by Richard Goedeke, 1991.
What immunizations will I need?
No immunizations are currently required for France or Switzerland. It is recommended that you consider the following:
- Tetanus/Diphtheria: There is no natural immunity to the tetanus toxin and since it is found throughout the world, immunization is a universal recommendation regardless of age. A combined tetanus/ diphtheria booster is available, good for ten years.
- Hepatitis Vaccine: New vaccines are available for both hepatitis A and B.
Please consult your physician or local health department for their recommendations.
We recommend that you visit the travel clinic at a major University Hospital or your local Public Health Department for the most up to date info on travel requirements, or check the Center for Disease Control Website at www.cdc.gov.
What's included in the trip cost?Cost Includes:
- dinners and breakfasts during the climb
- group equipment including tents, stoves, climbing ropes and hardware
- airline tickets of any kind
- airport taxes
- meals in towns or restaurants
- trail snacks or bottled water
- costs incurred as a result of delays or events beyond the control of IMG
- required travel insurance policy (for trip cancellation, medical treatment, evacuation etc.)
- and customary but optional tips for IMG guides