Chamonix Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of shape do I need to be in?
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 gear will I need?
The list of items is required of each individual. I have attempted to give a brief description of each piece of equipment so there should be no difficulties in compiling your gear. Read over the list carefully and pack your gear well in advance.
What should I do about accomodations?
Accommodations are not included in the land cost fee. Some nights will be spent in climbing huts during the program. 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. The guides will make reservations for you at the climbing hut when required, and that cost will be up to you to cover, approximately $50 per night including breakfast and dinner.
Between climbs you will have your choice of hotels in Chamonix:
- There is the traditional IMG base, Hotel Gustavia (3 star), http://www.hotel-gustavia.com/gb/hotel.html, located conveniently across from the rail station in downtown Chamonix. 2006 rates start at 71 Euros for a single (about $90) including breakfast.
- A less expensive option includes the Hotel Touring (2 star), http://www.hoteltouringchamonix.com/en/home.html. 2006 rates start at 44 Euros (about $56) or 72 Euros for a double (about $92).
You will need to remain flexible with your lodging requirements. You will need to book a hotel in advance to confirm a place to stay upon arrival. Our suggestion is to confirm the night prior to the starting date of the program, the first three nights of the program, and the last two in a hotel. Let the hotel know you are a climber and wish some flexibility in your reservation. You will need to be willing to transfer hotels during the trip if you require lodging last minute and a room is not available. The hotels are normally happy to help you with finding an alternate place to stay.
How will meals be handled?
Each person is responsible for his or her own meals during the course of the program. At the huts, breakfasts and dinners are prepared by the hut personnel and are included in the hut fee. 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. Many, but not all of the hotels include a continental breakfast in the price of lodging.
How do I get there?
You are responsible for your own travel to and from Chamonix. There are several direct flights from the U.S. to Geneva, the closest and most convenient point of arrival. You may also choose to fly to another city such as Zurich, depending on the carrier you fly if you find a more favorable airfare to a different destination.
The train system in France is functional and efficient. The rail pass you buy is dependent on the amount of travel you will do before and after the program in Chamonix, but the minimum pass needed is a round trip ticket to Chamonix from your point of arrival. You can buy your ticket upon arrival at the train station. For more information on train fares, visit www.raileurope.com . With some passes you get a further reduction on select gondola and cog rail train rides required for access to the climbs. Be sure to ask about this as you can gain substantial savings this way. If two or more people purchase their passes together, they can qualify for a saver pass price, but the requirement is that you travel together at all times. If you plan to travel on a Eurail Pass, make sure it covers your travel to Chamonix. Some private lines are not included on Eurail Passes.
Another option is arranging a bus shuttle ride from Geneva to Chamonix. This costs slightly more than the train ride, but is non-stop and faster. This can be booked online in advance of your trip.
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 expected arrival time and flight plan prior to the start of the program.
It is generally best to fly directly to Geneva, arriving in the morning, and then catch a train departing hourly for Chamonix. Plan to arrive no later than the evening before the starting date of the trip, but it is best to allow an additional day to aid in recovery from jet lag.
What's the weather like?
The weather in the Mont Blanc region 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 you will be prepared for all types of weather. The enclosed itinerary is designed with some allowance for bad weather but may require further alterations. IMG's 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. 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 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.
You may want to purchase a rescue policy to help cover rescue or evacuation costs if necessary. In France, national rescue insurance (Carte Neige) is available to all climbers for a reasonable fee. It can be purchased in Chamonix at the tourist office, and covers helicopter rescue in the Alps. All participants will be required to purchase this insurance prior to the start of the program. Cost for 8 days in 2006 is 42.50 Euros.
What else should I keep in mind?
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. The weather in this part of Europe is much like that of the Pacific Northwest, so 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 your 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 in town.
Cash should be carried in the form of U.S. traveler's checks if possible. These can be easily exchanged at any major town. ATM's are found almost everywhere in Europe and give the best exchange rate but mind the exchange fee! Remember that your ATM card will probably have a daily limit of $200 or so. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted in most shops and restaurants. Train fares along with related gondola rides and cog rail trains will cost from $300 total and can all be charged on a Visa. I would plan to spend from $1,000 to $1,500 total during the trip for all meals, train fares and personal expenses.
What immunizations will I need?
No immunizations are currently required. 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.
You should also ask your physician for a prescription for a course of the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. Please consider this to be part of your required equipment.
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:
- group equipment including climbing ropes and hardware
- airline tickets of any kind
- airport taxes if any
- 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