Hi Everyone – we are now in an improving situation as vaccines roll out, so here is our latest information on booking Uk trips this spring and early summer, as well as prospects for foreign travel later in the year.
Uk Trips and Guiding
England – we are now taking bookings for spring guiding in England:
- from 12 April in the Peak District and Lake District (overnight stays are allowed in ‘self contained accommodation’ with your own household – eg holiday cottages, caravans without shared facilities etc).
- from 17th May throughout England (hotels, B&Bs and hospitality scheduled to reopen).
Wales – we are taking bookings for dates in May onwards.
- Travel within Wales and self catered accommodation (for one household, Welsh residents only) will be allowed from 27th March.
- Review on 1st April to decide on re-opening other services on 12th April as per England.
Northern Ireland – there are 9 pathways and 5 phases for a gradual easing of lockdown, with weekly meetings and 4 weekly reviews – outdoor sports allowed from 1st April, the rules will be relaxed further on 12th April.
Scotland – we are taking bookings for dates in mid May onwards.
- from 26th April, Scotland is returning to a levels system; travel will be allowed within Scotland, pubs, restaurants and non essential retail will re open.
- Further relaxations from 17th May.
Contact Us here to make an enquiry!
The Million Dollar Question! The European Commission are working on plans for a Covid Pass that may be introduced to facilitate foreign travel. Whether the Uk will be part of this is not yet known, but countries that rely heavily on tourism are more likely to allow visitors from places like the Uk that have a well advanced vaccination program – ie it’s currently a case of ‘watch this space’
The Uk government are making an announcement about foreign travel on 12th April and some foreign travel should be possible from 17th May – but unless Covid passports are introduced, we think it’s unlikely to include mainstream European mountain destinations in the first instance. A few countries (eg Georgia) are already welcoming visitors who have been vaccinated and a few ‘sun rock’ destinations could open up. If on the 12th April, some foreign mountain destinations look hopeful, then we will launch popup trips to take advantage of this – planning for this is ongoing, more info to follow!
We are watching Spain, Georgia, Greece, Turkey, Austria and various island holiday destinations for spring/early summer. We are also keeping an eye on Switzerland and Norway for mid summer onwards, but barring a Covid passport system it may be well into August before general unrestricted travel is allowed again between the Uk and all EU nations. Travel to a small number of long haul destinations is also likely to open up earlier.
Summer Alpine Guiding and Courses
During summer 2020 we climbed and ran courses successfully in the Alps by being flexible and proactive, so we will continue this approach in 2021. We have undertaken contingency planning for all of the trips and courses on our program, in order to keep trips running in as wide a range of scenarios as possible. Adjustments have been made to travel joining info and alternative objectives have been planned, so if necessary we can modify itineraries and if we have to cancel a trip, then we will offer you a full refund or the option to transfer your booking to an alternative trip if places are available.
Finally, if a number of our regular trips are affected by cancellations, we have plans to offer a short notice program of ‘pop up’ trips to open climbing destinations through the summer. Numbers on these trips will be limited and offered first to customers who already have a booking with us; just so you know the score!
At the moment, we are understandably answering many questions about our booking, cancellation and refund policies – so from the outset, we’d like to re-assure you that if we have to cancel your trip due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Uk FCO or within a destination country, then we will offer a full refund of all fees paid to Alpine Guides.
Financial Security Through our membership of ABTOT, all of our package holidays are fully insured and fully compliant will all UK/EU Package Travel Regulations – please see our Financial Protection page for more information.
Flexibility We are now in an improving situation as vaccines roll out and we have contingency planning in place for all of the holidays on our program, in order to keep trips running in as wide a range of scenarios as possible. Adjustments have been made to travel joining info and alternative objectives have been planned, so if necessary we can modify itineraries with the agreement of the group and if we have to cancel a trip then we will offer you a full refund, or you can transfer your booking to an alternative trip if places are available.
Finally, if a number of our regular trips are affected by cancellations, we have plans to offer a short notice program of ‘pop up’ trips to open climbing destinations through the summer (eg if the Alps are closed, but we can travel to Greece or Norway, we have trips planned to these destinations instead). Numbers on these trips will be limited and offered first to customers who already have a booking with us; ie we will do everything we can to keep you climbing.
Below you will find some common FAQ’s regarding Covid-19. If you have any other questions not answered below, please get in touch.
*Refunds include all package holiday/guiding fees paid to Alpine Guides. We cannot offer compensation for cancelled flights or other travel/logistical costs, but these may be covered by your own holiday insurance.
Please refer to our booking conditions for full terms and conditions.
New Participation Requirements
Following guidelines set by our UK and International guiding federations and in compliance with government regulations, we have adopted new Covid secure operating protocols. If you would like to join us, then you need to understand and accept our new participation requirements as detailed below. Although the risk of contracting Covid 19 whilst mountaineering is extremely low, these requirements will help us to climb safely and stay within government regulations in the countries where we operate. The key requirements are summarised below:
- If you are required to self isolate during the dates of your booking (eg due to developing Covid-19 symptoms, testing positive, being exposed to someone who has symptoms and/or has tested positive, recently returning from a high risk area etc) then you must not attend! You must engage with your government test and trace program and complete the period of self isolation.
- Bring your own food and drink, sun cream, clothing and technical equipment where possible.
- Bring a Covid Kit with you (face mask, hand sanitiser – more details below) and eye protection such as sunglasses.
- For single day trips, meet at car parks or lift stations to avoid/minimise car sharing.
- Maintain 2m separation as much as possible and be prepared to use mitigation techniques such as use of face coverings and sunglasses, in situations where separation is difficult to maintain.
- Be prepared to be a bit more ‘self sufficient’ on the hill – eg taking responsibility for sorting out minor problems that a guide would normally quickly offer to help with.
- Take ownership of any small personal medical problems, such as blisters, minor grazes etc.
- Adopt a flexible approach and be prepared to adjust plans to avoid over crowding – eg avoiding popular routes or huts/cable cars at popular times, reduce time spent on summits etc.
- Understand that mountain rescue teams currently need to take increased precautions, which may increase response times to an incident.
- Should you become ill within 14 days of spending time with us, we need to be informed.
For Uk guiding and single day bookings, you need to make your own travel arrangements and be able to meet your guide at the car park, in order to avoid car sharing.
For multi-day bookings and courses, car sharing may be undertaken if local regulations allow.
For travel to overseas destinations, please plan plenty of extra time into your travel itinerary and make yourself fully aware of any special requirements at airports, airlines, borders etc by visiting their respective websites and plan accordingly. For country specific information within the EU visit: Reopen EU and for information for Uk travellers worldwide visit: Uk Government Travel Advice.
Accommodation providers (both valley accommodation and mountain huts) need to comply with local Covid regulations, which may mean changes to occupancy rates, meal arrangements and other services (eg bars, communal areas etc).
If you want to maintain maximum social distancing during your trip, we recommend considering self contained valley accommodation as an option, even if you plan to eat out for evening meals.
Using Alpine Huts In order to reopen safely, Alpine huts have made a number of changes to their routines and sleeping arrangements. You now need to take the following personal items with you to each hut:
- Covid Kit (see below)
- Towel, soap
- Garbage bag (small bin bag or ziplock bag)
- Footwear (crocs, flip flops)
- Sheet Sleeping Bag Liner (with integrated pillow cover, or bring one)
For bedding, you need to take a sleeping bag liner. Sleeping bag liners are mandatory in all huts, with duvets and pillows still provided. The odd Italian hut require you to take your own sleeping bag (eg the Torino Hut) – we will tell you if this is needed and we also have a few spares.
At the moment we need to adopt a flexible approach to mountain objectives, so be prepared to adjust itineraries in order to avoid problems such as over crowding – eg avoiding popular routes or huts/cable cars at popular times, reduce time spent on summits etc.
For bigger objectives, we need to know that conditions on the mountain are good and that the chosen objective is comfortably within your ability level.
Kit and Personal Equipment
In order to avoid sharing kit on the hill, use of communal equipment will be kept to an absolute minimum (ie for climbing, just the rope and essential climbing safety kit). All participants must bring their own:
• Lunch, Drink and Snacks.
• Covid Kit – hand sanitizer, face mask, protective gloves,
• Basic Personal First Aid Kit – blister kit, plasters, alcoholic wipes etc (the guide will have a 1st Aid kit for emergency use only)
• Sun Glasses, Sun Cream etc.
• Outdoor Clothing appropriate for any conditions.
• Specialist Equipment if possible (harness, helmet, boots for climbing etc.)
• Hut Bedding if staying in Alpine Huts – sheet sleeping bag liner
• Hut Footwear if staying in Alpine Huts – crocs, flip flops, hotel slippers.
In Summary – in addition to your regular kit, you need to bring a Covid Kit, Small Personal First Aid Kit, all your own Technical Equipment if possible (see further info below) and Bedding and Indoor Footwear if you are using alpine huts.
Covid Kit: face mask, protective gloves, hand sanitizer
Technical Climbing Equipment
For Uk rock climbing and mountaineering, if you own your own technical climbing equipment – ie a helmet, harness, rock shoes, belay device with locking carabiner, nut key, 120cm sling with locking carabiner, prussick loop for abseiling – then please use your own equipment on the trip. Otherwise, we have a supply of loan equipment that you are welcome to borrow – please note that supplies are limited, so you must let us know if you need to borrow any kit when you book. As normal, the Guide will provide all ropes and climbing protection equipment (nuts, cams, quickdraws etc).
For Ice Climbing, Alpine Mountaineering and Scottish Winter Climbing, try to provide all of your own technical equipment if possible – ie all items on the kit list. We still have some hire kit available, but less than normal due to the requirement to disinfect equipment between users. If you need to hire kit – please advise us right away, so we can confirm availability and plan accordingly.
What to Expect on your Trip
Briefings will take place at a venue where social distancing is possible and may be held outdoors. In some circumstances, briefings may take place over the phone. For kit checks, expect the Guide to be less ‘hands on’ than normal – eg if a piece of personal equipment needs adjusting, they may demonstrate and ask you to make the adjustment yourself and verify that it’s done correctly. Please bear with us – we are all having to do things a little differently now!
Personal Clothing and Equipment You need to make sure you have everything you will need for the day – ie avoid sharing food, water, sun cream, clothing, personal equipment etc. Please double check you have everything with you before setting off each morning and make sure you have sufficient clothing for any weather, not just the bluebird forecast..
Mountain Infrastructure Expect to see various different arrangements at car parks, huts and cable cars – eg reduced capacity and face masks required in cable cars, huts serving meals at two sittings etc. Regular hand washing and observing social distancing are especially important in indoor settings and anywhere there are lots of people about for significant periods of time.
Gearing Up Throughout the trip, you need to be as ‘self sufficient’ as possible, as the Guide is required to be less ‘hands on’ than normal when it comes to sorting out minor problems – eg practice tying on, putting your campons on correctly and taking in coils a few times before the trip!
Teaching Sessions Please try and use as much of your own personal kit as possible – if you are issued with kit on a course, keep it for the duration and don’t swap or share it with other students. Teaching sessions are pretty much as normal: the Guide will typically explain and demonstrate a skill, then coach and allow you to practice in a controlled environment. When movement coaching, we may use a rope more instead of ‘spotting’ to safeguard against hazards.
On the Climb Mountaineering is a well ventilated(!) outdoor sport, so the risk of transmission is very low and the virus is not likely to persist for long at altitude, due to high UV levels. Nevertheless, we favour routes with large ledges/spacious belays and avoid ones with constricted belays – in some instances, your guide may construct 2 belays: a slightly higher one that they will use and a lower (more comfortable!) one that you can clip into when you arrive. In situations where distancing at belays is difficult, be prepared to adopt other measures such as use of sunglasses, face coverings etc.
On multi pitch climbs we will try to maintain a rope length gap between teams, in order to avoid sharing belays – but obviously this is dependant on teams moving a similar speeds. When passing other teams in either direction, be prepared to manoeuvre around one another whilst maintaining a safe and respectful distance – ie much as normal!
Mountain Safety If at any point on the climb, there is a conflict between maintaining social distancing and mountain safety, then mountain safety will always be maintained as an absolute priority. We will plan ahead for such eventualities and where possible, adopt mitigation measures.
Alpine Huts Please see our accommodation section above for info about extra kit needed when visiting alpine huts. Hut routines have been modified to comply with new regulations, so expect to use hand sanitisers and wear face masks inside the hut, there may be two sittings at meal times, take your rubbish back to the valley etc.
Minor Medical Issues You need to be equipped and prepared to take personal responsibility for small medical problems such as blisters, small cuts and grazes etc. The Guide will be carrying a first aid kit as normal, but this is reserved for emergency use only.
At the End of the Trip If you experience any Covid symptoms within 14 days of returning home, then we need to be informed.