- 07-07-2020 – Accommodation, Kit and What to Expect sections (info on using Alpine Huts).
- 03-07-2020 – Alpine Guiding and Travel sections (latest government announcements).
Hi Everyone – I hope you are all staying fit and well and weathering the storm… As lockdown measures are now being eased, we are resuming guiding activities with new safety protocols in order to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid 19 and manage the current services available in the mountains.
Following guidelines set by our Uk and International guiding federations and in compliance with government regulations, we have developed new Covid secure operating protocols and are working closely with our guides and suppliers in order to ensure everything is in place to keep you safe. 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 are mandatory requirements that must be adhered to, in order for us to climb/ski safely and within new government regulations in the countries where we operate.
New Participation Requirements
In order to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid 19, we have introduced new operating protocols that we must all adhere to, alongside local regulations in the countries where we operate. The key requirements are summarised below:
- If you or any of your household are required to self isolate due to Covid 19 symptoms (or exposure to someone with symptoms) during the dates of your booking, 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, protective gloves, hand sanitiser – more details below) and eye protection such as sunglasses.
- For single day trips, meet at car parks 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 may be slower than normal to respond, or may not be able to respond immediately to an incident.
- Should you become ill within 14 days of spending time with us, we need to be informed.
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 (or any other reason), then we will offer you a full cash refund for all parts of your package holiday within 14 days. We did this for all of our ski trips affected by lockdowns and travel restrictions during March and April and we were one of only a small number of Uk travel companies to do so, whilst still honouring all of our contracts with guides and suppliers. Should any trip have to be cancelled in the future, we will continue to do exactly the same, as the law requires.
Like our insurers and the travel industry in general, we monitor the latest Uk Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Advice regarding international travel. If a destination is currently subject to restrictions, but these may be lifted prior to departure date, we follow established travel industry practice and make a decision at a minimum of 21 days before departure. Where a destination is ‘open’ for travel, but becomes subject to restrictions within 21 days of departure, we may have to cancel a trip at short notice. As the last few months have shown, the situation can change very quickly, but whenever possible we try and make decisions as far in advance as possible.
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. Please refer to our booking conditions for full terms and conditions.
Rock Guiding in the UK
We are now rock climbing guiding in England with individual clients, or a maximum of 2 people from the same household or social bubble. Currently we are offering this service in the Peak District, Yorkshire and the Lake District.
In due course (hopefully from mid July), we anticipate being able to commence guiding in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as their own governments further ease lockdown measures.
Contact Us here to make an enquiry!
Alpine Guiding and Courses
Our early season Alpine courses in June and July have been rescheduled to alternative dates in the final 2 weeks of August and throughout September.
People in England are now allowed to travel to a large number of countries with low Covid infection rates (the full list is here) without facing a quarantine on returning home and all countries on this list are now exempt from FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This means that we can resume guiding in these countries and all of the Alpine nations are included 🙂
The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Assemblies are due to announce their own plans regarding international travel in the next few days.
We are now taking bookings for guiding in the Alps, with start dates commencing 10th July onwards.
Ski Season 2021
Our 2021 Ski Program is up online and we are taking bookings for the winter 2021 ski season as normal. At the moment, we are advising people not to book flights or make other travel arrangements, until the travel outlook for winter 2021 becomes clearer.
If it is not possible to run a trip, then we will offer you a prompt full cash refund, exactly as we did for all customers affected by trip cancellations this year.
We already have 12 ski trips in March-April next winter confirmed and nearly full, as many people decided to roll their bookings over to 2021, or received a refund and then re-booked – we really appreciate this and look forward to seeing you on tour next winter!
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 with additional mitigation measures such as the use of face masks, 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.
NB Due to the requirement in many countries to now wear face masks on public transport, aircraft and indoor spaces, we recommend that you always carry a face mask with you whenever you are out and about on your trip – as failure to have one may lead to denial of entry or boarding.
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)
- Bedding (lightweight sleeping bag, sheet sleeping bag liner)
For bedding, you need to take a sleeping bag liner and a lightweight sleeping bag (a 1 season bag is fine). Sleeping bag liners are mandatory in all huts, but some huts are still providing duvets and others require you to take your own sleeping bag – your guide will tell you what you need to take to each hut.
NB If you don’t own a lightweight sleeping bag and just want to get something cheap and reasonably light for the trip – then a Snugpack Travelpak 1 will be fine; you can buy one for £30 online, or hire one from outdoorhire.co.uk for £10/week.
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.)
• Liquid Chalk for rock climbing
• Hut Bedding if staying in Alpine Huts – sheet sleeping bag liner, lightweight sleeping bag.
• 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, Liquid Chalk if you are rock climbing, Bedding and Indoor Footwear if you are using alpine huts and all your own Technical Equipment if possible (see further info below).
Covid Kit: face mask, protective gloves, hand sanitizer
Liquid Chalk for rock climbing
Why Liquid Chalk? At the present time we recommend using liquid chalk rather than traditional dry chalk, as it has a high isopropyl alcohol content, so acts as a disinfectant. In a number of countries where we operate, use of liquid chalk for rock climbing is strongly recommended and in some cases it is mandatory.
Technical Climbing Equipment
For Uk rock guiding, you need to bring all of your own technical climbing equipment – ie a helmet, harness, rock boots, belay device with locking carabiner, nut key, 120cm sling with locking carabiner, prussick loop for abseiling. In addition, please bring liquid chalk and gloves for belaying/changeovers. As normal, the Guide will provide all ropes and climbing protection equipment (nuts, cams, quickdraws etc).
For Alpine Mountaineering, try to provide all of your own technical equipment if possible – ie all items on the kit list. We still have hire kit available in Chamonix, but less than normal due to the requirement to disinfect everything between users. This means that we have to rotate multiple sets of kit, which means less is available at any one time. If you need to hire kit – please advise us right away, so we can confirm availability and plan accordingly.
Disinfection of Climbing Equipment after use is now a necessary precaution. The easiest way to do this is to quarantine your kit for 72 hours – ideally, just hang it up somewhere dry and well lit. Alternatively, kit can be washed (slings and ropes can be done in a washing machine, metal items in a sink) and dried, or treated with disinfectant. A list of links for manufacturers disinfection recommendations can be found here – unfortunately, equipment manufacturers are all recommending different procedures for washing and disinfectant use, so the simplest universal technique is a 72hr quarantine.
What to Expect on your Trip
Briefings will take place at a venue where social distancing is possible and will ideally 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, rather than helpfully doing it for you, 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 no sharing of 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 several 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 from breath droplets 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 such as wearing a mask/face covering, eyewear, gloves and disinfecting hands/exposed items as frequently as possible.
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 several 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 any hire kit will be retrieved, bagged securely and put into quarantine. Likewise, you need to wash your clothing and quarantine your own kit for 72 hours. If you experience any Covid symptoms within 14 days of returning home, then we need to be informed.