Here is a (long) list of important things to keep record of both before your visit and while traveling to Europe.
I like to meet in the evening prior to the start of the trip to ensure everything is set to go. Usually we can do this at your hotel. We can discuss this once you are signed up for your dream trip.
My Contact Details
It may be best to try my email first francis.kelsey(at)gmail.com
Cell Phones: +49(0)172970 8112 (Germany - home)
There are basically only 3 different airports that are useful for the programs I offer in Europe - Geneva, Zurich and Munich. Since most of my programs have something to do with Chamonix, Geneva is the usually the preferred destination. However, many people add travels plans to the front or tail end of their journey, so please don’t hesitate to ask questions.
The easiest way to get to Chamonix is via one of the numerous shuttle services running between the Geneva Airport and Chamonix. See my Chamonix link above for the details.
If you are coming or going to a location in Switzerland, like Zermatt or Grindelwald from the Geneva Airport, then the train or car rental makes more sense.
It is usually best to bring some cash to start with but ATMs can be found almost everywhere and they usually offer a decent exchange rate.You'll get Euros in all the Alpine countries except Switzerland, which is holding onto their venerable Swiss Franc. Euros will work everywhere even in Switzerland where they still use their beloved franc. However they will give you a horrendous rate if you try and pay with Euros in Switzerland. Credit cards are usually accepted just about everywhere other than some mountain huts. Visa and Mastercard are the preferred choice.
Traveling by rail in Europe is actually pretty cool. The trains go just about everywhere. There are lots of them, they are almost always on time and pretty clean. Unless you really want to rent a car, take a train and sit back and enjoy the views.
French Railways SNCF web site - http://www.sncf.com/en_EN/flash/
Swiss Federal Railways SFR web site - http://www.sbb.ch/en/index.htm
Discounts on rail travel
The Swiss Half Fare Card is still a great deal at only 99€ Euros. The Swiss Half Fare Card is also good on mountain railways, most lifts and the Post buses. I recommend obtaining one for any stay of a week or longer.
If you really need your independence than perhaps renting a vehicle is the way to go. It is almost always a better idea to rent from the states prior to arrival for better prices. If you are renting a car from Switzerland - let them know you will be travelling to other EU countries! Also be aware that certain countries have tolls, others year long stickers which are mandatory. Between the price of gas and tolls, driving isn’t cheap in Europe.
The often asked question - with a simple answer = get it. The rescue services here in Europe are amazing but they come with a price. However rescue insurance is pretty much just that for the rescue and not for any hospital time and or bills. So to assist with this I recommend you obtain a Carte Neige upon arriving. It costs about 60 Euros but could be worth it’s worth every penny in the event of an emergency. You can also sign up to become a member of the French Alpine Club (CAF) but you will most likely need to show proof of a physical from a french doctor...Another option for Americans is the American Alpine Club, which offers global rescue insurance to its members. You will need to contact the AAC for more information.
For travel insurance check this link. It may be a bit pricey but it is very quick and easy to get and offers good coverage http://www.worldwideinsure.com/international-travel-health-insurance.htm
Equipment/Gear and Buying
I have already included quite a bit of info regarding gear on my equipment page.
Equipment rental is pretty easy in Chamonix or Zermatt. I would not recommend that you try and rent boots though that would be the one item I believe it is worth spending some money on.
Chamonix is the mecca for climbing and skiing so it is only normal that is also the mecca for gearheads. Just about every second shop is a climbing store. If you can’t find it here, it may not exist. Also if you spend above 250 Euros in a single shop on hard goods you are entitled to (if you don’t live in the EU) getting back the VAT which is a hefty 21%. Prices are therefore pretty competitive.
Guided climbing and the perhaps not so obvious advantages on hiring a guide
Climbing with a guide in the Alps is a long honoured tradition. Guides have been leading “visitors” around and up peaks since the late 1700‘s. All guides must be fully IFMGA/UIAGM certified to work in the Alps. That means they all take their job very seriously and for the vast majority are very good at what they do. This very important certification is difficult to obtain and it is the highest level of certification available. Anything less would be like going to a 3rd world country for an operation by an unqualified doctor. Additionally, a “mountain guide” is able to take you anywhere in the mountains on any type of terrain, winter or summer, rain or shine.
Get to Work
A guide's job involves more than bringing you to the into the mountains and back again. A guide should be able to do so with not just style and in a safe manner but also by adding his or her personal flavor to the experience. By that I mean each guide is an individual and each one is different. Each one will have a (hopefully) slightly different way that they go about sharing their time spent with you. This should mean that you not only enjoy your time spent in the mountains but that you also come back having learned something about them and that you are able to bring this back to your own personal part of the world.
Of course guides are also there to help you avoid the many hazards found in the high peaks and allow you to focus on living the moment and enjoying yourself.
Since almost everything I do is customised to a certain point, it is totally up to you to decide what your definition of enjoyment means to you. For some that could be hanging by your finger nails on the limit, for others it means reaching a certain summit and for some just the fact of being up high is enough to bring forth big happy smiles. Whatever your idea of having a good time is, I will do my best to ensure you get there.
One of the primary objectives of any guide is in keeping you safe by trying to manage risk. This might mean using different techniques learned through courses and many, many years of experience. Regardless of the guide, we can never totally eliminate all risk but by using good judgement, climbing skillfully and in good time we can help minimise risks. During your time spent with me, you will undoubtedly have the opportunity to discuss how and when I put these crucial decisions into play. I enjoy being able to share my experience with you and hope to enlighten you with my knowledge of the mountains.
Most summertime guests come with a very particular goal in mind: ie - a summit. Some of the more popular ones like the Matterhorn or Mont Blanc. In the winter, visitors often want to ski a particular line or peak or complete a week long ski tour.
With these defined goals come huge rewards should the conditions allow for a successful ascent or decent. However, having a “hit list” can also mean disappointment should a particular peak or run not be “in condition”. I suggest that you come with goals if you like but that you also come with a good frame of mind and more importantly a flexible one in the event we are unable to complete that specific goal. I will always suggest other possibilities in the event our plan A doesn’t work out. This is one of the main advantages in hiring me as your guide = complete flexibility.
Training - How to do it
link to a non-exhaustive list here...