We hope you are well, and staying healthy, fit and safe. Rest assured that we are monitoring the latest news developments, safety advice, and travel regulations, all the time. In this blog, we’ll keep you up to date with how our policies and advice change. Our total focus is on your safety and enjoyment. We hope this page helps to answer any of your trip queries. Stay safe, and we wish you all the best!
The Icicle Team
Below each COVID-19 post, is what you’ve been searching for all along – the dire situation regarding Cumbria’s toilet rolls, and our secret stash…
25 August 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
THE NUMBERS – Thursday night has become an exciting fixture on our schedule, for screen watching as the UK government announces who’s been kicked off the exempt from quarantine list. This week it could be Switzerland that is first affected, as numbers have reached the UK threshold of 20 / 100,000. If this occurs, then anyone who flys into Geneva airport could be affected, so if quarantine is not an option, and your course objective is not in Switzerland (i.e. Autonomy or Mont Blanc), then as per our post back on 16 August, you should have contacted us already to discuss this option, and to adapt / book to fly into Turin or Milan, and to stay in our alternative course base in Courmayeur in Italy. This upgrade is to better standard accommodation, based in a comfy hotel in Courmayeur, and following the Italian option, you save massively on cable car costs, as you only need a ticket on the Monday.
THE ITALIAN JOB – Italy currently has lower cases per 100,000, than the UK or Germany, and certainly far lower than other Alpine countries including France, Switzerland, and Austria. Apart from Swiss based objectives such as Matterhorn and Dufourspitze, the ‘Italian Solution’ offers travellers a higher level of certainty that they can still complete their Alpine course this summer season, in the next final two weeks, namely the 30 Aug – 05 Sept, and the 06 – 12 Sept 2020.
SWITZERLAND – If the UK removes Switzerland from the FCO exempt list, travellers who fly out of Geneva, would have to do a 14 day quarantine upon return to the UK, if flying directly. While this is not sure yet, the numbers are heading in that direction, so it is increasingly likely. If you are on a Swiss objective course (e.g. the Matterhorn or Dufourspitze), and you are insured, and are happy to quarantine upon return to the UK, your course can go ahead in Switzerland, without a visit to France. The reason for this is that there is an increasing possibility of a quarantine for travellers between France and Switzerland being announced in the coming days. If you are on a Swiss objective course, get in contact to discuss options.
ORIGINAL? – If none of the above detailed restrictions come into force, and you are happy to attend your course exactly as per the main itinerary, then it can go ahead exactly as originally planned, as long as you have insurance cover for your mountain activities and any medical costs. We just wanted to alert you to all the options available of quarantine upon return to the UK is not an option for you. Also, as yet there’s been no sign of the French reciprocating to the quarantine for UK arrivals, that was mentioned weeks ago.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Well, it’s nearly the end of the Summer Alpine season, and the shops in Chamonix have sold far less toilet roll than this week on normal years, when 10,000 UTMB runners have nervously awaited the race departures!
19 August 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
QUARANTINE – We’ve contacted everyone still due to travel this summer, with options to consider, from whether they can attend the original course (if not breaching FCO advice), and contemplate quarantine. Other options have included staying in exempt countries such as Switzerland or Italy. If you haven’t responded yet, please do! There’s a glimmer of good news that the traveller quarantine on return from France, is soon to be replaced by COVID testing for air passengers, as reported on the front page of the Telegraph today (link). This news isn’t official yet, but rumours about it, allied with a lack of reciprocal French quarantine being instated, lend credibility to it, and the cabinet is reportedly discussing it next week. This news could mean that all those on courses in late August and September, could with luck not have to consider a quarantine, and their course could operate exactly as planned. Obviously this is a highly dynamic and fast evolving situation and story, but it might be the glimmer of good news that we had all hoped for. With this in mind, next week (23-29 August) could be the only remaining week of this summer season that UK travellers are affected by the potential of quarantine, upon returning home, if their trip visited the French Alps. Fingers crossed!
TOILET ROLL NEWS – On the same newspaper front page, they saw a photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg licking an ice cream. They’re scared in case it made anyone feel sick, and they bolt for the toilet!
16 August 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
FRANCE QUARANTINE – The news broke two nights ago, that the UK government has removed France from the list of Alpine countries on the list of those exempt from FCO advisories against all but essential international travel. This means that from tomorrow, 4am on Saturday, all those returning from the French Alps will have to enter a two week self-isolation quarantine in the UK. At present, other Alpine countries nearby, including Switzerland and Italy, are unaffected by this new. France government officials have stated that the UK’s decision would lead to ‘reciprocal measures’, and it is perhaps expected that a two week quarantine would be expected for UK travellers entering France too, though this is not confirmed yet. BBC story; link.
OUR TEAM GUARANTEE – We currently have a logistics team in the Alps, from the UK, and they will stay there until every single one of our clients, current or prospective, has safely travelled home. We will not run away and abandon our guests, and our team will have to quarantine when they return to the UK.
IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES – It is our immediate priority today to focus solely on those who are already in the French Alps, to facilitate their swift return to the UK, if they require. Our secondary focus today will be on those who intend(ed) to travel to the Alps this weekend, as there may be changes of your plans.
MONDAY 17 AUGUST – Once the weekend is over, and our current guests have safely travelled, our focus can then move to assisting those with a trip planned the following week and beyond. We will engage with you from Monday 17 August about your trips, and plans we can propose for them, e.g. a Matterhorn trip could operate exclusively in Switzerland, without a need to visit France, etc. Before Monday, if you aren’t on a trip that is due to start before 22 August 2020, please hold off contacting us (phone / email / social media message). We all need far more detail to emerge, especially the potential French reciprocal measures, before we can have a meaningful discussion. If anyone contacts us before then, they’re sadly hampering our efforts today and over this weekend, to assist those currently travelling.
THE ITALIAN SOLUTION – At present, the cases per 100,000 in Italy are promisingly low, so for courses where you do not need to enter France, or risk flying into Switzerland (which has a higher number of cases), the obvious solution is to fly into Italy, landing at either Turin or Milan airports. If you are on a course that was based in Chamonix, with itinerary options in Italy, then get in contact, and we can transfer your trip to the Italian side, based in Courmayeur, for no extra cost, if you give us enough notice. You’d climb the itinerary options from Italy, so for example the Mont Blanc course could attempt the mountain via the Gonella, as is already outlined in the course itinerary. In this way, you’d still be attempting exactly the same objective, by one of the advertised routes, and most importantly wouldn’t be in breach of any FCO travel advisory, so not invalidate your insurance. Not only would you benefit from an accommodation upgrade, but would also save on cable car tickets as you’d only need one on the Monday.
POSITION – Our position has not changed from before, in that courses will continue to operate, for those who elect to (and can legally) travel, as we have many other clients unaffected by the UK quarantine decision.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – “Oh Merde!” was the headline on The Sun newspaper, that saw a man reading across the street. They’re scared. They know what that means!
12 August 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
👍📋 GOT INSURANCE? – Like many of you, we’re waiting impatiently for the UK government to announce if it will bring in quarantine for travellers returning from France and other Alpine countries or not. The FT article thinks, we’re OK at least for this week (link), whereas New Scientist is more cautious (link), but no one is certain. With a potentially imminent government announcement, if you haven’t got insurance yet, get it right NOW. Here’s the key elements to check you have cover for;
- Rescue & Medical – It is always essential to obtain activities insurance to cover you for the unexpected, whilst on your holiday, and for a refund if you were to injure yourself before your trip, that would stop you attending. Full details of what you should obtain cover for are detailed here; link.
- Quarantine / FCO advisory – If you are in a country that suddenly imposes a quarantine on return and / or quarantine upon entry to an Alpine country, your shared course will still be going ahead to other participants, so if you are not in a position to attend, for personal reasons, ensure that you get cover for this. If quarantine(s) are in place the UK FCO would likely instigate a travel advisory for ‘all but essential travel’, in which case you should be able to make an insurance claim for travel disruption, and should not attempt to travel.
- Cancellation – If we (Icicle) cancel your Summer 2020 Alpine course, this would only be in event of mountain activities being prohibited in the Alps, which would only realistically happen in a new lockdown in Alpine countries. In this case, we would refund your full course fee. An FCO advisory would be in place, in this least likely scenario, and you should have insurance cover to claim your extra costs such as flights, airport transfers, hire kit, etc. from.
Read our previous posts below, for details of insurance companies, some of which now offer cover for COVID / FCO restrictions etc. (e.g. Nationwide Flex Plus insurance; link). This year it may not be a case of getting one single policy, but assessing your cover needs, and perhaps getting more than one. A normal adventurous activities policy should cover your needs off the mountain, and consider getting an extra policy to provide you cover for a claim for the trip if you cannot attend it due to sudden quarantine and / or changed FCO advice.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – If you haven’t arranged good travel insurance cover, it’ll be ‘squeaky bum time’ at yours. Our toilet rolls are laughing, but then they think of the carnage happening to their fellow rolls, and the smiles turn to worried frowns!
07 August 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
✅✈️ ALPS IS OPEN – All main Alpine summer season is well underway, with many successful ascents of the major peaks including; Mont Blanc (see above), Eiger, Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and Dent du Geant, to name but a few. For UK travellers, visits to France, Switzerland, and Italy, are all open for unrestricted travel, and no quarantines! Keep an eye on the UK Government approved countries list; link.
👍📋 INSURANCE – Insurance companies are now moving up a few gears, with several now offering cover for COVID / FCO restrictions etc. New policies we’ve been alerted to include;
Note that we are not on a commission or referral benefit system for any insurance policy mentioned, and these are for your information, rather than recommendations, but it seems the policies are now out there providing cover that was previously unavailable. For activities insurance details, click here.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – We’re still keeping our Windermere shop closed for walk in sales, but are processing online orders. The toilet rolls are safe!
27 July 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
✅✈️ ALPS IS OPEN – All our Alpine trips this summer are in France, Switzerland, and Italy, which are all open for unrestricted travel, and no quarantines! You can keep an eye on the UK Government approved list of countries here; link.
⛑😷 COVID AWARE – As our main Alpine season gets underway, we have done a vast amount of work, to risk assess all our procedures, and make our trips highly COVID aware. All trip participants will be e-mailed full details at least a week before travel, to outline a summary of our plans (see image above), to help mitigate risks as far as possible. Key extra items that you should take for your trip, especially for stays in mountain huts and shared accommodation, are detailed below. It is obligatory that you travel with these, as you cannot even check in without;
✔️ Face mask – for use in all public places (take x2)
✔️ Medical gloves – take x2 pairs in a First Aid kit
✔️ Hand sanitiser – gels x2 (1 for rucksack, 1 valley)
✔️ Plastic bag – for used kit if it needs quarantine
✔️ Personal First Aid kit – carry at all times, stocked with medical gloves, blister kit, and some plasters
✔️ Mountain huts – take sleeping bag liner & pillowcase, and flip flops / crocs
👍📋 INSURANCE – If you’re travelling to the Alps this summer, and haven’t got travel insurance cover, sort it today! More details, click here, which features good activities and travel insurance policies, that you can get to cover you, in event of you cancelling due to changes in travel advice. If you’re unsure about exactly what any existing policy cover offers you, please contact your insurers. We’ve just learned of a broker now offering Covid overseas medical expenses insurance; link.
🇪🇸🙁 SPAIN – The news that returning UK visitors to Spain will now have to enter into a two week quarantine, has understandably concerned some of our clients. Whilst we have no trips to Spain, people have cited concerns on if any of the Alpine countries were to do the same, if Covid cases rose significantly in those areas. If there was an FCO advisory implemented against all but essential travel to France / Switzerland / Italy, your travel insurance should provide you cover for this, for a refund for the course, flights, etc. Double check with them if you are unsure.
👮♂️💷 FINANCIAL PROTECTION – Previously it’s been taken as a given, but Icicle has always offered the top level of protection for our guests monies. All payments are held in trust (we are members of the Travel Trust Association, and ATOL licence holders), until you return home. In event of company insolvency, all your monies paid are completely protected, and would be refunded; link.
🗓💳 BALANCE PAYMENTS – All remaining Summer Alpine trip balances are now owed in full. To pay, please click on the ‘PAY NOW’ link at the foot of your invoice. Please ensure balances are paid on time, to avoid any late payment charge. We’ve already sent personalised payment chasers to everyone still due to pay. Many thanks for all those who have already paid on time. Thank you!
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Whilst our toilet rolls in Windermere have shamed themselves, we’re glad to report that there’s no shortages in the Alps, and so don’t be afraid!
03 July 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
👩✈️✈️ QUARANTINE – Excellent news emerged last night and today, with the the UK government announcing that travel advisories and quarantine rules will be removed for travellers from 10 July, for 50 countries including France, Italy and Switzerland. The devolved parliaments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have all since indicated that they intend to conform to this too. It was the news we’d all hoped for!
📺🚦 TRAFFIC LIGHTS – A risk system depicted by traffic light colour coding has been introduced, with most European countries on the same Amber level as the UK. This means that from 10 July there’s no quarantine (voluntary or enforced) on entering or leaving those countries and returning to the UK. The full list of exempted countries is listed on the Government website; link.
✅📋 INSURANCE – Now that European travel is soon ready to go, it’s more essential than ever to ensure you have good travel & activities insurance. If you’ve ignored all our advice so far to get it, don’t delay another day! For details of what kind of insurance to get, click here. You should ensure that you get cover for the activities planned for your trip, medical cover, travel insurance, and cancellation cover in case you can’t attend. Again we highlight that normal bank or travel insurance will unlikely be enough cover, and cheaper offers such as AAC does not cover cancellation or repatriation. If you’re not sure about your cover, please contact the company you obtained the insurance through, as they are qualified to advise you.
🗓💳 BALANCE PAYMENTS – For all UK residents booked on a trip in August and September, please note that your trip balances are due 56 days before departure. This means that this Sunday 5 July, all balances are owed for courses starting in August. If you’re on a trip starting 6 September, the payment deadline is 12 July! To pay your balance online, click on the ‘PAY NOW’ link at the foot of your invoice. Please ensure that you pay your balance on time, to avoid any late payment charge. At last we can all now focus on the Alpine season ahead. Excellent new today!
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Our ‘social bubble’ of toilet rolls hasn’t returned to the office, so we have changed the locks and updated the alarm codes. They can now be replaced easily, so good riddance!
30 June 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
🇬🇧✈️ UK NEWS – We’re delighted to share with you the news that several of our travel industry sources cite a possible announcement on air corridors / foreign travel now being made on 3 July. We’ll let you know as soon as the news breaks.
🤷♂️🌍 FCO ADVICE – Keep an eye on the FCO website. Click the image below to link to it. As it currently stands, they advise against all but essential international travel to all countries. If you travel, any insurance is invalidated. Don’t even think about it!
⏰✈️ WAIT AND SEE? – For the remaining few UK residents still on a July trip, if you haven’t already paid your trip balance one month (28 days) before your trip, you now can’t attend it due to your late payment. Anyone still left on a July trip, who is still eligible for a course transfer (same trip, but dates later this summer), should move dates to August or September, to allow realistic time for air corridors to be opened, and to stabilise. Course date transfers are FREE only for those still booked on a July trip.
🗓💳 BALANCE PAYMENTS – With the current travel uncertainties, we have previously reduced the trip balance payment deadline for July trips until one month (28 days) before your trip. All trip departures in August and September retain the standard 56 days trip balance payment deadline.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – The ‘social bubble’ of toilet rolls has mysteriously disappeared overnight, doubtless to illegal outdoor raves, wild camping in the National Park, littering rubbish and starting fires. It seems to be the ‘bang on trend’ thing to do in the Lake District at the moment. We’re sitting crossed legged in the office.
22 June 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
📺🗞 NEWS – In the next few days, we’re hoping the UK Government will make some key announcements regarding social distancing and international travel. We are being inundated by queries about all the possible outcomes of every possible announcement, so in a vacuum of new information, here’s some clarity…
- 🇬🇧🔒 UK lockdown – the UK is still in lockdown, with the next lockdown review due in 3 days time on 25 June, and travel review on 29 June. At present this currently stops any UK course participants travelling to the Alps for a holiday.
- 😷🗓 Quarantine – the French Government currently requires a two week self-isolation quarantine for anyone from the UK entering France; link. In addition the UK requires another two week quarantine upon return. Whilst this decision may be lifted at some stage in the future, both quarantines are not inter-dependent, and it’s time for a long overdue reality check…
- FCO – the UK Foreign Office advises ‘against all but essential international travel‘; link. This means that if their advice is ignored, insurance is invalidated (yours and ours), so you couldn’t attend a course.
- Timescale – with the two week quarantine before a trip, if anyone from the UK is on a trip due in the next two full weeks, they should already be in the Alps. If you aren’t, you couldn’t be accepted on a course.
- Travel – UK travel industry trade bodies, advise that it seems much more realistic that travel to the Alps will be open and unrestricted from the end of July / August. If you’re on a trip in June or July, get in touch quickly, to transfer dates later this summer, and avoid any transfer fees.
⏰✈️ WAIT AND SEE? – A few people have asked us if we can wait and see what happens to travel restrictions, right up to the day(s) before their course. These same people also want the complete flexibility for a free transfer of dates if they can’t attend. We can’t wait that close to a course date, without being liable for elements booked; mountain guides, accommodation, mountain huts, cleaners etc. To be able to still offer you a FREE transfer of course dates (same trip, but dates later this summer season), without incurring costs, we have to operate on a two week rolling timescale from now onwards. For those on a July trip, if you haven’t already paid your trip balance, one month (28 days) before your trip, you can’t attend it. To avoid losing your deposit, contact us quickly to arrange a free transfer of date to the same trip later this summer. For those booked in a trip in August and September, the usual 56 day payment deadline applies.
🤷♂️🌍 GLOBAL SUMMARY – If the UK lockdown and international travel restrictions are not lifted on 25 June, without any announcement to the contrary, the next 28 day (4 week) lockdown review date would be 23 July. It’s time to be realistic; if you’re on a course date in June or July, don’t delay to get in touch, and we will accommodate free transfers to later this summer. We know this will be frustrating, much as we know the UK Government has handled this pandemic appallingly, but we have to do better and make sensible constructive decisions ahead of them, that are realistic and clear.
🗓💳 BALANCE PAYMENTS – With the current travel uncertainties, for those on a trip in July only, we have reduced the trip balance payment deadline until one month (28 days) before your trip. You’ll receive automated payment chasers from our course booking system, with the original 56 days payment deadline. Ignore them. It’s not worth us wasting money to adapt our website. Feel free to press delete. We’ll chase you personally if you’ve not paid your trip balance a day or so before the one month deadline. For all those on a trip in August or September, the standard 56 day deadline for course balance payments (as per your invoice) remains.
✅👍 THE ALPS IS OPEN AND WAITING! – The overriding position is that borders, mountain activities, guiding and infrastructure is now already open in the Alps. International clients who are not restricted from travel, are able to attend their original course dates. If you can’t (or don’t wish to) travel due to your home country travel restrictions, then contact us by e-mail to discuss options.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – The solitary loo roll is looking very sorry at present, but we don’t think they’re preparing for a press conference in Downing Street rose garden, dressed in an ill-fitting white shirt, so they should be fine. To relieve the stress for them, in a moment of weakness, we purchased a four pack of toilet roll (the first delivery for the office since lockdown), so there’s now a ‘social bubble’ of five rolls, on the bathroom window ledge!
03 June 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
📺🗞 NEWS – Today was the date, where the government should have provided clarity for the travel and tourism industries. They’ve been busy, mainly on lockdown breaching road trips, so your travel plans have somewhat slipped down their agenda. Anyway, we’re now able to see with some more clarity, what’s likely in the next few weeks…
- 🇬🇧🔒 UK lockdown – the Government has extended the time between lockdown reviews to four weeks instead of three. The new 28 day maximum review period, means the next review will take place on 25 June, four weeks after the last review on 28 May. As currently travel is largely limited in the UK to going to work, food shopping, and travelling for exercise, this decision stops any UK course participants travelling to the Alps before 25 June at earliest. We have already been in contact with all those affected by this decision.
- 😷🗓 Quarantine – a two week self-isolating quarantine for travellers returning to the UK, is in place from 8 June. Details here; link. The quarantine will be reviewed every three weeks, so the initial period affects trips for those returning up to 29 June. There is currently no indication of whether this initial period might be extended. Add into the equation that France has said that it will add a reciprocal quarantine for any country who applies one to its citizens (link), so anyone travelling to France would have to factor in a two week quarantine there before their holiday, a one week holiday, and two weeks quarantine on return to the UK.
- 🏔🛏 Mountain huts – most FFCAM huts have re-opened from yesterday (link), with busy huts such as the Gouter on Mont Blanc from 13 June. Swiss huts are following a similar approach (link). All huts that are open, are generally reducing capacity to allow for greater social distancing, and the following rules; 1) Only to visit if healthy, 2) Pre-booked stays, 3) Always take sleeping bag liner and pillow case, 4) Take face mask, hand gel, soap, towel, and disinfectant, 5) Take all rubbish back down to the valley.
- 🗓🚠 Cable cars – there’s good news across the Alps, with most cable cars open already, with a full schedule returning soon. For example, here is the Chamonix lifts news; link, with the Aiguille du Midi and Tramway Mont Blanc open daily from 13 June. Full opening of other cable cars and uplift is from 4 July.
🤷♂️🌍 GLOBAL SUMMARY – Things are changing on a country by country basis, both for the Alpine countries you wish to visit, and restrictions from your home country too. As it looks at present, no UK residents can travel before 25 June, as you’re still in lockdown. If it is not lifted on that date, the next lockdown review date would be 23 July. We’ll update this post when there’s any significant news or updates to report.
✅👍 OUR COMMITMENT – The overriding position is that mountain activities, guiding and infrastructure is re-opening in the Alps, and so courses WILL operate for those who can legally (i.e. not getting a lift with Dominic Cummings) travel to them, albeit with adaptions for COVID-19 safety, as most European borders are opening from 15 June. If you can’t (or don’t wish to) travel due to your home country travel restrictions, then contact us by e-mail to discuss options.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – One went on a road trip to Barnard Castle to test its eye sight. Obviously a toilet roll operating heavy machinery at speed, whilst self-assessing how bad their vision is, was not behaviour that we condone. Unlike others, they faced immediate disciplinary action for endangering others, and breaching the lockdown. They were sacked, used in a dirty protest, and flushed away. There’s now just one lonely toilet roll perched on the bathroom window shelf, looking sad but alert. Very alert!
13 May 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
It’s a big update today, so get yourself a cuppa, and settle in for a long read…
CHAMONIX REGION – There’s now a formal statement from the Haute Savoie region of France, now that covers up to and inclusive of 02 June 2020 (link). In this period, people can travel up to 100km of their domicile, and can do day routes in the mountains without overnight stays. All mountain huts are closed, including winter rooms, except in an emergency. Social distancing must happen at all times, except with members of your own household, and a mask should be worn on all public transport. Travel across international borders is not freely open in this period, except in limited circumstances (e.g. repatriation). We cannot predict what will happen after the 2 June 2020, and will update you as soon as the Prefecture and foreign governments next adapt or update their advice. At this stage, it is therefore impossible to advise further if any Chamonix region or other Alpine courses this summer will be affected, and so our new position is that we will wait until 3 June 2020, before any further detail about how our trips are adapted is made. Other Alpine regions have issued almost identical advice, and will also update their statements on the same day.
FLIGHTS – Many people have been in contact, to say that their travel plans might be affected, in order to attend an Alpine course this summer. Most airlines have adapted their schedules, to reduce capacity down to repatriation flights, and limited capacity, until the end of June. EasyJet and British Airways have effectively stopped all flights to the Alps until July, and they are reviewing flight schedules on a 7 day rolling basis. If you’re unsure if your flight is going ahead, contact your airline to check.
DRIVING – Some people have come up with alternative plans to drive out to the Alps. A growing number of EU countries have now stated that quarantine free cross-border travel will be possible from 15 June onwards (link) for people from EU / Schengen countries. Following current UK government advice, it would not be possible to drive to the Channel, as it is not a day trip for exercise, and can only (if applicable) be with a member of your household. You would also not be allowed to enter France, as it would not be travel to a main residence / for essential work / as medical staff (link). This policy will also be reviewed on 2 June. If travel restrictions allow entry to France, and the 100km travel limit is lifted, you may be able to drive. Currently driving to the Alps is not an option.
QUARANTINE – Travellers coming from outside the EU, such as those from the USA, currently have an advertised quarantine period of 2 weeks required, but this advice will also be updated on 2 June. No decision has been made beyond this date, at this stage. Check with your airline and government, regarding your own restrictions on international travel, but you may need to adapt travel plans to accommodate a potential two week quarantine. As no decision from the EU authorities will occur before 2 June, a quick decision will be required from international guests for a trip in mid June. For clients from the UK, Channel Islands, N.Ireland, you should ensure your flight is to France (not currently Switzerland or Italy), and at Geneva airport to arrange airport transfers from the French side. This avoids Swiss- French border crossings, as the airport straddles the frontier. We will update this current situation on 3 June.
ICICLE PLANS – Further to these recent announcements, it is therefore our intent to run all our Summer Alpine courses, and we plan not cancel any. Of course your health and safety are of paramount importance to us, and we already have robust plans in place to safeguard you in accordance with local government advice. At this stage, we don’t know beyond 2 June 2020, if mountain huts will open, how big groups can meet together, how guiding ratios may be affected, or 101 other elements of a course. However, rest assured that if we can run a trip, we will adapt it to ensure it goes ahead in some format, while keeping you as safe as possible. Examples of our plans are;
- 1) Briefings – to potentially be organised into smaller groups, with social distancing, and the wearing of masks by all participants.
- 2) Decontamination – strategies for accommodation cleaning, and communal technical / climbing safety equipment that is used.
- 3) Accommodation – to be adapted for sharing to potentially only be available to partners or members of the same household, with others required to stay in single accommodation, or to source their own.
- 4) Guiding – objectives and itineraries to be adapted to what is sanctioned by the local authorities. Currently in the Alps, there are strong advisories against taking risks in the mountains, and adapting plans to maximise safety, such as avoiding multi-pitch climbs, and small group social distancing. This advice will be updated on 3 June. We have planned our work allocation for our guiding team for those who are already in the Alps, so there is no issue with guides travelling out to lead you.
- 5) Uplift – openings of cable cars / uplift are already announced, and this weekend the Montenvers train, and Aiguille du Midi lift above Chamonix, plan to re-open. Stringent thermal checks, and personal PPE will be required. We are following plans carefully, for how to adapt our advice for using uplift on our summer trips.
Every element of our trips is being scrutinised carefully, and we are working hard to provide our full range of trips this summer. We’re preparing to adapt, as must you, but we want you to know that it’s our intent to operate our summer trips without cancelling them. Trip balance payments are owed 28 days before the start of summer 2020 courses, and you need to pay online for this. Anyone who fails to pay by the deadline who is on a trip that starts on or after 4 July, will sadly be deemed to have cancelled, and will forfeit their trip deposit. Equally, to give you the most manoeuvring room, don’t pay your trip balance before you have to! If you are on a trip that starts before 4 July, we don’t expect any trip balance payments to be paid until after our next update on 3 June, at which stage an announcement will be made as to the timescales for payment for those early season courses. We see no sense, let alone ethics, in asking people to pay a balance before we know a trip can definitely operate.
Hopefully you can see we are putting in a vast amount of work behind the scenes to make things happen safely for you. There are still a few questions commonly asked;
- Can I transfer to 2021? At this stage we’re hoping to run the full summer season. Those on the weeks starting 14 and 21 June have already been offered a free transfer to later in the summer 2020 season. Our position will be reconsidered on 3 June 2020, after the latest government and local advice is provided.
- Can I cancel and be refunded? We are planning to operate the trips, and all bookings are made with a non-refundable deposit.
- Can I claim for cancellation from my insurance? We are not cancelling any trips, but if your home government advises you against foreign travel, you would not be able to attend, so might be able to claim from your travel insurance. There’s generally no cover for COVID-19, but there is often for travel and holiday plans affected by government travel advisories, and we would provide you paperwork for proof of booking / payment, for you to make a claim.
- What about external elements I’ve booked? You will need to contact airlines / transfer companies / hotels, or any providers of externally booked elements you have arranged for your trip, to check what their policies are.
We will publish another update on 3 June, once the Alpine countries have made updated decisions, and not before then unless the news changes significantly. Well done for reading this far. It’s really appreciated, and we hope it puts your mind at ease, that we’re monitoring everything closely, and will adapt to make things happen. If you do have any queries, please e-mail rather than phone us, as we are working from home on a skeleton staff at present.
All the best! Team Icicle
TOILET ROLL NEWS – With the huge influx of visitors into the Lake District National Park today, the toilet rolls are looking a little apprehensive but they’ve read the note on the office door, saying we’re only open for online sales, so they know that for now they are safe.
11 May 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
NEWS – It’s been a very busy last 24 hours of news! We’re still digesting it all, and in the next days will get much more clarification and detail. It seems like very good news for the summer season. Rest assured that we’ll be keeping an eye out on the latest news, and will update you as soon as we can.
UK EXERCISE – Last night’s announcement by the Prime Minister, indicated that from Wednesday, unlimited outdoor exercise will be possible. Further clarifications are being provided by the government today. This will be welcome news for all those who want to increase their training before a trip this summer. To help you get ready, we have produced a detailed range of training plans (link), from a last minute 3 week booster, right up to elite level of training. There’s something to suit everyone.
ALPS UPDATE – Today the lockdown in France was lifted, to allow people to exercise in the mountains again, within a 100km radius of where they live (link). Swiss Alpine Club huts can also re-open from today (link). France is expected to be exempted from the air travel quarantine, and for returning travellers (link). These are small steps, but the messages are all positive at present. Good news.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Following the speech by BoJo last night, the toilet rolls are confused. Maybe they’re safe, maybe they’re not. Anyway, rest assured they’re staying home, and they look very alert.
27 April 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
PAYMENTS FOR SUMMER – Normally our Terms & Conditions (link) state that trip balances are owed 56 days (c.2 months) before your trip. Due to the pandemic, we are making a specific variance for this Summer 2020 season, so trip balances are now only owed 4 weeks (28 days) before travel. Please note that you need to pay by this deadline, or you would automatically lose your course space and deposit. This new payment deadline is designed to allow flexibility for changing government advice, and to give you more breathing room for payments, in what has been a financially tough time for many. Also, if it helps, you can make your balance payments online in instalments to suit your financial situation. We’re trying to be as flexible as possible to help you!
GUIDING UPDATE – Italian mountain guides have just been informed that they will be able to return to work from 1 June 2020. Other guiding associations are expected to follow suit soon. Good news.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – On the office radio, the toilet rolls heard BoJo stating it was time to get the engines started. It was unclear to them if he was referring to the economy, or his lower colon. They look scared again.
19 April 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
SUMMER TRIPS – Now we know lockdown has been extended in the UK, some people might be questioning the viability of their summer trips. Across the European countries where Coronavirus took hold sooner, we are starting to see a slow loosening of the lockdown rules, and so there is growing optimism of returning to the mountains soon. Airlines are now selling tickets to Europe from mid-June, so there is hope that this is now a realistic timescale. At this stage we are hoping that our full summer Alpine season will operate, however some people have raised queries that are applicable to all…
- CANCELLED – Are summer Alpine courses cancelled at all? NO. To be cautious, we’ve offered those on the first week of season (14-20 June), a FREE transfer of dates to later this summer season.
- TRANSFERS – Can I transfer dates anyway? MAYBE. If you request a change of dates, and availability and logistics (e.g. pre-booked hut spaces in Gouter on Mont Blanc) allow, contact us and we’ll do our very best to try and help. We are limiting the transfers of dates to within this summer season.
- REFUNDS – Can I bin my summer course and be refunded? NO. At this stage, no Alpine countries have extended lockdown to include the summer months. If this stays the case, regardless of if your country allows you to travel, the course could still go ahead, so you would be ineligible for any refund. In other words, a change of heart from you has cost implications for us. If you do wish to cancel, please refer to our terms of booking (link) for the timescales and levels of fees for cancellation.
- EXTENSIONS – Can I cancel extra elements of a trip? MAYBE. It will depend if we have incurred cost in booking these elements for you, and the timescale on which you request to cancel them. For example, if you’re cancelling a Matterhorn extension a two months before the trip, we’ll have booked a guide (and therefore committed to pay them) and booked and paid a significant deposit for a mountain hut, which would not be refundable.
- UNFIT – Lockdown has made me unfit. Can I cancel? NO. Any of you who are furloughed, or working from home, have absolutely no excuses at all for not being fitter than ever! Our guide team have produced home fitness workouts specifically designed to boost mountain fitness (Trail Magazine, Everest Anywhere fitness plans and exercises). If that doesn’t suit, put on your trainers, and go out for a run NOW. Here’s our training planners and advice section (link).
- INSURANCE – Will my insurance cover me if I cancel? IT SHOULD DO. When you booked, you agreed to obtain travel and activities insurance, and this should cover you for any cancellation you have to make, as a result of not being able to attend your booked trip, due to FCO advice. If you want to double check, or obtain insurance, now is the time to get it sorted!
TOILET ROLL NEWS – With a lockdown extension, the lonely two toilet rolls were seen celebrating in the office toilet window, as I ran past on my state mandated daily exercise.
02 April 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
NEWS – We hope that lockdown is treating you well, and that you are surviving home working / furlough, or hat’s off to you if you’re a key worker or NHS super-hero! We were going to post an update yesterday, but remembered it was April Fools day at the last moment, and didn’t want anyone to get confused.
SUMMER TRIPS – If you have a summer Alpine trip booked in mid June with us (only until 20 June 2020), we can offer a FREE transfer of dates to later this summer season, if you are worried about your trip, subject to availability. If you want to investigate options for this, please e-mail us.
FITNESS – Unless you work for the NHS or are a key worker, there’s absolutely no excuse for letting your mountain fitness slip during lockdown. Whether you’re exercising in your underpants in front of Joe Wicks (link) on TV, or are getting your state sanctioned daily dose of running, there’s plenty of scope for keeping fit. A runner even completed a half-marathon on his balcony (link). In the next days, we’re going to post about how to keep mountain fit whilst in lockdown, and will share the advice here, and on our social media channels.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – One week of lockdown is done, so they’re in the last two weeks of their lives, unless there’s an extension. Their jubilation has worn off, and they’re staring forlornly out of the window.
23 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
LOCKDOWN – This morning we made the decision to close our Windermere shop and office, ahead of the evening confirmation from the Government that the country was officially locked down for the next three weeks at least. The office phones may have fallen silent, as we work from home, but we’re available online with any queries, and for any online shop orders. Please keep us busy!
MOUNTAIN RESCUE – There are please from all UK mountain rescue teams, to stay off the hills, and in doing so to do your bit. One infected person could effectively put a whole rescue team into isolation, let alone put extra pressure on the NHS. Whilst our hearts may still be in the mountains, it’s time to #StaySafeStayHome.
WINTER TRIPS – A few of our winter courses are still able to be operated, and we hope that you are still in a position to be able to travel or attend. We e-mailed all those affected with this good news yesterday, so let us know as soon as you can, if you can attend or wish to cancel.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – They’re saved! Lockdown have given them a reprieve from almost certain usage. They’re now praying for a long lockdown. I don’t like their smug attitude.
19 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
WINTER TRIPS – This morning we have e-mailed all those on our winter 2019/20 trips affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, to explore options for them. If you are on an affected trip, please check your e-mail inbox.
SUMMER TRIPS – If you are booked on a trip with us this summer, the situation is evolving so rapidly, that to discuss plans or how trips could be affected is completely hypothetical. At present we are assuming that all summer trips are currently going ahead. Due to the understandable concern of those on winter trips in the coming weeks, please allow our stretched resources to solely deal with those due to travel before the end of April. Once we’ve assisted all those on winter trips, hopefully the position will be clearer for the summer season, and we can engage in better informed discussions then. As no summer Alpine trips are due until mid-June, no trip balances are normally owed until mid-April at earliest. We are offsetting trip balance payment deadlines for the for those early summer trips (June dates only), until one month before travel. With this sensible adaption of our terms, we will discuss summer courses from early May.
OPTIMISM – Recent reports indicate that there is an almost complete halt in new cases in China, which gives us some hope that if we all socially distance and / or self-isolate, that there is the hope that we can emerge from this virus sooner rather than later. If we all do our bit, there’s the hope that we can return to the mountains again soon.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Today I couldn’t help but stare at those toilet rolls. Perhaps it was a draft of air through the old window that made them tremble, but I don’t think so. Quite rightly they are very scared. Their fellow loo rolls have completely abandoned the shelves of the local supermarkets. Their days must now sadly be numbered.
17 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
FCO ADVISORY – This morning the FCO has now advised against all but essential travel abroad, for a period of at least 30 days. We don’t yet know the implications of this with regards to insurance claims, but will update when we know. Contact your insurers in the meantime if you are affected. News; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51924405
ACTIVITIES & TRAVEL INSURANCE – If you obtained activities & travel insurance before the implications of Coronavirus impacted on Europe, you should in most cases be able to claim off your insurance for travel disruption, and the associated closure of any mountain infrastructure required for your trip, such as cable cars or huts. Any new insurance taken out, will likely have a clause absolving the insurers of any cover for the impacts of COVID-19. In the first instance, get in contact with your insurers to check what the situation is.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – The supermarkets are still without any loo rolls on the shelves, so our secret stash is getting worried. I don’t know if it was just my imagination, or if they’d huddled together a little closer, trying to be un-noticed on the side of the ledge, slightly shielded by the stack of climbing mags. I’m watching you two, closer than ever now.
16 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
ICICLE SUMMER ALPINE TRIPS – A few people have been in contact to enquire about the possibility of cancelling their Summer Alpine trip, some with a request for full refunds. At this stage there is no knowing how the pandemic will evolve, and no advisories or FCO advice stretches to this timescale yet. With this in mind, none of our Summer Alpine trips are cancelled, so if you decide to cancel your space(s), our normal terms of booking would apply (link). In most cases at this stage, this would mean a loss of deposit paid. You may wish to make enquiries with your travel and activities insurance policy provider, to determine if you can claim off that if you decide to cancel.
OFFICE – We’re following government advice, and trying to maximise home working for our office team. This has understandably had a huge impact on our ability to answer all phone calls, so we ask you to please do your bit to help us a little, and put any enquiries via e-mail, rather than calling us.
MEETINGS – In addition to home working, we have currently suspended all trip advice meetings in our Windermere office, to follow medical advice on social distancing.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Booths Windermere is completely out. Fear not, our secret office stash (2 rolls) are sitting on the window ledge, looking out, and wondering what’s going on with the world. Their self-isolation has no bounds, but at least there’s a few climbing magazines left on the ledge that they can flick through when they get bored.
15 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
WINTER HAUTE ROUTE SKI TOUR TRIPS – Currently there is NO advisory from the FCO against “all but essential travel” to France, or Switzerland. However, there now is an advisory against travel to Italy, not that this impacts on Haute Route tours, but we mention it in case you had travel plans via the country.
There is a current complete closure of cable cars and lifts in both France (https://www.chamonix.com/lifts-and-special-information,88,en.html) and Switzerland (https://www.zermatt.ch/en/liveticker). Swiss mountain huts are currently closed (https://www.sac-cas.ch/en/the-sac/coronavirus-22225/).
Will all this advice, there is understandably no clear end date of any restrictions. Some websites cite a possible date as the end of March, others a complete closure for the whole winter season. The honest answer is that we don’t yet know!
At present that means that all Haute Route ski tours in March are currently confirmed as cancelled, but for the dates in April, they are currently still potentially going ahead, but we don’t know yet.
Whilst we all wait for some more clarity, we ask all trip participants to contact their travel and activites insurer, to seek advice as to what level of cover they have if they choose to cancel / if the FCO advisory changes / or if country borders are closed. We’re monitoring the situation continuously, and will let you know if there’s any news.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – Booths Windermere is nearly out. OMG the catastrophe has no end. There is one pack of ‘Cheeky Panda’ bog roll, but apparently the discerning shoppers don’t wish to wipe their bum on a panda, or anything associated with ‘the source of that bug’. Good to see that common sense has been flushed away too!
13 March 2020 – Icicle COVID-19 update
Many people are contacting us for trip status updates, and options for them to consider. Here is our latest update;
MARCH TRIPS – Today following the latest advice and actions (Governmental, WHO, and sporting bodies), we are cancelling all Alpine trips this month up to and including Thursday 02 April 2020, where stays are required (not optional) in mountain huts. This only affects hut-to-hut ski tours (e.g. Haute Route), where social distancing is impossible in the close confines of mountain huts. All those booked on these trips will receive a full refund from Icicle for all monies paid. This will be organised via our tour operator travel bonding with the Travel Trust Association.
ITALY – All our trips that were scheduled to visit Italy at all, are cancelled for this Winter season 2019/20. All those booked on these courses have been contacted, and offered either a transfer to another trip, or a full refund of all monies paid to Icicle.
US GUESTS – Yesterday the US government announced a ban on all flights directly (or indirectly) from mainland Europe. All US citizens who are booked on a trip, need to seek advice from their airline as to whether their travel plans are affected.
SUMMER TRIPS – Currently we are hopeful that the Alpine summer season will be unaffected by Coronavirus, and that trips will all go ahead as planned, due to the recent effectiveness of the lockdowns in North Italy which have stemmed new cases. As you will see from this update, we will take no risks, nor breach guidelines. We ask you to be flexible, as we are, and should one region still be advised against, we will adapt our itineraries to only visit areas where there are no advisories against. For example a Summer Intro where an ascent of Gran Paradiso (Italy) is planned, could easily be adapted to climb Weissmeiss (Switzerland) or other objectives instead. Rest assured we’re working hard to look after your health and safety, and all those who work with us.
COMMON QUERIES – There are three groups of enquires regarding COVID-19 that we have received;
1) Will my Winter 2019/20 trip be cancelled? In the coming weeks we have Alpine trips visiting France and Switzerland. Currently there are no travel advisories against either country, and mountain infrastructure (cable cars etc) are planning to open as normal. France; https://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/coming-to-france/coronavirus-advice-for-visitors-to-france/, and Switzerland; https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/switzerland/health#coronavirus. If the advice remains unchanged, the trips are still going ahead, and will not be cancelled. We believe that responsible social distancing can be maintained on these trips, though if you wish to transfer to a date later in the season, where this is possible, no transfer fees will be levied.
2) Does my insurance cover me? No travel insurance will provide you with specific cover for COVID-19 and its impacts, as they would be classified as force majeure. You may wish to investigate if your insurance would give any cover for you should the travel advisories change whilst you are travelling, such as the US travel ban on flights from mainland Europe, or country-wide lockdowns and quarantines such as Italy.
3) Can I be refunded if I wish to cancel? Keep an eye on the FCO advice for the countries you plan to visit. If we can operate a trip, following local laws and regulations, it will go ahead as planned. In this case, should you not be able to attend, due to your government warning against ‘all but essential travel’, your trip will still go ahead, and you should claim off your travel insurance for not being able to attend. In this situation, Icicle would not be able to refund you, due to having incurred all the costs of providing the trip.
TOILET ROLL NEWS – There’s still plenty of loo roll in Windermere, but news is reaching us of empty shelves in nearby Kendal. When will the secret get out, and the hoarders head here in their vans to take all our precious loo roll? We’re fine for now, but evoking our inner Gollum, stroking our plentiful supply (2 rolls), muttering “My precious, my precious, you are not for horrible other people’ses bottom’ses, are you my precious?”.
For more details on your rights as a traveller, please visit this simple article from the BBC; https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51615412
Please keep monitoring the situation via the media, and we will provide further updates as required. As before, personal hygiene and reasonable social distancing, keep being advised by all governments and medical professionals.
Do get in contact with us, if you have any queries, but we hope this update helps put your mind at rest that we are doing everything to keep you safe, that we’re being highly flexible to adapt to advice, and that we’re constantly monitoring the advice.
Stay safe, and we hope to see you in the mountains!
The Icicle Team
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