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…
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.
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? Aside of the decision to cancel all hut-to-hut ski tour trips this month, 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 there is not a warning against ‘all but essential travel’, then your trip will go ahead, and our standard terms of cancellation would apply, should a transfer of dates not be desired or available. If the advice of the government in the country where the trip takes place changes, and advises against travel in the region, the trip will be cancelled, and all monies paid by you to Icicle will be refunded.
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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