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Frequently asked questions
This page answers the questions that we are most frequently asked by those who have never been on an Icicle course before. Some of the questions would make a White House Press Secretary look for an easier job, whilst others will probably make you laugh. At least you can learn from it all, and if you still have any queries after reading this, then please send us an e-mail, or call.
Photo: helicopter approaching Hornli hut to resupply. Matterhorn course
Will my skills be enough for summit success?
Do you want percentages and statistics, or to be told you
have an excellent chance? Very few clients like to be told that they are the greatest variable in the equation, but it is true. For each course we outline the level of previous skills or experience that is required for an ascent. If you approach us stating that you have never worn crampons, but "are a fast learner", you have definately lessened your chances of summit success. When anyone comes to us with a similar statement to this we draw their attention to these facts, but as long as other competant clients are not affected in any way, we let each client decide if they meet the pre-requisites for the course, or choose to ignore them. The other main personal factor if your physical condition. This is tackled by another question on this page. If you are in any doubt as to the level of your skills, then either consider a longer course, or perhaps a few days of refresher or acclimatisation training before the course.
What about a weather window for a summit bid?
In our experience there is on average only one week a year when the chosen summit cannot be reached, and other safe objectives are offered. We know the local weather systems and conditions so well, that if there is any possibility of an ascent, we will select the best option. In addition, our local presence gives us a massive amount of greater flexibility, in terms of changing hut and cable car bookings. This is a key factor that gives us better summiting records than any other operator. In addition we carefully schedule each course to only operate in the periods of best weather and conditions and all the courses have carefully planned itineraries, designed to build your stamina and skills. Our aim is to make you achieve your goals in the safest and most enjoyable way. However nothing in the world of mountaineering is guaranteed, and our summiting record could never safely be 100%. To give you an idea of our summiting records, on the Intro "Summits & Skills" course (objective of a first 4000m peak), it is very close to 100% with only one or two people failing each year.
In what ways will high altitude affect me?
If you knew the answer to this question, you probably would not need to book onto a course, but as you are unsure about the effects of altitude, rest assured that you are in the best qualified and most capable hands of an IFMGA mountain guide, who has received specialist altitude medicine and rescue training. To further put your mind at rest, mountain rescue helicopters can fly to any summit in the Alps, so a rescue off Mont Blanc is possible. Altitude sickness affects people in different ways. At altitude, you will notice the air is thinner, though most of the feelings of nausea are due to the effort of the ascents. Most people sleep very lightly at altitude, so we try to arrange for alternate nights to be spent in the valley. For further information our Alpine Info page contains a detailed section on acclimatisation. Click HERE for info.
What level of fitness do I need for a course?
The fitter you are, the enjoyment you derive from the course will increase. The particularly demanding courses are the Extreme, Classics and Summits courses. The ‘Course Information Pack’ that you receive upon booking includes training advice. If you are in any doubt as to the demands of any course, or your training methods, then look at the following page; Training Page, for information and advice. Inevitably, some clients, doubting their fitness or ability, have chosen to pull out from summit attempts. If possible we offer alternatives.
What boots are suitable for my course?
This is probably our most commonly asked question, so we have produced a specific page to answer these queries. The link is Key Alpine Kit. The simple answer to the question above is as follows. On every course we operate (ignoring ski courses, where ski boots or ski mountaineering boots are necessary), you will require fully stiffened mountaineering boots. The ideal boot classification category is B3, which means that the boot sole unit is rigid. These types of boots accept all types of crampon, and do not flex at all. If you are considering buying boots for mountaineering, they must be B3, and good examples are the Sportiva Nepal Extreme, the Salomon Pro Thermics, or the Scarpa Alpha / Vega boots. For expeditions or for winter climbing plastic boots are generally better due to their greater waterproof and thermal qualities.
Will I require a sleeping bag for any nights?
If you are staying in mountain huts a sleeping bag is NOT necessary (except in unguardianned huts in winter - see itineraries for details), as the guardianned huts all provide enough blankets and sheets to keep you warm. Some people opt to carry a sleeping bag liner for hygiene reasons (most huts now require a liner), but realistically you are sleeping in a t-shirt and trousers as a minimum.
What are your environmental & financial standards?
We have a strict environmental policy which ensures that we use the mountains in an ecologically sustainable way. We carry ALL rubbish off the mountain. We also educate our clients in the methods in which they can use mountainous areas. For full details of our policies and our environmental labels, click onto our Environment Page. On all our courses and expeditions we follow strict environmental guidelines, in terms of litter disposal, sanitation, local economy sensitivity & porter care.
The air holidays on this website are ATOL Protected by the Civil Aviation Authority. Our ATOL number is T7228. For futher information, visit the ATOL website at www.atol.org.uk. Your booking is further protected through our bonding with the Travel Trust Association (membership U3307). This bonding fully complies with the 1992 Package Travel Regulations, and guidelines proposed by the Department of Trade and Industry to protect clients on package holidays. Due to our TTA and ATOL bondings, Icicle follows a very strict code of financial practice, and all monies that you pay to Icicle (by credit card, cheque, etc) are held in trust until after your course has ended. This protects you in the highly unlikely event of our insolvency, and furthermore all monies paid by you are fully insured.
What type of insurance do I need for a course?
Our Booking Conditions require all clients booking on a course to arrange activities insurance as soon as their booking has been confirmed (by e-mail or in writing). You must check that your policy includes cover for the following: medical expenses, mountain search & rescue, personal accident, money & documents, any travel delay, personal liability, legal expenses & cancellation, as well as other circumstances for which you require cover. We recommend that you use BMC Alpine & Ski insurance: www.thebmc.co.uk or 0870 010 48 78. It is highly unlikely that any non-specialist climbing insurance will provide this level of cover. Upon arrival on a course, you will be asked for documentary proof of your activities insurance. Full details of the cover provided by the BMC and Snowcard insurance policies are on the insurance page (click to link).
What do previous clients think about their courses?
"Thank you for what has been the most challenging, exhilarating and enjoyable time of my life. To say you exceeded all my expectations is an understatement, it was a dream come true. I would never have imagined that I would be capable of doing half the things I did on the course, and I felt a great sense of achievement" (BG, London, Intro Course 2001).
" Climbing Mont Blanc by the Trois route was a wonderful experience at the age of 59, especially climbing it with my son. Couldn't have done it without Icicle!" (DC, Bristol, Mont Blanc Summits Course 2002).
Probably the best feedback we get is the level of repeat bookings. Last Summer season saw 37% of all the clients being previous clients, and last Winter it was 46%. Several clients have come back over ten times, and two people booked on five trips in one year. We are still not content with these impressive statistics, and are developing new ways of attracting previous clients to return. To read more feedback comments from clients, click on the following page link: Client Feedback Page.
Is the water in the huts safe to drink?
In mountain huts, there is rarely running water (and where there is, it is generally only suitable for washing in, not drinking). When you stay in a hut you should take suitable quantities of drinking water, or at least enough money to purchase bottled water. Please note that bottled water costs approximately £3 a bottle, and is so expensive because it is helicopter delivered. In winter, even the huts which usually have running water, often have no running water as the supply is frozen, and so you must melt snow.
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Any further questions?
A key part of choosing a company is being able to come and talk about your plans with an experienced course advisor face to face. In an increasingly virtual world, we know our clients value speaking to real people, getting open and honest advice. The vast majority of our clients are British, and our office and outdoor store is based in Windermere in the English Lake District.



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