The Exploratory System
Walking along the Europaweg with the Matterhorn behind

The Exploratory system
How Alpine Exploratory researches its trekking holidays


Alpine Exploratory's heart is our proprietary knowledge of our trekking routes. We apply this knowledge to book superb trekking holidays. This is the Exploratory system.

Our proprietary knowledge:
- forms the essence of the arrangements that we make for you.
- forms the direct link between Alpine Exploratory's office and the paths, leaders and hotels that you meet on your trip.
- gives our trekking routes the fullest and most up-to-date coverage available. Our clients tap into this!

What makes us different?
- Unlike a guidebook, when we vouch for the whole of your trek experience we stand behind the details we give you. These include trail conditions, directions, accommodation and local arrangements.
- Unlike a typical tour company, every arrangement is made direct between you and our office, and between our office and your leader and hotels on the ground. We never sub-contract to local agents. Your hotels invoice Alpine Exploratory directly; and on a guided trip your leader is a freelance employee of Alpine Exploratory. Why would we do it any other way?

Here are the steps in the Exploratory system. Let's dive in!

The Exploratory system
Step 1
We explore
Recces in the trekker's style
We walk the trails and take the trains just as our clients will.

Breaking down the trail
We plan suitable stage lengths vis a vis the accommodation.

The network
We look at a new route in the context of our Alpine coverage.

Step 2
We write
How do we describe the trail?
We choose our words to describe and compare the trail.

Routecards and notes
We write our materials in order to advise and recommend.

Schedules for team use
We refer to statistics of our schedules of various lengths.

Step 3
We update
Season Updates
We update our routecards before a season.

Trade knowledge
We swap knowledge with leaders and hotels.

Trekkers' notes
We incorporate clients' findings into our notes.

Step 1. We explore
Airline Food on our expedition to the Alps
We try the various airlines and airports available.. here on Adria

Recces in the trekker's style
We explore a new trip in as close a style as possible to that likely to be used by clients. On occasion we hire cars to nip about, and this gives a certain perspective, but our preferred way is to take the trains and buses. Bus stops can be in surprising locations, local intricacies second-nature to regular riders but liable to confuse others!

On the trail we look at escape routes, usually as we go along each sector of the trail. What are the most appealing routes to the valley in case of terrible weather? Our eye is to how trekkers will find it.

Breaking down the trail
One of our chief thoughts as we go along is the pattern of stages. We hope a new trail breaks down into good stage lengths with accommodation in the right places. On some routes this happens naturally, such as the Pennine Way with its fairly reliable 25km days; other routes take lots of thought, and not just in the case of too few places to stay. The Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites allows several different schedules for most numbers of days - which are the best?

The network
We record how the trip fits into our network: the treks, the trains and the cities. Our mission is ongoing to map the Alpine approaches down to the less obvious ones. Our Zugspitze Tour fits into the Adlerweg network, making use of trains from Munich and the general lifestyle of the German and Austrian Alps.

Step 2. We write
Views of the good paths on the Adlerweg
Striding out ? We decide stage lengths, here on the Adlerweg.

How do we describe the trail?
The terms that we use to describe each section of trail are of course key to our whole service. Drops to the side? Scree slopes? Unusual steepness or looseness? If it isn't clear how a normal group will find it then we must err towards overstating difficulty. Crucially a section's description must be right relative to other sections and to other treks. We compare and we use superlatives if this is indeed accurate! An example is the Eppzirler scharte on the Adlerweg which we consider the trickiest section on our version of the trek.

Routecards and notes
Typically we write our routecards the evening of the first walk; we find this is a good mixture of closeness in time plus perspective on the whole day. Our routecards will be checked at the next Season Update (below) maing this the first of two steps.

Our notes on the wider trail, the local towns, the buses and more, are written with a focus on the trail walker, directing readers to our recommendations.

Schedules for team use
In the office we refer to our common schedules, for example on the Tour du Mont Blanc our normal 11 stages plus longer and shorter options. These give us the statistics with which to help enquirers decide on their approach.

Step 3. We update
Landslips on the Alta Via 1
We look for landslips.. here on the Alta Via 1

Season Updates
In the weeks before a season start, we update our routecards based on our recces. We are looking for changes to the trail such as landslips over Winter, changes in the routing of the path (newly-made stretches or adoption of different local paths), changes in local bus routes, and the incidence of snow. This last factor, snow, is crucial on our Alpine routes where late Spring snow falls can make cols risky to cross. An example is the Tour du Mont Blanc, where each year we make our explorations in mid-late June. Where changes are substantial, or the route has some considerations to impart, we post or email a Season Update sheet to clients before their trip.

We print as we go: instead of running a job lot, or buying guidebooks, we print our notes and routecards just before posting each info pack. This means that our ongoing updates make it into each pack as the season progresses. A lot of our time during Spring and Summer is spent making sure the important changes are communicated to the right groups at the right time. In a Summer such as 2016 with frequent path changes in the Alps, this is substantial work!

Trade knowledge
Our clients benefit from a network of intelligence in the trade. We are plugged into the talk of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders, leaders swapping notes to benefit colleagues and clients. Our hotels keep us in the loop locally.

Trekkers' notes
We see ourselves as at the meeting point of accommodation, leaders and clients. Our clients are frequently kind enough to give us detailed notes about their trips: trail updates and opinions. All of these sources feed into our info packs.

Alpine Exploratory water bottle on a Hebrdiean Beach
  Alpine Exploratory water bottle on a Hebrdiean Beach    Hebridean Way

Join the system!

As a Season progresses we share some route information with members of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML) as part of being connected to the trade. Otherwise our system is a closed one, made up of our clients, our hotels and other suppliers, and ourselves. Please join the system! We don't sell holidays through anyone else. Nor does anyone else run our holidays.

What do we mean by joining the Exploratory system? A client - and therefore a member - has an outlet for thoughts and findings of his or her own. Our trekkers' thoughts directly shape our stage lengths and our accommodation picks. We are enjoying our explorations for their own sake but also to make future explorations more enjoyable. Much of our travel goes on this basis, that an experience whether good or bad informs future choices. There is a reason either for trying the novel or for confirming the known.

We promote local scheduled trains and buses, to reach your trip and to get around (where needed) during it. A mountainous region with self-supporting public transport is one that we can visit into the future: the local residents and businesses will thrive, the transport will exist, and we will know how to use it!

We have a system and we are building an institution. Sit in a far-flung and new-to-you branch of your favourite coffee shop and you feel looked after, part of a whole. Our institution will never feature buildings in the sense of a store or a university; instead it will be an institution as a network. Further, it will be an institution in its shared culture: proper exploration, genuine dealings and shared knowledge.

Exploration as the goal

The process of exploration is the end goal. We - firm and clients - are building together the ability to interpret the trail. This must be a human endeavour resulting in a thoughtful service, as opposed to an automated quest for complete knowledge. For a firm, book or app to achieve complete knowledge is not by itself relevant to the traveler's needs; instead the ability to interpret is the crucial factor.

A higher purpose?

To think further on why we travel, there is firstly this joy in exploration... the activity of exploration that is joyful in itself. Need we even seek a higher purpose? If we did then perhaps it is this: to promote one peson traveling to another person's locale and observing how they live life. What are the houses built of? How do people move about town? How do people interact? By traveling we have a chance to share these lives, perhaps to refine our lives back home. This sharing comes through plotting a course through the novel country, eating in the places that people eat, taking their trains and hiking their paths.

Arriving on foot in a Swiss town, say Engelberg, immediately we are open to two modes of life. One is that of the visitor, cutting a swathe cross-country, trekking in and out of Engelberg just as with Austrian or French mountain towns in the past. The other perspective is the Swiss one. To a resident of Bern, Luzern or Zurich, going to Engelberg or a score of other resorts is like a day out in local mountains. The traveler's mind leaps to the thought, "If I lived in Bern, I would take the train here to ski. A few weekends each Winter. People take their skis and boards on the train, in full kit. Do we do such cool things at home? There's a resort a little up the road from Edinburgh.. from Canberra.. from New York."

The highest purpose of the Exploratory system is to encourage the spread of the best ideas across the world, through the means of travelers learning from new places. We can achieve this if we promote travel as an exploratory activity.

Our plans

See our exploration plans!

In the pipeline

Contact us

Please don't hesitate to contact us at with any questions.

Thank you!

Guided and Self-Guided Holidays - see them all

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge with dogs
  Hiking the Besseggen Ridge with dogs    Jotunheimen Tour

Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.

About us