Guided or self-guided?
Views of the Chamonix Valley on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Shall we go guided or self-guided?

On a self-guided trip we book your accommodation, make arrangements, and give you our routecards and the maps so that you can complete the walks yourself. Our guided trips are the same except that you have a leader to guide your walks, instead of the routecards and maps.

Our self-guided trips are booked individually on your chosen dates and schedule, so that you walk with your own group of friends or family, or as a couple or by yourself. By contrast our guided trips offer two styles. We can book a private guided trip on which you walk as a group of friends or family plus your leader, in a similar style to a self-guided trip in this regard. We also offer scheduled guided trips on set dates, open to all-comers.

Things needed for all trips

The best guide to how you'll manage is simply to compare your recent walking with the trip's daily distance and height gain; these are noted on each trip's page. If you're used to similar walking then you should be fine. If you need to build up your fitness then the distance and ascent give a target to aim for. It's important to remember that on a trek you'll be walking similar days one after another.

Some walking experience is needed for all our trips. Fitness alone is not enough; elements such as pacing, what to take, and balance over rocks, can only come through having done it before.

It's important to be excited enough about the trek that you'll still want to haul yourself up to another pass, on a rainy day ten stages in!

Extra things needed if going self-guided

On a self-guided trip, because there is no leader to navigate and to help with problems, we ask clients to have higher levels of experience and motivation. Two separate skills are also needed if going self-guided:

Every self-guided party must have at least one good navigator. There are two key skills: following a bearing taken from the map, and taking a bearing from the ground to find your position on the map. Many days on trek are sunny and clear, but these navigation skills become essential if the visibility shrinks. On booking we send details of books and courses that teach navigation. The skills are enjoyable to pick up and will come naturally to anyone who is regularly in the hills.

Self-reliance of course comes from experience, in part, but is an attitude too. It often happens on our trips that clients fall into step with other trekkers including other clients of ours. On our more popular routes at busier times, there is often another trekking party nearby. However, it must be assumed at all times on a self-guided trip that self-reliance is needed, in terms of navigation, kit, and ability to get out of any problems that crop up. We are a phone call away for advice, and local emergency services are available, but self-reliance is the name of the game.

When we must decline

Sometimes, with great regret, we decline to book a party for a certain trip if we feel the trip is too difficult. Our Booking form asks the experience of each participant and if we're unsure we might ask for further details. We err on the side of caution.

In these cases we try to suggest a different trip. It might be that the guided version is appropriate where the self-guided would be too hard. Sometimes a different route altogether might be more suitable, making the original trip possible next year once more experience is under the belt. Turning down a group that's keen on but unsuited to on a particular trek is not a pleasant task, but one we must do for the safety and enjoyment of all.

How it works on each type of trip

As you trek along the trail, you shouldn't feel different on our self-guided trips to how you feel on your regular walks. Alpine Exploratory makes the arrangements, gives lots of materials, and is there to advise, but the actual walking is down to you. You're with friends or family or yourself, you're an independent self-contained group, and you can get up an hour later if you wish to! Going self-guided can be great for groups of walking friends, families, and couples, all of whom can appreciate the satisfaction of operating independently in the mountains. We require a group of 2 or more for self-guided trips.

Guided - private
The atmosphere on a private guided trip will be much the same as on a self-guided trip, because you are in your own group and following your own schedule. The only difference is the leader. Our super leaders hope to become part of a cohesive group, in charge but not always at the front. If your group is made up of friends who don't all know each other then having a neutral leader too can be a wonderful way to trek.

Guided - scheduled
The scheduled guided trip is the classic model for a walking holiday, different clients and our leader assembling to enjoy the trek together. It is of course essential to be open to new people. Who knows who you'll meet? With your leader to get to know too, this style of trip can be immense fun. You're welcome to join a scheduled guided trip as a solo hiker.

Guided and Self-Guided Holidays - see them all

Trubsee above Engelberg on the Via Alpina Bernese Oberland
  Trubsee above Engelberg    Via Alpina Bernese Oberland

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.

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