Lace up your boots; the Alps are calling! You’ve seen the iconic image of the Matterhorn and know Mont Blanc as the highest peak in the Alps – now, it is your time to personally experience Europe’s most majestic mountains on our rugged, 20-day Alps Explorer. Starting in Zermatt, Switzerland, you’ll hike winding trails to Alpine huts and take in the stunning beauty of the Matterhorn towering overhead. After a spectacular day-hike along the Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s largest, you’ll set out on the world-famous Tour du Mont Blanc. This twelve-day, three-country hike will take you around the highest mountain in Europe, provide more postcard-perfect views than one can count, and have you ordering caffè in Italian, croissants in French, and rösti in German. As a grand finale, you’ll head to the sparkling, world-class city of Geneva for a morning of community service before it’s time to relax and celebrate your many Alpine adventures.
Zermatt & the Matterhorn
Arriving into Geneva’s International Airport, we’ll transfer directly to the town of Zermatt in Switzerland’s picturesque Valais region. Using Zermatt and its flower-box filled streets as our base, we’ll spend our first few days hiking in the shadow of the world-famous Matterhorn. Climbing out of the valley and up above tree-line, we’ll feel the burn of a tough climb, but be more than adequately rewarded by cool Alpine air and striking views of the Matterhorn and its neighboring mountains.
Swiss Alps & the Aletsch Glacier
From Zermatt, we’ll transfer to the small, riverside town of Fiesch. One of Switzerland’s famous cable cars will carry us up to the high plateau that is home to the Aletsch Glacier. We’ll hike the length of this magnificent glacier to the car-free mountaintop village of Bettermeralp, and then descend back into Fiesch. From there we’ll transfer to the city of Martigny at the foot of Mont Blanc.
Tour du Mont Blanc & Geneva
In Martigny, we’ll take a day to catch our breath and get geared up for the days to come. Well-provisioned, we’ll set off on the full Tour du Mont Blanc. We’ll travel ancient footpaths through quiet valleys, climb high mountain passes, bask in unending Alpine vistas, and cross international borders – all on foot! Trekking into France, we’ll be surprised by the hustle and bustle of the resort town of Chamonix before crossing into Italy and the small town of Courmayeur. You can be sure that we’ll take time to pause for a real Italian pizza before crossing back into Switzerland and relishing the last leg of our trek. The Tour du Mont Blanc offers an amazing taste of three distinct Alpine cultures. Upon completion, we’ll know first-hand the common threads of the region and will savour the wonderful differences that make each place unique.
We’ll spend our final day together in the historic, proud and beautiful city of Geneva. After a morning of working in the Geneva Botanical Gardens, the rest of the day is ours to experience the city. The famous, high-shooting Jet d’Eau water fountain will punctuate our celebration as we explore the city and reflect on the many highlights of our unforgettable journey.
Please see our General FAQ page for many more frequently asked questions and answers!
How physically challenging is AX?
Given a Challenge Level 8 (out of a maximum of 10), we consider AX to be an advanced hiking trip. We believe that any moderately fit, motivated student can successfully rise to the challenge of this trip with proper preparation. Compared to similar hiking trips, we believe that AX is slightly more challenging than our Scottish Highlands trip due to significant elevation gain and long mileage. The group will hike up to 15 miles on their most challenging day, while their daily mileage typically spans between 9-12 miles. Please note that all of Apogee’s Challenge Levels are not scientific and are subjectively calculated by the Apogee staff.
How much training should my child do ahead of time?
As one of our most challenging hiking trips, we have a training and preparation protocol for AX which we share with enrolled families well ahead of the trip. Please contact the Apogee office for specifics regarding pre-trip training.
Aside from the trip cost, what are the additional expenses for this trip?
Apogee’s tuition costs are meant to be all-inclusive and include all meal, accommodation, and activity fees. The most significant additional expenses on our Alps Explorer trip will include travel to and from Geneva, Switzerland, a sleeping bag and sleeping pad, a backpacking pack, and hiking boots.
In addition to hiking boots, what other footwear should my child bring?
We highly recommend only one set of footwear in addition to hiking boots. Comfortable, lightweight camp shoes, such as Crocs, Chacos, or Tevas work very well. A light pair of running shoes is okay, too, but please do not bring anything bulky or heavy, and please limit the number of shoes to two pairs total!
How often will my child call home?
Parents can expect a phone call home once a week on AX, usually corresponding with the group’s rest days. Students will also call home at some point on arrival day, depending on schedules and arrival times.
Should I send my child to Geneva with an international phone plan or a calling card?
We encourage families to send their child with a phone for pre- and post-trip communication. However, because Apogee does not permit the use of cell phones by students while on trip, we do not recommend signing up for a European phone plan. You are welcome to send a calling card with your child, but they will also be able to use their leaders’ phone to communicate over WiFi. We’ll likely recommend parents download a free app, such as WhatApp or Viber, to facilitate calls home. Look for this information in the spring.
This trip starts outside of the United States. What do I need to know before traveling internationally?
In addition to needing a valid passport, we encourage you to coordinate travel with other attendees. To that end, we’re happy to put you in touch with other enrolled families from your region. To aid in international travel planning, we have a flight information table which details arrival and departure airports and times for each of our trips.
Is this trip van-based?
No, this trip is not van-based. The group will utilize Switzerland’s terrific train system for their long-distance travel. Otherwise, they’ll be walking everywhere they go! This means that every pound matters – sticking to the packing list is essential.