Where does my trip start?
Chamonix Alps begins in Geneva, Switzerland. Upon your arrival Geneva, you will take a bus to the town of Chamonix, France, about an hour and a half away. However, if you are on the first session, you will meet other Moondancers and one of your instructors in the Atlanta airport in order to fly to Geneva as a group. The second session will meet as a group in Atlanta and fly to meet their instructors in the Geneva airport at the beginning of the trip.
Will I need a passport?
Yes! Visit Passport Info
to find more information on how to obtain passports in your area. You will need a copy of your birth certificate, social security card, and two passport-sized photos to apply. Please make sure you apply months before your travel date to allow for any delays. Your passport should be valid at least 6 months after the last day of your trip.
Do I need to be fluent in French? What about Spanish?
Though knowledge of French may help you adjust more quickly to European culture, it is certainly not required. As you weave in and out of French and Swiss villages, you may find yourself practicing phrases in French markets or with friends you’ve met along the way. For those studying Spanish, you’ll have a chance to practice the language during our time hiking in the Pyrenees and sea kayaking on the coast of Spain
What happens in a typical day?
There is no typical day on a Moondance adventure! You may be trekking one day, exploring Paris the next, or sea kayaking off the coast of Spain. Either way, each day will be filled with a new adventurous activity. After a day of sea kayaking, trekking, or summiting a peak in the area, your group will find a beautiful site to set up camp for the evening and enjoy a warm meal with a hot drink. No matter what adventure you choose, each night ends with ‘Moonup;’ a chance to debrief the day, talk about upcoming adventures and challenges, and just hang out.
How different is this trip from other Moondance trips?
Chamonix Alps dives into the heart of European alpine culture, allowing Moondancers to explore a region that was once only accessible to mountaineers. Unlike with other Moondance trips, you will experience backcountry travel the European way — through the alpinist hut system. You’ll stay within the huts as a group, but you may also have the opportunity to meet international travelers who have also come to experience the grandeur of the Pyrenees or the Tour du Mont Blanc. Not only will you learn fundamental trekking and hiking skills on this Moondance trip, but you will have the opportunity to explore a fairy tale culture with like-minded travelers from around the world. On this adventure, our meals are prepared for us by chefs at restaurants as well as our hotels and hostels, so you will not do any cooking on this program except during your two nights of sea kayaking. Also, you will not stay in tents like we do on our other Leadership programs. You will stay in quaint hotels and hostels in picturesque European villages.
Do I really need to break in my boots for the backpacking section?
Absolutely, particularly since we will be trekking for a total of 15 days! Though that may not seem like a big deal, blisters can turn a 6 mile hike into a nightmare if not properly attended. The best way to avoid blisters is to buy boots that fit you properly and to wear them often in order break them in. Leather boots can take 1-2 months to break in so start early! Once your trip begins, your leaders will show you how to care for your feet to avoid any unwanted blisters!
How heavy will my pack be?
The alpine huts where we’ll be sleeping will provide most of the gear that generally makes our packs heavy such as shelter, sleeping bags, and stoves. Therefore, our packs will weigh a 1/3 of what most Moondancers carry! With light packs, we will be able to travel swiftly and efficiently, even while gaining a total of over 4,000 feet along the way! Please note, you will need to make sure you adhere to the clothing and equipment list when selecting your backpack. All backpacks must be 48 liters or less so that they may easily fit in the overhead compartment aboard your flight to Europe!
How many miles do we backpack in a given day?
Since we will be staying in alpine huts along the way, we’ll be able to hike 10-15 miles a day, or from “hut to hut”, while not feeling burdened by a heavy pack. This is a trek in the truest sense of the word — we will complete one six-day and one eight-day trekking sections on some of the most respected routes. Yes, there are days that are sure to be challenging, but we promise to views will make everything totally worth it!
What’s the hut system like? Will I meet other travelers?
Huts are common throughout the Alps and the Pyrenees and are set up to accommodate travelers on the extensive network of winding mountain trails. They are often found in spectacular locations off the beaten path, yet are accessible through both technical and non-technical approaches. Many of the huts are simple, offering bedding, common areas, and a kitchen to cook your food. During meal times, you’ll have the opportunity to meet trekkers from around the globe and share highlights of your adventures!
How will we get to Paris?
Our trip ends in Lourdes at the conclusion of our final trekking section in the Pyrenees. From Lourdes, we will take a high-speed train to Paris, where we’ll spend three days exploring the “City of Lights.” At the end of our trip, we will fly from Paris back to America, bidding adieu to the sidewalk cafes, haute couture, and Louvre masterpieces.
Is it cold in the Alps and in the Pyrenees?
Any alpine environment will experience a range of temperatures during three weeks of travel. We will be in shorts and t-shirts on most days, but will don a fleece hat and pullover on chilly evenings. Expect temperatures anywhere between 40-75°F, but remember when checking the weather that temperatures in Europe are measured in Celsius!
What will I learn by the end of my trip?
By the end of your Moondance experience, you may learn how to have a conversation in French while in the huts of Mont Blanc, how to order a baguette from the local boulangerie, or how to lead your peers as Leader of the Day. Most of all, you’ll learn that life’s lessons are often camouflaged as a brilliant rainbow that follows a storm, a challenging mountain, or strangers that become family at the end of 24 days. The self-confidence that you can gain by exploring the unknown, particularly within a foreign culture, will provide a constant foundation for your life’s adventures down the road.