Three weeks in a mountain paradise.
Have you ever thought to yourself: I can’t believe how beautiful this is? Well, that happens a lot on Alps Explorer.
The Alps are so beautiful, in so many ways: deep green valleys, giant snow fields (in the summer!), enormous glaciers, towering mountains. But there’s small beauty, too, and just as impressive: a flower-decked chalet, a village perched on a hillside, a high summer pasture.
The best way to see, to experience, to fall in love with the Alps is to hike them. And hike them we do. Just about every day. These are great hikes: a day’s worth of work on the trail will give us a summer’s—maybe even a lifetime’s—worth of beauty, fun and satisfaction.
And we hike them together. We’ll be talking and laughing and singing, telling stories, playing games and becoming close, really close—great friends who share every moment, every mile, every laugh, every smile.
In the end, well, in the end, you won’t want to leave. But that’s okay. You’ll come back. We’re sure of it.
I've had the best moments of my life on Overland trips.
- Kirya Linda, Austin, Texas
Day 1: Trip Start
We’ll meet in Geneva and travel as a group to Zermatt where we’ll set up camp for the first few days. We’ll cook dinner, get to know one another and prepare for our adventure in the Alps.
Days 2-5: Hike in Zermatt and the Matter Valley
Surrounded by the highest peaks in Switzerland, we’ll warm up with a few day hikes near Zermatt, exploring the emerald green meadows and quaint villages of the Matter Valley. We’ll learn the basics of camping and take time to explore the culture of this unique and historic Swiss-German region.
Days 6-9: Hike Courmayer, Italy
We’ll travel through the famous Mont Blanc Tunnel, under the Mont Blanc massif, to the high mountain village of Courmayer, Italy. This town is an epicenter of limitless hiking trails through spectacular scenery, all near our campsite at the base of Aiguille Noire. We will set up camp for the next couple of nights and continue to grow as hikers as we explore the Alpine terrain on day hikes.
Days 10-14: Backpack in the Heart of the Italian and Swiss Alps
After building up our fitness and confidence on the trail, we will be ready for four days of backpacking in the heart of the Italian and Swiss Alps. We’ll spend a day preparing and packing for the trek. Averaging nine miles per day, we’ll hike through fields of wildflowers, past clear Alpine lakes and up and over mountain passes. Surrounded by panoramic views of the Mont Blanc massif, we’ll enjoy one another’s company and learn backcountry camping skills.
Days 15 & 16: Hike the Chamonix Valley
We’ll travel to Chamonix, France at the base of Mont Blanc—the tallest mountain in Western Europe. We’ll explore the town, orient ourselves to the valley and set up camp for the next couple nights. Averaging six miles per day, we will hike to gorgeous viewpoints of Mont Blanc, the Glacier des Bossons and the entire Chamonix Valley.
Days 17 & 18: Overnight Hut Hike and Glacier du Tour
We will meet our professional guides who will lead us on an overnight hut trip to Glacier du Tour. We’ll hike to a mountainside hut on the edge of the glacier, where we’ll spend the night and experience a taste of European mountaineering culture. The next day, we’ll learn how to walk on ice with boots and crampons, motivating one another as we ascend a nearby peak or pass.
Days 19 & 20: Aiguille du Midi and Trip End
To celebrate three weeks of accomplishment, we’ll soar on the world’s highest cable car to the summit of the Aiguille du Midi on Mont Blanc. We’ll revel in the stunning view of the summit of Mont Blanc, the Mer de Glace, the Aiguilles Rouges and the Chamonix Valley. We’ll spend our final night reflecting on our three weeks in the Alps and then travel to Geneva the next morning for goodbyes.
14 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will vary but most include access to bathrooms, flush toilets and laundry facilities.
4 nights of camping in the mountains with no access to bathroom facilities.
1 night in an Alpine hut with access to toilets, running water and sleeping bunks.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- If you are flying to your trip start, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
- Pack everything in your backpack or day pack. Do not bring additional luggage.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Fleece Pants (1)
Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
- Synthetic Hiking Pants (optional)
Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Synthetic Shorts (2)
- Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Underwear (5)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
- Winter Hat
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
Insulated, warm and waterproof. Avoid knit and porous materials.
- Hat with Visor
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket
Lightweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable.
- Waterproof Raincoat
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Internal Frame Backpack
65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
- Waterproof Pack Cover
If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Sleeping Bag
A lightweight, compact sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. We recommend either synthetic or treated down material. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
- Sleeping Pad
Full- or ¾-length compact sleeping pad. We recommend closed cell foam that is thin and firm (e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest).
- Adjustable Trekking Poles
To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
- Bowl, Mug & Utensils
6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Gaiters (optional)
Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support). Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
- Camp Shoes
Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Spending Money
$50 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Alps Explorer?
The weather on Alps Explorer varies. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is rainy and cold; typical summer temperatures in the Alps range from the 50s to 70s during the day and cooler temperatures at night. At high elevations, snow and nighttime freezing temperatures are possible. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for my child’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Geneva International Airport (GVA) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?
Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.
- How is hiking in Europe different than hiking in North America?
Hiking in Europe is a cultural experience as well as a wilderness experience. We will be surrounded by dramatic, awe-inspiring mountains and unrivaled views. Our route will also take us through quaint Alpine towns, giving us a taste of local customs, foods and lifestyles. We will meet and interact with hikers from all over the world. This differs from backcountry hiking in places like Yellowstone or the High Sierras, where groups can hike for days in remote areas without seeing many other people.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
Hike and backpack in the Swiss, Italian and French Alps and explore European cultures.
Students going on Alps Explorer should prepare for:
- 15 days of hiking with an average of 9 miles per day
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
On Alps Explorer, you will spend a total of five days backpacking, nine days on day hikes and one day on a glacier with professional guides learning how to hike on snow and ice (this is an introductory glacier hike and no previous experience is necessary). You will experience a wide range of terrain, including trails through steep, rocky sections with significant elevation change.
Backpacking is a strenuous physical activity and requires proper training. While backpacking, our groups are fully self-supported—you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Your leaders will distribute group gear and food among all members of the group. Pack weights will vary trip by trip, depending on the location, weather, student and the distance covered. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker's weight.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1½-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10-15% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20-25% of your body weight.
Groups typically average between 1½ and 3 miles per hour (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks throughout the day—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the trail—than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and trail and route conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might develop a blister or encounter another issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive in to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the trail.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.