29/05/2020

Our recommendations for a gradual return to climbing

The Coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone hard. The climbing community was no exception to this. With all of our climbing walls closing, and the lockdown restrictions keeping us from the crags, we have all felt the effects. However the first steps have now been taken to allow more outdoor activities to take place.

While the walls are still closed most people will be looking to the outdoors as their only option. ClimbScotland wants to offer our recommendations to the climbing community so that we can return to climbing in a safe and responsible way.

With the announcement of the Scottish Government Route Map to further easing of lockdown on 18th June, Mountaineering Scotland has been working with the Mountain Safety Group and other agencies on a phased return to climbing in line with the proposed phased approach for Scotland. We rely on our climbing community to read the public health advice and guidance from Mountaineering Scotland, and use their common sense and judgement to interpret these in a way that ensures the safety of themselves and others.

Full details of guidance for hill walking and climbing during COVID-19, can be found here.

Stuart Younie, Chief Executive Officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: “While welcoming this step forward, it must be stressed that an easing of lockdown does not mean a return to normal, and we urge everyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors to be mindful of how their individual actions reflect on the whole outdoor community.

“The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities: use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID -19.” For this stage, walkers and climbers are reminded to stay local and follow the current public health guidance for Scotland to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

They should remember that many car parks, toilets and other facilities will remain closed, which may affect any plans.

They should plan ahead and stay well within their limits - whatever their activity - to avoid the need for rescue and involvement of the emergency services. And they should be responsible and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times.

Mr Younie added: “We are aware that many will feel frustrated that they are still not able to access the hills and crags they love,but it is the first steps on a journey that, if we all do our part to keep it on course, will see wider access returning more quickly. At this phase the Government has recognised the benefits hillwalking climbing, and access to the outdoors, have on our physical and mental health, and we will continue to press for as rapid a return to the hills for all as is safe and responsible in this pandemic.”

What are the headlines?

The key points to consider are:

  • Stay local: Follow the current public health guidance for Scotland to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19
  • Stay safe: Plan ahead and stay well within your limits - whatever your activity - to avoid the need for rescue and emergency services
  • Be prepared: Car parks, toilets and other facilities may remain closed
  • Be responsible and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code at all times
  • Wash your hands regularly, especially when sharing equipment
Please note: public health advice and guidance for Scotland may differ from that of England and Wales.

What has changed in phase two?

Scottish Government - COVID-19 – Framework for Decision Making

  • “Permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but advice to stay within a short distance of your local community (broadly within 5 miles) and travel by walk, wheel and cycle where possible.”, "People are permitted to drive locally for leisure purposes"
  • “Unrestricted outdoors exercise adhering to distancing measures. Non-contact, outdoor activities in your local areas e.g. golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling.”
  • “Able to meet with larger groups including family and friends outside with physical distancing.”

Mountaineering Scotland and the Mountain Safety Group have proposed the following activities as being appropriate to phase one:

  • At this phase climbing and hillwalking are permitted within the travel restrictions
  • Using only crags, bouldering or mountains at venues local to you, “broadly within 5 miles”
  • Larger groups (up to 8 people), but with social distancing and hand hygiene as an absolute priority

The key will be for individuals to take a sensible approach to their activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and to consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.

We are advising climbers to take extra care around hand hygiene before, during and after climbing. We would also advise climbers who may be vulnerable and with underlying health risks to be especially vigilant.

Take it Easy!

General advice

Can I go hillwalking and climbing again?
Yes!. The advice from Scottish Government states that from the 29th May you may be able to continue to participate in unrestricted outdoor exercise, while adhering to distancing measures, and you are now allowed to participate in non-contact outdoor activities in your local area.

In Phase 2 if you can access hills and crags in accordance with the travel guidance, then climbing (Sport, Trad and Bouldering) and hillwalking are permitted.

What about scrambling and lead / multi pitch climbing?
If you can access these areas safely within the travel restrictions then please feel free to do so in a safe and responsible way. Please take a sensible approach to your activities, use your judgement to manage the risks, and consider the social responsibility we all have to each other, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.

Stay local!
Travel restrictions still apply in Phase 2. You are permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but are advised to stay within a short distance of your local community (broadly within 5 miles) and to travel on foot, wheel or cycle where possible. It is important to remember that whilst travel restrictions still apply, many car parks and public toilets will remain closed and this should be a consideration in planning your activities.

Keep your hands clean
Ensure you sanitise or thoroughly clean your hands after each session, and ensure you do not touch your face.

We are advising climbers to take extra care around hand hygiene before and after climbing. We would also advise climbers who may be vulnerable and with underlying health risks to be especially vigilant.

Can I climb with a group?
Part of phase 2, larger groups can gather outdoors, up to 8 people. Social distancing should still be adhered to at this time.

Lower your ambitions!
Now probably isn't the time to be trying your mega run-out projects with the dodgy landing. Enjoy going climbing again; now isn’t the time to be pushing your grades. Now is the time to enjoy being back on rock.

Have you climbed outdoors before?
If not, go with someone who has the experience and also has access to suitable equipment for all involved

Is it likely to be busy?
Popular venues might be busy with like-minded people. It may not be possible to practice social distancing. Be prepared and have alternative venues you can visit and avoid over-crowding the crags.

If you are at the crag and it starts to become too busy, consider going for a shorter session or moving to a different crag. Try not to be that person who hogs the crag all day.

Reduce your risk!
Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services

What if I have an accident and need help?
Mountain Rescue teams can respond to emergencies, although rescues may take longer to reach you and teams are likely to have fewer people on a call out. Accidents can happen, however, and you should call for help if you really need it. But be prepared to be self-reliant and pack warm clothes and an emergency shelter in case of a prolonged wait.

Bouldering


Am I within my normal ability?
Consider low level traverses and problems rather than highballs. Now may not be the time to be trying that mega highball project with the dodgy landing and one pad

Do I need a spotter?
Spotting should be carried out by members of your household and following Scottish public health guidance on social distancing.

Do I have enough mats?
Do you have enough boulder mats to build a suitable landing? Avoid lying/resting on mats and clean them after use.

Roped Climbing


Is there good/safe access to the top of the crag to setup top ropes?
Do you best to find crags with easy access to the top.

Is space between you and other routes on the crag that might be getting climbed by other?
In keeping with social distancing this means climbers should avoid climbing within 2m of each other. Try leaving a route between each party, or wait until they are finished

Is your venue tidal?
Remember accidents at tidal crags may require techincal rescues or the Coastguard. Mountain Rescue and Coastguard may be running with limited or no operations. They may not be able to come to you.

Can I remember what to do?
If you’re unsure, try going climbing with an experienced climber or seek instruction

Am I within my normal ability?
Enjoy going climbing again. Now isn’t the time to be pushing your grades. Now is the time to enjoy being back on rock

Do your buddy checks!
Always do your buddy checks before leaving the floor and avoid unnecessary accidents



ClimbScotland events

All Mountaineering Scotland and ClimbScotland events have been cancelled up until the end of June.

More information on this can be found here.

Official advice

Advice from the Scottish Government can be found here.

For UK-wide information about Coronavirus, visit the Gov.uk website.

Advice on social distancing can be found here.

The Government has also published an action plan.

The Scottish Government statement on 'lockdown' can be read here.

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