Updated: 28/05/2020

Our recommendations for a gradual return to climbing

Thank you for following the current advice and adhering to the restrictions we have been living with. The Coronavirus pandemic has hit everyone hard. The climbing community was no exception to this. With all of our Climbing walls closing, the lockdown restrictions keeping us from the crags, we have all felt the effects. However there is now light at the end of the tunnel as the first of the restrictions get lifted from Friday 29th May.

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

Can I go climbing now?

From Friday 29th May, some climbing activities will be possible, within the Phase 1 guidelines.

While our climbing walls will be closed for a bit yet, the lifting of some restrictions from the Scottish Government has opened up outdoor exercise to allow some forms of outdoor climbing.

It must be stressed that an easing of lockdown does not mean a return to normal and as expected there will be a gradual return. Below we have detailed what has changed and what are the Mountain Safety Groups recommended forms of climbing that will start our gradual return.

The Mountain Safety Group has representatives from Mountaineering Scotland, Sottish Mountain Rescue, Glenmore Lodge, Association of Mountaineering Instructors, Mountain Training and Scottish avalanche Information Service, who are all working tirelessly to get us back out there safely.

What is permitted?

The Mountain Safety Group that has been working with the Scottish Government to create the safe and risk limited, phased return to climbing. With these restrictions being lifted the Mountain Safety Group and Public Health Scotland can confirm the following forms of climbing can resume:

  • At this phase we are suggesting low level bouldering and top roping, similar to what we see in a climbing wall
  • Using only crags or bouldering venues local to you, “Broadly within 5 miles”
  • In pairs or small groups from only 2 households at a time, but with social distancing required

These recommendations follow the ethos of the Scottish Governments Route Map, and are considered by the Mountain Safety Group and Public Health Scotland to be the safest and most sensible way to start our return to climbing. 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.

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.”
  • “Unrestricted outdoors exercise adhering to distancing measures. Non-contact, outdoor activities in your local areas e.g. golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, angling.”
  • “Meeting up with another household outdoors, in small numbers, including in gardens, but with physical distancing required”

Remember this is only for a short time.

Why only Bouldering and Top Roping?

We are recommending low level Bouldering and Top Roping as a low risk re-entry to climbing. These activities have a low risk of serious injury and low risk of requiring any rescue. We rely on our climbing community to exercise their own judgement on what is appropriate and safe at this time. Remember it’s only for a short time.

Can I climb with a partner?

Yes, as part of phase 1, 1 household can climb with 1 more household provided you stay socially distant (2m). Groups of more than two households are not yet permitted so please stay socially distant from other climbers at the crags.

Do I have to stay 5 miles from home?

The guidance states “broadly 5 miles” to ask everyone to stay local and be respectful of other communities. The guidance is asking us all to take responsibility and be respectful, so please for now stick to crags that are within your local area. Remember it’s only for a short time.

What about keeping my hands clean?

Ensure you sanitise or thoroughly clean your hands after each climb / problem and ensure you do not touch your face.

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

What if the crags are busy?

Social distancing (2m) will still be required. Be prepared and have alternative venues in mind so that if you turn up and a crag is too busy, you can go elsewhere. 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 guy' that hogs the crag all day.

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.

What if I don’t know how to climb outdoors?

We recommend going climbing with someone who does, or seek some instruction.

Where do climbing clubs fit in?

In phase 1, club meets and group walks are not permissible. However, club members can take part in outdoor activities with members of their own household or with members of one other household in line with government guidelines around social distancing.

Further information

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