Outdoor Blog Entries

Climbing During COVID-19

Posted by Nestor I., UREC Outdoor Leader on Monday, October 19, 2020 at 11:00 AM PDT

While some climbers are driven by a “send at all costs” mentality that sometimes knows no bounds or is difficult to control, we all have to change our approach if we want to continue climbing. In an effort to keep our favorite climbing areas and gyms open, there is an ethic we must follow when we go out and climb during the pandemic. Understanding the importance of this is necessary for us to stay safe and keep others from risk, while staying strong and sending hard!

Indoor Climbing Gyms:

Many gyms around the country have reopened. While the reopening rules and guidelines are pretty well described on most of the social media or websites of these gyms, keep in mind that people may still crowd specific sections of the gym or pose other issues. In addition to following guidelines, remember to replace your fist bump with a friendly “air-high five” and try to climb in less crowded areas of the gym.

Bouldering Outdoors:

As one of the most accessible outdoor climbing options, bouldering is a great option to stay away from people and minimize risk. COVID-19 precautions include not climbing on the same boulders as other groups, and wearing masks while on trail (especially when sharing a hiking trail). Plan to hit less popular areas on weekends, and always have backups. If another group has made it to a climb site first, politely ask them whether they plan to move on, or if they are okay sharing the climb while masked and reasonably distanced. Don’t forget to snatch some crash pads from the UREC Outdoor office and get out there!

Rope Climbing Outdoors:

Washington has some of the world’s most famous rope climbing. If you go out, you are bound to see people, and weekend crowds have only gotten worse due to gym closures. A good rule of thumb is to keep your mask on while belaying and on the ground.  Keep as much distance as you can from other parties and choose a different area if the wall you wanted already appears overcrowded. A good plan is to rent a guidebook from the UREC Outdoor office if you need help finding alternative areas. If climbing multi pitch, keep your mask on your person in case you run into another party, and simply avoid climbs with parties already on them. It’s just not worth it right now.

Even though the more popular areas may sound incredibly crowded and risky right now, there are days when they are not, and there are hundreds of equally fun and quality alternatives. Mask up and climb on!

Alpine Climbing and Mountaineering:

It may seem like going out to extremely remote areas is the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 while outdoors, but there is a fine balance. In the case of an accident, you will be putting extra pressure on emergency units and medical teams in an already overtaxed, often volunteer-based rescue system. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go out, but maybe this just isn’t the time for the extremely remote and difficult, mixed alpine climb that is rarely ever done. A good rule of thumb is to climb two or more ratings below your average climbing skills, and try to avoid routes that are rarely done. As always have a mask on you, and keep it on while on the trail. Have a GPS handy when going off trail, and always have a backup and retreat plan. Finally, if you encounter other parties, climb as distanced as safety allows and stay masked.