The BMC have released a list of practical measures and an infographic on how best to manage climbing and hillwalking during the COVID-19 outbreak following the recent relaxation of lockdown in England (and Wales, where travel on foot from home is possible, and subject to some mountain areas being closed).
General outdoor principles
- Keep 2m apart from anyone outside of your household.
- Hand hygiene is crucial, but washing hands properly is impractical in the outdoors. Carry and use hand sanitiser after any contact with surfaces or shared equipment.
- Current World Health Organisation advice on which hand sanitisers kill the COVID-19 virus is that they should contain between 60% and 80% alcohol to be effective.
- Avoid popular venues, pinch points and routes which force you close to others.
- Whatever you are doing, scale back your ambitions and be fully confident of your physical and technical ability for any objective you embark upon.
- Mountain Rescue capability is hugely reduced/diminished and any response is likely to take longer and with reduced resources compared to normal, not to mention increasing risk of transmission between casualties and team members.
- Carry a separate plastic bag to hold used disposable gloves.
'For those climbing within a household, many 'normal' climbing practices can continue as transmission of the virus is not a concern, however:
Don't push yourself: drop your grade, avoid dangerous routes, take advantage of protection even if you feel you don't need it.
Treat rock/holds as potentially infected surfaces: we don't currently have a good understanding of how long the virus survives on rock, so assume it is resilient, avoid touching your face whilst climbing and use hand sanitiser between routes or problems.
For those climbing outside of your household group, the previous advice, plus the following applies:
Limit group size to a maximum of two: there will be numerous challenges in staying 2m apart from others and these need to be planned for in advance.
Avoid needing spotters: while bouldering, pick problems which don't require spotting and carry extra mats if needed.
Avoid using your mouth: when clipping ropes or placing gear.
Bottom roping: should be possible to manage very effectively whilst keeping 2m apart from your partner.
Belaying from above: stance management is more challenging as the second climber will need to pass the leader on topping out. As you should both be climbing well within your limits and communication is less of a concern, consider belaying back from the edge, increasing social distance when topping out.
Multi-pitch routes: will be difficult to manage while maintaining 2m apart from your partner. While not impossible, climbing them will require advance planning, good local knowledge of routes so you can pick those with large stances and/or developing more complicated new techniques.
Think about equipment: do everything you can to minimise sharing. For sport climbing, each climber taking their own quickdraws and rope and stripping the route after each ascent, will enable both partners to avoid sharing equipment. For trad climbing, consider taking as much kit as possible and using it in batches.
Follow manufacturers' advice on equipment cleaning and quarantine: wash clothes at the highest possible temperature recommended by manufacturers. Quarantine shared equipment in a dedicated area for as long as possible.'
'Go into the hills understanding you are on your own - operate completely independently if going out with someone outside your household.
Carefully plan your route: try to anticipate and avoid pinch points where possible. These are likely to be at low levels before entering access land, but will also be focused around summits, popular viewpoints etc.
Avoid pinch points where you can: but where this isn't possible, work with other users to navigate them while keeping 2m apart.
Avoid touching access furniture if possible: many gates can be operated using the crook of your elbow, avoiding hand contact entirely. Where this isn't possible, carry gloves to operate gate mechanisms or climb stiles.
Think about weather: especially recognising the consequence of bad weather and the problems that will arise in needing to get closer to others to communicate.
Don't be goal oriented: key summits will be busy but does it really matter that you stand on the summit? If a summit is busy when you arrive, perhaps avoid it and enjoy just being out in the uplands instead.
Use independent equipment: don't share with others outside your household.
Map and compass: more than ever, everyone needs their own rather than sharing between a group.
Emergency shelters: while group shelters are normally excellent and highly recommended, during the COVID-19 pandemic they are not a good idea. Instead, revert to each individual carrying their own emergency shelter unless walking in a household group.'