Climbing and hill walking: it’s time to put it on hold

Posted by Alex Messenger on 23/03/2020
The sun is setting for now: put it on hold.

The BMC and mountain rescue teams advise all climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers to stay in their home area and put all climbing and hill walking on hold.

Last week, the government advice was ambiguous, and over the weekend thousands of people headed to the hills, mountains and coasts of the UK.

Today, the message from the governments, mountain rescue teams, outdoor industry, local communities, police and doctors is very simple: stay local and only travel for essential purposes.

During his daily briefing on Sunday, Boris Johnson stated: “It is very important for people’s mental and physical wellbeing that they should be able to get out and exercise if they possibly can. Parks, open spaces are so absolutely crucial for our country and for our society, but when we do that we have to do it responsibly.”

However, he warned the public that they need to follow social distancing guidelines, or the Government will be forced to restrict access to more open spaces.

The BMC advice to all climbers and hill walkers is now simple: climbing and hill walking are not activities requiring essential travel. Stay local, and put your climbing and hillwalking on hold. This applies to all types of climbing and mountain activities, from bouldering to ski mountaineering

Dave Turnbull, BMC CEO, said:

“We never thought we’d be asking the outdoor community not to go climbing or hill walking, but that’s our current advice. It’s time to put it on hold.”

Elfyn Jones, BMC access officer and member of Llanberis Mountain Rescue said:

“There's been a lot of talk about justifying why we can still climb or hill-walk safely within our capabilities and that, somehow, we can do this without affecting anyone else or impacting spread of the virus. The simple fact is - we can't. Please stop.”

“Stay in your home area. We all owe it to everyone else to do everything we can to help stop or at least delay the spread of this disaster. Please put climbing, mountaineering and hill walking on hold until it's safe to do so.”

Mountain rescue cover across the UK will either be withdrawn totally or drastically reduced this week as health service resources are prioritised and popular mountain areas are closed down.

REWATCH: Live Access Q&A with BMC CEO

Wednesday 22nd April, Dave Turnbull answered your access questions live.

British Mountain Guide and anaesthetist Jon Morgan said:

“Do everything in your power to minimise both risk and social contact. Be scrupulous about hand hygiene and spread the word. Your own personal actions may save the life of a relative or someone you know. I am writing this as an anaesthetist who will be keeping people alive with ventilators. All the signals are we will be overwhelmed like Italy. Please help out by taking this as seriously as possible.”

UKClimbing has suspended the use of its online logbooks for recording new climbs. The team there commented:

“Although the weather is finally fine, and we feel the urge to get out as much as anyone, we at UKClimbing believe that all climbing should now cease, and we will be promoting that message loud and clear.”

BMC advice for climbers and hill walkers

• Don't travel unless it’s essential

• Don’t go climbing or hill walking

• Stay local.

• Keep a social distance of 2m

• Avoid all but essential contact with anyone

This advice is backed up by a group of 35 leading national outdoor activity, tourism, nature, health and rescue organisations, that have come together to back the Prime Minister’s call for the public to behave responsibly while exercising outside. In a joint statement, the group has offered support to the government and advice to the nation on how to stay active safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Andrew Denton of the Outdoor Industries Association said:

“A nation in lockdown could lead to enhanced anxiety, depression, social unrest, mental and physical ill health, and social poverty. In contrast, carefully managed local exercise, inside or outside, will provide welcome active release for individuals and families feeling trapped. Getting into the outdoors sensibly very close to our own homes now, will make it easier for all of us to sustain other official guidelines and preserve the health of the vulnerable in the longer term.”


More FAQs about the BMC and Covid-19

🌳 Can I start climbing / hillwalking? Yes, but be cautious in your actions, respectful of local communities and vigilant in avoiding transmitting the virus. Read our latest advice for June here and for the general return to climbing here

🌳 What's the situation in Wales? Read the full June update here

😷 When and how will the walls reopen?  Read the ABC's advice for walls and watch their live update here

🚗 What have the BMC access team been doing during this time? Read on

📜 Will the BMC keep running smoothly? Read more or watch our weekly live updates from our CEO

🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? All you need to know

⛰️ Which BMC events are cancelled? Take a look at our calendar 

✈️ I've got a travel insurance question Get your answers

🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Nope - it is now closed

We hope you stay safe during this unwanted adventure and let's come together as a community to help and support each other.


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Anonymous User
23/03/2020
Hi, as you say, unambiguous guidance is essential, and the article itself could be clearer on that point. "climbing and hill walking are not activities requiring essential travel. Stay local, and put your climbing and hillwalking on hold": plenty of BMC members can do both of those activities without traveling anywhere, so maybe the article could outline the limits of what is advisable from an activities perspective as well as a travel perspective?
Anonymous User
23/03/2020
There are still people taking thier children climbing outdoors, thinking they're training the next olympic champions. God forbid they have a serious accident at this kaotic time.
Anonymous User
23/03/2020
You probably want to change the BMC Insurance advert on the sidebar; it's definitely NOT 'Sending Season'!
Anonymous User
24/03/2020
What if the mountains are local to me ?
Anonymous User
24/03/2020
I get the bit about not travelling out of your ‘home area’ to go climbing or walking as going to remote places may increase spread of the virus and I assume the presumption is that you’re more likely to be injured and require rescuing and treatment if you go somewhere out of your ‘home area’. But I don’t think the government advice actually says don’t walk or climb within your ‘home area’. It actually says people should get out and exercise (responsibly). I suggest the BMC and others may be guilty of overreacting - understandable in the circumstances maybe...
Anonymous User
24/03/2020
1st para '...put all climbing and hill walking on hold'
Simples
Elfyn Jones(staff comment)
25/03/2020
Hi
There seems to be some slight confusion for a few about " what is local and acceptable exercise" under the government's guidance. This is also appears to be slightly different between Wales and England (different governments). Like everyone else we have to try to interpret the government's advice. Some of this is down to the individual but the essence is to use common sense - low risk, very local only don't travel. the risk to emergency services and the disproportionate resources required for even a simple hill-walk going wrong is immense - a twisted ankle could lead to needing mtn rescue. All rescue teams are currently seriously depleted due to self-isolation, front line staff not being available and..no Mtn Rescue Team is currently supplied with suitable PPE to protect themselves. This not only about protecting ourselves but is mainly about protecting others. It's highly likely that many of us are infected but asymptomatic so please don't try to interpret the rules to justify your personal need for activity but instead you must interpret them in order to protect others!
We'll update this article later today with more details guidance.
Anonymous User
25/03/2020
Surely it's clear enough. Don't do anything that's at all likely to involve the emergency services and especially mountain rescue. So by all means take a stroll along the low level footpath near where you live, leave the car at home, but don't go up the fells or walk too far from roads. That's how I see it, and I live in the Lakes. Very sensible just don't take any kind of risk.
Anonymous User
09/04/2020
I live in the Snowdonia national park and you are not allowed to excercise in it at all. Every footpath round us is closed. I asked them for advice and they came up with 2 suggestions. Walk along the national speed limit road with no pavement with small children or drive to a beach to excercise there. The police have made it clear that both of these would be unacceptable to them. Thank you, national park!
Anonymous User
10/04/2020
I live in the Snowdonia national park and you are not allowed to excercise in it at all. Every footpath round us is closed. I asked them for advice and they came up with 2 suggestions. Walk along the national speed limit road with no pavement with small children or drive to a beach to excercise there. The police have made it clear that both of these would be unacceptable to them. Thank you, national park!

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