Covid-19 and climbing walls: what you need to know

Posted by Peter Burnside on 21/07/2020
Climbing walls in England are opening soon. Photo: Croywall

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Climbing walls around England will be reopening on Saturday 25 July, but is it safe to go? The Association of British Climbing Walls have been hard at work to produce guidelines on making climbing walls as Covid safe as possible. Let’s take a look.

It’s been a long time since climbing walls closed and we’ve really missed them! The creative use of massive holds, the dynamic movement and coordination and of course spending at least half the time catching up with friends instead of actually climbing. The social is just as important, right?

We’re all excited to return to swinging and jumping around on blobs of plastic, especially when they’re on the different angles and corners of a number of walls that are much bigger than the steep small board you built at the start of lockdown, but will it actually be okay to head back to the climbing wall?

Fortunately, the climbing walls aren’t just reopening as they were. The Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC) have put a huge amount of effort into planning the safe return of your local bouldering and lead climbing walls, producing guidance and procedures that will minimise the risk to customers of coronavirus and communicating best practices to the community.

Not only will walls be following Government requirements, but practices that have been adapted to the specifics of the climbing wall environment and other methods to reduce the transmission of the virus. The full guidance can be found on the ABC website here.

Of course, there are many things that climbers visiting walls can do to minimise risk so you can enjoy your climbing and stay safe. Let’s take a look:

1. Should I go?
We love climbing, but it’s not worth risking infecting others just to get your fix. Whether you choose to head down to the wall is up to you and your decision will depend on your personal circumstances. Please ensure you follow government travel guidance if you do want to visit and look out for others by staying at home if you feel unwell. Read more about this in our interview with Professor Ian Hall

2. Your first visit
I know you’re keen to get crimping, but your first visit back to the wall might be a little different. Check in advance if your wall is operating any new systems and procedures such as pre-booked time slots and changing facilities. You also might be able to speed up entry by doing things online before you visit, like registering and restarting your membership. Use contactless payment where possible. Follow any signage and remember to stay two metres apart in the queue.

3. Sanitise your hands regularly
Lookout for hand sanitiser and soap at entrances and around the wall – and use it. Gloves aren’t recommended and the best thing to do is still to wash your hands regularly.

4. Liquid chalk
There’s plenty of chat about liquid chalk and Covid. Some liquid chalk products do contain over 70% alcohol, however this is not the same as using hand sanitiser. Please consider it a backup only and sanitise regularly at designated stations.

5. Maintain social distancing
Of course, it's down to the individual to take reasonable personal responsibility for social distancing when climbing and belaying. Please follow signage, spacing markers and any one-way systems in place, but most importantly be patient and wait for your turn.

WATCH: How to climb at a climbing wall after Coronavirus on BMC TV

6. Remember you’ve had some time off
If your lockdown has been more about Netflix than pull ups, then take it easy on your first few visits. Warm up thoroughly and give your body a chance to get used to climbing again. Likewise, you could be a bit rusty on essential climbing safety skills. Take your time and give your mind the chance to get used to essential climbing safety skills again, take extra care when putting on your harness, tying in and getting ready to belay. Get into the routine of doing a buddy check.

7. Cleaning
Walls will be cleaned regularly but if you’re using exercise equipment then you’ll be asked to clean it afterwards.

8. Cafes
The cafe at your local climbing wall will also reopen in line with government restrictions and advice but again, be diligent and maintain social distancing.

9. Support the community
If you want to support our climbing walls while they recover and work through the months of gradual reopening, check out the ABC Climbing the Walls campaign and get yourself a new top to wear down to the wall. #climbingthewalls

10. Enjoy your climb
Finally, enjoy your climb! We’ve all waiting a long time for this but please remember to be polite and patient to keep your fellow climbers and staff safe.

READ: Coronavirus and climbing walls: QnA with Professor Ian Hall

WATCH: Rich Emerson from the ABC went live on our Facebook page and answered all your climbing wall questions.

From how effective is liquid chalk at sanitizing your hands to if there are any restrictions or guidelines on harness rentals, Rich answered them all:


As the climbing walls, crags and mountains start to open, we wanted to say thanks to every BMC member who supported us through the Coronavirus crisis.

From weekly Facebook Lives and GB Climbing home training videos, to our access team working to re-open the crags and fight for your mountain access, we couldn’t have made it without you.

If you liked what we did, then tell your friends about us: www.thebmc.co.uk/join


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Anonymous User
21/07/2020
"Need to know"? More like "stating the obvious."
Anonymous User
22/07/2020
Does anyone know when they will be opening the indoors climbing walls in scotland

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