The popularity of climbing in the UK is increasing.
It is difficult to give participation figures for mountaineering due to the nature of the activity. For instance, people don't need to register when they hike up a mountain or go climbing on a crag in the UK. However, here are a few indicators:
BMC membership statistics
BMC membership has grown in recent years, from a total of about 25,000 in 1990 to over 75,000 currently. BMC Individual Membership (excludes club members) has doubled in recent years from 25,000 in 2000 to over 50,000 currently. For a graph showing the longterm growth in BMC membership since 2000 see the BMC annual report 2012 - download here (see page 6).
In 2010, the BMC carried out a BMC Membership Survey 2010
Some of the key findings were:
62% said hill walking was their top activity from a list of seven mountain-related activities.
74% go rock climbing outdoors; 72% go climbing indoors.
A sturdy 96% of club members were satisfied with the BMC.
Over 25% of the non-club members said they’d like to join a club.
Top reasons for joining the BMC are for insurance and to register for mountain training awards; the main reason for renewal is to support the BMC's work.
There are approximately 300 climbing and mountaineering clubs (including student clubs) affiliated to the BMC.
Each year there are currently approximately 5 million climbing wall users in the UK. There are around 350 public access climbing walls listed within the BMC wall directory. A rough estimate is that the number of public walls has increased from around 300 to 400 in the last 5 years. There are further climbing walls in schools, gyms and those used by the military. There has been a huge increase on the number of walls in schools however we don't have the figures for this.
In 2010, the BMC conducted a Climbing Wall Survey 2010
Participation in climbing competitions
The number of young people taking part in the BMC Youth Climbing Series has risen by 50% in the last 5 years (from 494 in 2009 to at least 740 in 2013). Around 100 climbers take part in the British Lead Climbing Championships and almost 200 compete in the British Bouldering Championships. Between 35 and 40 climbers have taken part in the BMC paraclimbing series every year since it started in 2010.
Mountaineering in schools
Mountaineering is on the up in schools, according to a survey which shows that 14% of schools offered it as an activity in 2009/10. This is double that of six years previous.
Active People Surveys
In Sport England's Active People Survey 1 (2005/06) 'walking' came top of all activities surveyed.
According to Active People Survey 2 (2007/08) ‘mountaineering’ was indicated to be the tenth fastest growing sport in terms of increase in participation over the past two years, .
In Sport England's Active People Survey 3 (2008/9) there was no statistical change in the number of people participating 3 times a week in mountaineering.
Active People Survey 4 (2009/10) showed that participation in climbing, hill walking and mountaineering was increasing.
Active People Survey 5 (2010/11) indicated that 'mountaineering' was one of only four sports to show an increase in participation.
Active People Survey 6 (2011/12) results were announced in December 2012. The Survey indicated that the number of people in England who go mountaineering* once a week has increased from 86,100 (2007-08) to 98,700 (2011-12).
*Mountaineering includes: indoor climbing, rock climbing, bouldering, mountaineering, high altitude mountaineering, trekking, hill walking, mountain walking.
Active People Survey 7 is underway. APS7 results will be published every 6 months. The first set of rolling 12 month results (for the period April 2012 to April 2013) will be released in June 2013. The full year results (APS7: October 2012 to October 2013) will be released in December 2013.
For detailed results see the Sport England website.
In 2006, the BMC carried out an equity survey of its membership. Read about the results. The BMC's equity steering group will be looking to do another survey in the near future.
Women in climbing
According to the BMC equity survey (above), the proportion of women has increased from 16% to 25% from 2002 to 2006. There are now a number of clubs and courses specifically aimed at women. The Pinnacle Club is a nation-wide women's rock climbing club with members throughout Britain. It has an active 'meets programme' in most climbing areas and it owns a hut in Snowdonia.
Visitor numbers to Britain's National Parks can be seen on the National Parks website.
Sport and recreation in the UK
Some useful figures are available on the Sport & Recreation Alliance website.
For some older statistics take a look at the BMC's participation fact sheet.