As overseas travel is restricted and indoor walls start to close, should you be heading out climbing and hill walking?
Things change fast, and the answer is no.
Read our latest article to find out more.
Even writing the title of this article feels rather surreal. Who would have imagined just a few weeks ago that we’d seriously be considering whether hill walking and climbing outdoors was a good thing?
Now, with many climbing walls shut, a nation transitioning to the new reality of working from home and the onset of spring, we’re starting to get a lot of questions about whether people should still be heading into the outdoors to climb and hill walk.
We can all weigh up the positives: continued cash to rural economies, supporting the outdoor sector, our mental health, social distancing whilst maintaining fitness.
However, the potential negatives are starting to rack up too: the risk of having an accident and using up valuable NHS resources, the risks (of accidents and transmission) whilst travelling, the risk of bringing infection into a rural community with limited medical resources, the complications of mountain rescue.
Are the mountains open?
In Chamonix, France, the PGHM (the mountain police), people are banned from the mountains. In Spain, the crags are closed for climbing. In Italy and Spain, recreational cycling is banned.
However, the UK isn’t at that stage (yet) and the National Trust have just put out a statement stating that their land is open and is now free for everyone to access:
“The National Trust will, where possible, open as many of its gardens and parks for free, but close its houses, cafes and shops to help the nation fight the spread of the coronavirus. We recognise that people are likely to need access to open space and to nature, beauty and history."
Many nature reserves are also open, such as those run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who state that: "Our nature reserves are open and remain excellent places to unwind with wildlife, get fresh air, headspace and exercise, away from any crowd"
Stick to familiar areas
Scottish Mountain Rescue has put out a statement urging people to stick to “familiar and safe areas”:
“Being in the outdoors has many benefits and we are usually very happy to encourage individuals to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of Scotland . However, during this ongoing situation we ask you not to take any unnecessary risk when enjoying the outdoors. Perhaps go on adventures you are familiar and safe with and while doing so, keep social distancing in mind."
This is backed up by Elfyn Jones of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team who says:
“We all need access to the countryside for our health, but there is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for mountain rescue in some areas as this develops.”
Are huts open?
If you are heading out then be aware that most club huts are now closed, or about to close, including the Glen Brittle hut, Don Whillans Hut, Climbers' Club huts and FRCC huts. We produced an article on using club huts and COVID-19, but not all the information now remains relevant, so please read it together with our latest update.
What does the BMC recommend?
This is uncharted territory for all of us, and the advice we give to climbers, walkers and mountaineers will no doubt change over the coming days, weeks and even months. But if you’re wondering whether to head outside, this is what we currently think:
People need access to countryside for their health – both mental and physical.
Follow the most current NHS advice regarding health and distancing. Currently Public Health England’s advice is: "you can go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others."
Consider your means of travel and distance – close to home is best and, despite the environmental impact, it’s better to be in personal cars than public transport at the moment.
Stick to familiar areas and low-risk activities.
Reduce your risk. Be very aware that medical and rescue services and facilities are going to be extremely stretched and overwhelmed. It would be socially irresponsible to be taking risks at this time that could place an additional burden on medical and emergency services.
Do not assume that Mountain Rescue will be available. There is a real possibility of reduced or even no cover for rescue in some areas as this develops - including along the coast that depends on lifeboat and volunteer coastguards.
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 July here and for the general return to climbing here
🌳 What's the situation in Wales? Read the full October update here
😷 When and how will the walls reopen? In England it's July 25th Read the ABC's advice for walls and watch their live update here
✈️ Can I now travel abroad again? Get the latest answers to going abroad with travel restrictions now easing
🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Yes - we officially reopened at the start of July!
🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? The latest club huts update and all you need to know
📜 Will the BMC keep running smoothly? Read more or watch our weekly live updates from our CEO
🚗 What have the BMC access team been doing during this time? Read on
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