COVID-19: A COMPLEX PICTURE FOR THE GLOBAL CLIMBING COMMUNITY
The UIAA Covid-19 Crisis Consultation (CCC) Taskforce held its third online meeting on 18 June. Representatives from nine different countries and three continents participated. Subjects discussed included UIAA advice on climbing post lockdown, climber safety, the concerns of UIAA members and a focus on countries either still in lockdown or where infection rates are on the rise.
Overview – Global Situation
From a European perspective, the CCC Taskforce notes that there is an increasing feeling of “situation under control” and that in most countries life is slowly returning to normal. However, in some parts of the world the situation is less clear and more worrying. In both North and South America infection rates are high; in Asia some countries, such as Korea, currently report a ‘normal’ situation while others like India and Nepal are witnessing a spike in infection rates.
Given the current global situation, the UIAA CCC Taskforce makes the recommendation that it is not safe or advisable to travel between continents and encourages the climbing community not to contribute to the spread of the virus through climbing and mountaineering-related travel.
A more detailed overview of the global climbing situation, ‘where can I climb?’ is provided in a recent UIAA article. This resource will be updated over the coming weeks.
The CCC Taskforce meeting, as is custom, opened with a tour de table with participants providing updates on the situation in their respective countries.
Austria: Borders are open to European countries. Huts are open with 1.5m social distancing rules in place and are running at around 30-40% of full capacity. Government support is available to clubs/sections/hut keepers.
Belgium: Limits are in place regarding the number of people who can participate in group/team sport activities, climbing has resumed in the Ardennes, huts remain closed.
Germany: Borders are open for visitors from European countries. Strict social distancing rules have reduced hut capacity to 20%, which makes it economically impossible to operate huts. No government support has yet been provided for clubs/sections available so far. The German Alpine Club (DAV) is in contact with relevant authorities. No travel activities to other continents will be possible for quite some time to come. Gyms are reopening under protection rules. It will be a very tough financial year for the entire industry.
India: The number of infections is rising, and up by 300% since the last CCC meeting (14 May). The real figure could be much higher owing to under testing and under reporting. The mortality rate, like Nepal, though remains relatively low. No climbing and mountaineering activities in groups are expected until the summer of 2021. The situation has had dramatic impacts in certain ‘clusters’ such as Ladakh.
Nepal: The country remains in partial lockdown. Infection rates are on the rise. Fatalities compared to infection rates are relatively low – reasons could be incomplete reporting and the relatively low average age of the population. No climbing, mountaineering, trekking is currently possible. Nepal faces a very difficult economic situation. The expectation is that this will continue well into 2021. Climbing and mountaineering is not expected to return to some sort of normal until the fall of 2021.
Netherlands: The country has embraced the ‘new normal’ with climbing gyms and restaurants open and climbers and mountaineers eager to resume activities in the mountains. A recent update from the UIAA member association in the country, NKBV, can be found here.
Switzerland: As of 15 June, all borders are open to European countries. Life is returning step-by-step to normal. Huts have reopened but under strict guidelines regarding social distancing which has an impact on capacity. Cable cars are also open. A recent update from the Swiss Alpine Club – and a link to key resources –can be viewed here.
There will likely be no international climbing competitions in 2020. In Germany, a slow re-start under restrictions of the national series is expected in November.
The 2020-2021 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour is at risk. The UIAA Ice Climbing Commission is working on document detailing the guidelines and conditions which will need to be in place for international competitions to be held.
Situation for Climbing Gear and Mountaineering Equipment Manufacturers
Manufacturers will face problems sourcing products – for the greater part produced in Asia. Supply side is critical. Demand side rather optimistic, people have a strong desire to experience outdoor activities. Gap between supply/demand my lead to increased prices.
As an increasing number of indoor climbers with lack of outdoor climbing experience move out of gyms and start climbing outdoors, there is a higher risk for accidents. Member federations and clubs are raising awareness and are offering advice and training.
In general, the CCC Taskforce reports that climbers and mountaineers seem to follow Covid-19 related rules and advice with significant discipline. There is a risk for them when they run into less disciplined or experienced groups on excursions, in huts, restaurants, trains and cable cars. Climbers have a responsibility to help ensure people follow the rules.
The UIAA thanks members who have submitted information through the online form regarding the impact of Covid-19 on their activities and to provide subjects for the CCC Taskforce to address. The UIAA recognises that there will be significant financial consequences for all member federations. This will affect, in particular, smaller members’ ability to continue their activities and to pay membership fees. The CCC Taskforce UIAA Management Committee will continue to monitor this situation before making any proposals to the UIAA Management Committee ahead of October’s General Assembly.
The next online meeting is scheduled for late July.
Where can I climb? – A guide to the current global situation
Climbing guidance in post lockdown countries – Steps and rules to follow
UIAA Covid-19 portal – Information from members around the world; and updates related to UIAA activities
Coming Soon – Q&A guidance from UIAA Medical Commission