THE GLOBAL CLIMBING SITUATION: WHERE CAN I CLIMB?
Throughout the past three and a half months, the UIAA has provided its members and the wider climbing and mountaineering community with updates concerning the impact and spread of Covid-19.
The UIAA Covid-19 portal currently provides over 20 updates from the UIAA related to Commission and projects activities, about the work of its dedicated Covid-19 Crisis Consultation (CCC) Taskforce as well as some 70 updates from members in 40 different countries.
Recent support has included general guidance for climbers in countries where lockdown measures have eased. The UIAA Covid-19 Crisis Consultation Taskforce held its latest meeting on 18 June. A report can be viewed here.
This following article provides a snapshot of the current picture on travel and climbing in different countries. Advisory: This information published on this page is subject to change and further information will be provided on additional countries and mountain regions.
The UIAA currently advises against any non-essential travel between continents and recommends checking the latest travel information with your relevant national authorities. In Europe while some countries have opened borders and allowed indoor and outdoor climbing to resume under specific guidelines, the situation in other continents is currently more complex. For most countries in Asia, North America and South America, international air travel is currently suspended or severely restricted. Many outdoor areas, even for local climbers, are currently off limits.
South African airspace is currently closed to commercial airlines. As reported by UIAA member association, Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA): “Some mountain areas, critical to mountaineering in South Africa, have now been opened up. These include most of Table Mountain National Park, Golden Gate National Park and parts of the Garden Route National Park. Other parts of the country will unfortunately have to wait and see whether other landowners and statutory bodies, e.g. the provincial conservation authorities, follow suit. The MCSA is continuing to work towards this end.”
The Government of Tanzania announced on 18 May that it had lifted the ban on international flights arriving and departing Tanzania. It is implementing temperature scanning and collecting tracking information for all international passengers arriving into Tanzania but have removed mandatory 14-day quarantine requirements on arrival. Most 2020 expeditions to Kilimanjaro have been cancelled.
International air travel remains suspended. Travel within in India is restricted in certain states. 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.
All international flights into Nepal are currently suspended (until at least the end of June). Members of the UIAA Covid-19 Crisis Consultation (CCC) Taskforce have indicated that the climbing season in Nepal is unlikely to return before 2021, and possibly not before the autumn of 2021. No trekking/climbing is currently possible. Please refer to the recent article.
From 4 June, visitors who have stayed in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia for two weeks prior to arrival can currently enter. This was extended to another 31 countries (excluding Portugal, Sweden, Spain and the UK) on 16 June. Huts (at 30-40% capacity) and mountain areas are open albeit with some restrictions.
France opened its borders to travellers from most EU countries and EFTA nations on 15 June. There is no quarantine. Travellers from Spain were permitted from 21 June. Travellers from the UK currently face a 14-day quarantine. France permitted the reopening of mountain huts from 3 June. Different conditions apply and opening is gradual. FFCAM (Fédération Française des clubs alpins et de montagne) has provided a dedicated guide.
Outdoor mountain activities have been possible from 11 May. FFCAM has provided guidance specific related to individual sports and activities.
Borders are open for European visitors. Strict social distancing rules have reduced hut capacity to 20%, which makes it economically impossible to operate huts. No government support has 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.
Visitors from the EU and the Schengen area have been permitted entry from 3 June. The Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) has published detailed guidance related to visiting huts and the mountains through its online portal. https://www.cai.it/covid-19/
Huts are now open – specific guidelines and regulations need to be followed.
As of 15 June, travel has been permitted from other Nordic countries providing their rates of infection remain low. Only Sweden does not currently qualify. Travel restrictions from other European countries are expected to be lifted from 20 July.
The Norwegian Alpine Club has been following national guidelines closely. Its cabins are now open although bookings must be made in advances and there are limits on the number of visits.
Spain reopened its borders with most other EU countries on 21 June (and Portugal from 1 July).
Spain is now under the “new normal”. No restrictions are in place across the country.
Huts and specific rules: Accommodation providers have been open from phase 2 to 30% of the total capacity. Currently mountain huts access is comparable to that of tourist hostels: open with a capacity of 50% in most territories, with exceptions – owing to management limitations – at 30%. In most of the ENPs (Natural Protected Areas), an exception has been made and camping is allowed around mountain huts to balance for the loss of places available.
In most of regions restaurant service is permitted at a capacity of 75% outdoors and 50% indoors.
The rules to follow are those of keeping 1.5m of distance (social distance), use of masks inside and washing of hands . Bedding must be left freshly packed and the guest must make their own bed.
Climbing gyms: Same rules as sports centres. Since phase 2, climbing gyms have opened with the same capacity and restrictions as in mountain huts (30% in phase 2 and currently 50 or 75% depending on the region).
The rules are those of social distance maintenance, cleaning of the area when a climber changes, closed showers and changing rooms with capacity restrictions.
It is recommended to climb with a mask. And it is mandatory to use them in common areas.
Mountain ranges/climbing areas: Currently there are no specific recommendations for sports in these areas, except for groups over 25 pax in some Autonomous Communities. But as for rock climbing no particular rules are in place. The rules in Spain fall in line with the UIAA general guidelines.
Cable cars: Open with restrictions in terms of capacity and mandatory use of masks.
All climbing gyms are open with protection plans put in place with the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). Some huts have reopened – each hut must have a specific protection plan based on the general protection plan developed by the federation. Like those in France and Italy, protection plans include social distancing and hygiene/safety measures, keeping track of all people sleeping or eating in the huts. Visitors must book make a reservation before coming to the hut, otherwise they will not be allowed to sleep in the hut. They have to bring their own sleeping bag and pillow cover, disinfection solution and/or soap. Visitors who feel ill must refrain from coming to the hut. If they feel ill in the hut, they have to inform the guardian immediately.
The borders to all European countries reopened on 15 June. Information in English on the situation in Switzerland on the website of the Federal Office of Public Health:
Update, 10 July:
– Travellers from certain regions will have to go into quarantine when entering Switzerland. The list of countries is updated on a regular basis (see above).
– It is now compulsory to wear a face mask on public transport throughout Switzerland, as of 6 July.
International travel into the United Kingdom is possible with some quarantine measures in place. Climbing gyms remain closed. Guidance for visiting outdoor areas differs for England and Wales. The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has provided a guide to what is currently possible and what will be possible when lockdown measures ease further on 4 July.
The Canada Border Services Agency announced on 8 June that foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and who do not have Covid-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of Covid-19, or who do not have reason to believe they have Covid-19, will be exempt from the prohibition on entry to Canada if entering to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days. Otherwise entry into Canada remains restricted.
In addition there are provincial protocols for travel within Canada; most provinces still have some form of suggested personal quarantine for residents returning from another province, most are 14 days.
The Alpine Club of Canada huts reopened on 15 June. Specific guidelines and rules can be found here.
Travel to the United States from foreign countries is currently extremely limited especially to those who have been in the UK, Ireland, the Schengen zone, Brazil, Iran or China within the previous 14 days. The US-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel until 21 July.
The American Alpine Club’s current guide to climbing in the country can be found here: https://americanalpineclub.org/news/2020/5/1/climbing-in-the-covid-era
The critical issue for any climber regarding both Canada and the USA is that travel between states and provinces are really the purview of the provinces (Canada) or jurisdiction of each state (USA) and control of much of the land area use is with each province or state except for federal lands in each entity. A travelling climber is advised to check online at both levels (federal and the province or state).
Information coming soon
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