How COVID-19 Has Impacted Climbing Season

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Climbing Season

  • Steven Brown


The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had an impact across the globe. From economic crisis to overworked hospital staff, this deadly virus has rapidly plunged the world into a crisis like no other. With many different governments advising against non-essential international travel, one industry that has been hit particularly hard is of course the travel and tourism industry. 


Tourism directly impacts local economies 

 Although those who are into climbing - especially high-altitude climbing - are some of the strongest and healthiest people on the planet, they have not been exempt from dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the virus has caused multiple travel restrictions and quarantines across the globe, many upcoming climbing seasons have been been forced to cancel altogether. For example on March 11, the China Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) announced that they will no longer be allowing people to climb Mount Everest from the China-controlled north side of the mountain. This organisation is in charge of issuing all travel and climbing permits across the Tibetan Plateau. Nepal soon followed China’s announcement and also cancelled climbing expeditions, including those to Everest. In addition to this, the government temporarily stopped issuing on-arrival visas for tourists too. The suspension went into effect March 14 and lasted until April 30. 

Not only is Everest one of the most famous landmarks in the world, what makes this an especially hard decision is how it impacts the economy. Nepal is considered one of the world’s poorer countries, which means it relies heavily on tourism. This is a decision that was likely made after much thought and definitely one that wasn’t taken lightly. Mountain tourism is one of the backbones of Nepal’s economy. The decision to stop all of the climbing expeditions will be hard to recover from, especially for local communities whose livelihoods rely on mountaineering tourism. Jiban Ghimire, a Kathmandu-based tour operator of Shangri La Treks, told National Geographic, “one tourist supports 11 Nepali families. It’s going to be very tough. Hard to describe. We won’t see it right away, but it’s going to be huge.” Everest climbers alone contribute more than £240 million to the country. Although the government makes a few million dollars, 90% of the money goes straight into the people. Climbing pays for their families, schools, bills and so on. If the people of Nepal are set to lose Everest, a lot of unemployment will follow. We don’t have to tell you how hard the effects of unemployment are on people. 

Just to illustrate how huge a decision this is, it will be the first time no one will summit the world’s highest mountain since 2015 when a massive earthquake closed the peak. National Geographic photographer and Everest climber has spoken in support of the decision: “I think it’ll be good if no one climbs Everest this year, I’m smiling imagining the mountain standing by itself, unencumbered by the machinations of the world pouring down on it”. 

 UK climbers have been impacted too 

 Here in the UK, the ‘Stay Home’ and ‘Stay Local’ messages have been adopted by the majority of the mountaineering community since the onset of the pandemic. As we are unfortunately living through an unprecedented time, there is a lot of uncertainty and mixed messages in regards to what we can and cannot do. The government has continued to assess the development of the pandemic which has led to implementation of different phases to lockdown measures easing. Many have seen their local climbing seasons postponed and cancelled too. 

However as of mid-July / end of August, we have seen lockdown measures slowly but surely starting to ease and people feeling safe returning to certain places and activities again. This has led to the re-introduction of things like hill-walking and climbing again from a socially safe distance. 

 General advice across all outdoor and climbing activities 

 For adults and people over the age of 12, physical social distancing of 2m is still recommended with anyone that is not part of your household 

  • Adults can meet up with up to four other households outdoors daily providing they are still social distancing, the maximum group size is 15
    The same rules apply to children as adults with the exception of: children aged 0 - 11 do not need to maintain physical distancing and there is no limit to the number of households that children aged 0-11 can meet in one day, young people aged 12 - 17 can meet up to 15 people from up to 4 other households at a time, but there is no limit to the number of households that they can meet in one day. This means that young people can meet their friends separately from meetings that other members of their household may be having.
    Be committed to hand hygiene - wash your hands with soap and water for at least 0 second before leaving home and be cautious of touching surfaces i.e. gates, stiles
    Avoid sharing food, drink or equipment with other people
    Think about where you want to go, how you will get there and back again
    Prepare to adapt and be flexible if your chosen destination is busy or crowded
    Have alternative locations or routes in mind
    Check that toilets, shops and cafes are ope before you go, take everything you need with you
    Litter collection is limited right now, please take a bag to put our litter in and take it home for proper disposal or recycling
    Take your own first aid kit and include a COVID kit with sanitiser, soap, gloves, masks etc.
    Carry out a risk assessment for your proposed activity in advance and consider safety first
    Choose activities that you know and have done safely before, it’s important to do things within your experience and competence
    Navigation errors are a major cause of mountain rescue call outs, so remember to refresh your navigation skills before heading out
    Check the mountain weather forecast and ensure you have all the appropriate equipment, footwear and clothing for what you plan to do
    Look after yourself in case of an accident or injury
    Mountain rescue assistance is limited so plan to be self-reliant in the mountain environment
    Should you need assistance be prepared to wait several hours for rescue
    It is a good idea to try familiarise yourself with the outdoor access code as well as the rights and responsibilities that exist for both the public and for land managers
    Always be considerate of the sensitivities of local communities who may be vary of large number of visitors and the risk of COVID-19 transmission
    If you are driving, please park with consideration for others. Do not block roads, driveways and access for other vehicles
    If it’s too busy, go somewhere else
    Respect the health and safety of others working the land - please follow all the reasonable requests and signs to avoid particular areas
    Be sure to know where to go in the outdoors as public toilets may be close, even for trips close to home
    Avoid lighting fires or using disposable BBQs, camping etc

You can still go and enjoy the great outdoors, it’s just about being mindful of yourself and others. We urge anyone heading out to enjoy the outdoors but simply reflect on how each individual action reflects on the whole outdoor community. The key is to take a sensible approach when conducting your activities. Again, remember to maintain your distance by staying at least 2 metres away from people if possible. Respect the health and safety of farmers and others working the land – please follow all reasonable requests and signs to avoid particular areas, such as farmyards, fields with pregnant or young livestock, and other busy working areas. If you have a dog, please put them on a lead or keep them close at heel and do not let them approach other people or livestock. use your best judgement to manage risks and always consider the social responsibility we all have to one another, to protecting our emergency services and to minimise the transmission of COVID-19. 

 Before you go out, ask yourself: 

 Do I have the appropriate clothing and equipment for my planned trip? 

  • Am I prepared for any emergency situation?
    Have I checked the weather forecast and planned appropriately?
    Do I have the necessary experience and skills to do what is planned?
    Do I have the skills to find my way, especially in poor visibility or darkness?
    Are all members of my group fit and confident enough to do what is planned?
    Have I got alternative plans in case it’s busy where I want to go?


Contact My Climbing Gear 

 If you are looking for more tips and advice designed to make you a better climber, as well as a wide range of name brand climbing gear and apparel, check out My Climbing Gear today! 

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