Climbing in a pandemic

Spring has sprung and many in Southwest Montana are itching to get out and go climbing. Which brings us to the big question – can we go climbing during a pandemic???

Right now the most important thing to do is to follow public health official guidelines and state/local requirements. Things change frequently, but it’s important to stay up to date with the latest information and advisories. The Montana Department of Health and Human Services coronavirus website is here. Be sure to also check the County health department website for wherever you might be, as things vary by locality. As climbers, we need to consider what health officials are saying and apply their guidance and direction to our climbing decisions, erring on the side of caution for the health of all.

Nobody at SMCC is an epidemiologist and we don’t feel it’s our place to dictate individual actions, however, the BLM, Forest Service, and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks can and will close climbing crags and access points if there are large groups and inadequate social distancing.  Although the Governor’s restrictions are subject to change, here are our guidelines for the current situation (as of May 1, 2020). 

  • Be nice to people. 
  • Don’t go to the crag if you’re having COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild, or think you may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • We don’t know if climbing surfaces hold the virus, so assume they do.
  • You could be an asymptomatic carrier, so only climb with people in your household.
  • Select objectives that are well within your limit and climb cautiously.
  • Avoid busy climbing areas and crowded trailheads. If your first choice is busy, go to a second option, and maybe even a third.
  • Don’t put the rope or gear in your mouth.
  • Stay six to ten feet away from those not in your household, whether you’re climbing, belaying, hiking, or hanging out at the crag.
  • Use hand sanitizer before and after climbing a route, eating, and going to the bathroom.
  • Bring a wag bag and know how to use it.
  • Keep it local. This is not the time to go to Ten Sleep (or anywhere out of state) but if you do travel, be self-sufficient with food and water. Montana has a 14-day quarantine for anybody entering the state – this applies if you leave for a weekend and come back too!
  • Remember, not everybody has the same access to the outdoors that we have here in Montana. Be considerate of others emotional health when posting on the internet.

Until there is a vaccine, we have to figure out how we can modify our behavior to reduce the impact of this virus. Each week we are learning a lot more and things change frequently, so please stay in tune with what is happening and alter your actions accordingly