- May 6, 2020
- Posted by: OIA Admin
- Category: Outdoor Professionals
GETTING BACK TO WORK
The Association of Mountaineering Instructors is the representative body for professionally qualified
Mountaineering and Climbing Instructors in the UK and Ireland.
All mountaineering instructors in the UK & Ireland have been unable to work due to the Covid 19 lockdown.
This report looks at the impact on the industry and our clients, the wider economic impact and
looks at how things might move forward as Government looks to ease the lockdown across the UK.
The aim of the report is to highlight what AMI members do and how they have been affected to an external
audience whilst at the same time informing members of the current situation. As such the report
will be updated as this fluid situation progresses.
Report written at request of AMI committee by Rob Johnson WMCI & IML
With contributions from Al Halewood and Phil Baker
Page 3 Mountaineering Instructors – Who we are and what we do
Page 4-5 Covid 19 Timeline
Page 6 Impact on Mountaineering Instructors
Page 7 Additional economic considerations
Page 9 Moving Forward – the Welsh Government framework
Page 10-11 Applying the framework to our profession
Page 12 How it’s working in Europe
Page 13 Risk & Rescue
Page 14 The Health and social benefits of walking & climbing
Page 15-16 Conclusion
3rd May 2020 First draft
What we do and where we do it
We take clients hill walking, mountaineering and climbing and we teach them the
skills to enjoy these disciplines safely.
Mountaineering Instructors hold the highest qualifications that Mountain Training UK
provide as the awarding body in our profession. The Mountaineering and Climbing
Instructor (MCI) qualifies people to instruct in all aspects of climbing and mountaineering
in summer conditions and will take an average person about 6-8 years to
qualify through a series of training and assessment courses and massive amounts of
underlying personal experience.
The Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor (WMCI) builds on this qualification
to allow the holder to work in the winter environment of ice and snow and will
take an additional 4 years on average to achieve.
Members work in a mixture of small business settings, residential outdoor centres,
technical advisor roles and sole traders. All of these are affected by the current crisis.
AMI members are almost exclusively used to deliver NGB awards & site specific
schemes, and subsequent training/CPD.
Our 1000 members are the gatekeepers for a huge amount of land based / off ground
adventure activity provision. Many schools, centres and small businesses utilise our
members as technical advisors and course staff – without whom there would be a gap
in the chain of competence that meant they would be unable to function.
20th March – UK Government shut all schools, pubs and restaurants and encouraged
people to stay at home
21/22 March – Snowdonia saw its busiest weekend in living memory. Car parks overflowed,
traffic was busier than a bank holiday weekend and footpaths were crowded.
Scottish Mountain Rescue Teams have a busy weekend responding to a number of
23 March – The government imposed a lockdown on the whole population, banning
all “non-essential” travel and contact with people outside one’s home (including family
and partners), and shutting almost all businesses, venues, facilities, amenities and
places of worship. People were told to keep apart in public. Police were given power
to enforce the lockdown, and the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave the government emergency
powers not used since the Second World War.
The Welsh Government produces its own lockdown rules for Wales. “Unnecessary
and unjustifiable journeys” are prohibited to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading
further and imposing additional burdens on health services. The main points affecting
our industry are:
• During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living
or remain away from that place without reasonable excuse.
• A reasonable excuse includes: “to take exercise, no more than once a day”. (This
differs from England, Scotland & Ireland where the limit of once per day is not set).
• The form of exercise is not specified in the regulations, but in practice this is constrained
by other restrictions that have been imposed. The relevant restrictions are
the closure of indoor leisure facilities such as swimming pools, closure of certain
footpaths and land in the countryside and the overarching prohibition (which derives
from regulation 8) on unnecessary travel. As one of the purposes of the restrictions
is to reduce pressure on the NHS, there is an expectation also that the
reasonable excuse to exercise does not include activities that involve a significant
degree of risk (for example swimming or other exercise at sea, or in lakes, rivers or
other waterways). Exercise, therefore, should be done locally and generally be limited
to walking, running and cycling.
• BMC release statement including: Dave Turnbull, BMC CEO, said:
“We never thought we’d be asking the outdoor community not to go climbing or hill
walking, but that’s our current advice. It’s time to put it on hold.”
25 March – The Snowdonia National Park Authority & Gwynedd Council close the
busiest mountains (Snowdon and the Glyderau) with the help of emergency Welsh
Mountaineering Scotland issue a letter to members reinforcing the Government message
of “no recreational mountaineering activities for the foreseeable future.”
April – The mountains of the UK & Ireland remain largely untouched. On the 18th April
two people traverse Crib Goch without being caught but vigilantes dish out their own
punishment on a car that is assumed to belong to them.
Media release of Police guidelines implying that driving to take exercise is ok providing
the exercise is of longer duration than the drive prompts regional Police, National
Parks, Mountain Rescue organisations and the BMC to all reiterate that the hills are
still closed at present.
Peak District National Park bosses reiterate the ‘stay at home’ message in response to
wildfires and police fines issued to non-essential visitors. Northumberland Mountain
Rescue Team turns back a large group of walkers whilst assisting with wildfires in the
area. Police in North Yorkshire hand out fixed penalty fines to visitors from as far away
IMPACT ON INSTRUCTORS
The memberships of the four main mountaineering associations (Association of
Mountaineering Instructors, AMI; British Association of International Mountain Leaders,
BAIML; Mountain Training Association, MTA; and British association of Mountain
Guides, BMG), comprising of 7,184 members, were contacted with an impact survey
Summary of Findings
• Members of the four main mountaineering associations contributed £92.5 million
gross in the 2018-19 tax year.
• We forecast a loss of earnings to members of £58.8 million in the six months from
the 14th of March to the 14th of August due to COVID-19.
• This loss of earnings over a six-month period would be a 63.6% loss compared with
the 2018-19 tax year as a result of the seasonality of work.
• £17.1 million of non-refundable work expenses are likely to be spent by members
over this six-month period.
• The worst affected individuals are owners of limited companies who are also selfemployed,
who see a 68% loss of earnings, and the self-employed who see a 66% loss
• Members who are owners of limited companies will be unlikely to benefit from business
grants or the furloughing of staff in this sector due to their company structure.
• Many members who are self-employed will be ineligible for the self-employment
grant due to joining the industry too recently and/or having over 50% of work as an
In a nutshell our income has stopped.
Additional Economic Considerations
This report does not take into account the economic benefits of the tourism that our
industry creates. The vast majority of people we take into the mountains travel from
outside of the area and stay at guest houses, hotels, camp sites and hostels etc
• Total estimated annual contribution of outdoor activity tourism to the economy of
Wales is approximately £481m or 6% of the total economic contribution of all tourism
• Additional spend generated by outdoor activity tourists in Wales annually is estimated
as being able to support in the region of 8,243 full time equivalent jobs in the
Welsh labour market.
• The value added contribution of outdoor activity tourism in Wales accounts for 10%
the Welsh tourism economy.
• Total expenditure on outdoor activity tourism in Wales accounts for 10% or 12% of
expenditure in the tourist economy as a whole, according to Visit Britain and Welsh
Government sources respectively.
Scottish activity tourism resulted in a spend of £759 million in 2010 but by 2017 the
expenditure of those taking “long walks, hikes or rambles” alone was worth £776 million
representing 7.4% of Scottish tourism expenditure that year. Source: http://wildscotland.
Historical figures quoted in the same document show that the hillwalking and mountaineering
sector has been worth: £370.7 million and the mountaineering sector alone
supports the equivalent of 4466 full time jobs but in the interim it to has grown
The Scottish National Tourism Strategy for 2020 stated that ‘activities and adventure sector
of Scottish Tourism was expected to be valued at £759 million in 2020 representing up
to 15% of expected £5 billion of tourism expenditure.
70% of this expenditure is expected to be from domestic tourism.
An analysis from Natural England using data from 2009 – 2013 calculates that 36% of
outdoor recreational visits for walking involved spend, contributing an average of £6,999
million per year to the economy in England.
VisitEngland data (2012/13) states that 18.57% of domestic visits involved outdoor recreation,
comprising 24.03% (£16,331 million) of total spend.
Source: The Economic Impact of Outdoor Recreation in the UK: The Evidence – V Comley
and C Mackintosh (Liverpool John Moores University and Sport and Recreation Alliance)
Overseas visitors engaging in activity tourism in Ireland were worth €1.2 billion in 2011
Activity tourism visitors stay longer (10 days) than the average overseas holiday maker (7
The spend of activity tourism visitors is 45% higher than the average overseas visitor
Government is now considering how to gradually ease the lockdown to re-start the
economy whilst controlling the infection rate of Covid 19. As an example the Welsh
Government have said that ending lockdown will done in phases and has set out a
framework of 7 key questions to consider before relaxing restrictions:
Would easing a restriction have a negative effect on containing the virus?
Does a particular measure pose a low risk of further infection?
How can it be monitored and enforced?
Can it be reversed quickly if it creates unintended consequences?
Does it have a positive economic benefit?
Does it have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing?
Does it have a positive impact on equality?
When looking at our ability to work as Mountaineering Instructors we need to consider
our work within this framework. We need to consider which elements of the lockdown
would need to be eased to facilitate this and for us these are:
1. The opening of the mountains
2. The ability to undertake our work safely with social distancing measures in place
3. The freedom for our clients to travel to mountain areas
4. The opening of accommodation facilities for our clients to stay in
Meeting these challenges as a profession
Before we apply a framework for working, access is key.
1. The Opening of the mountains where access has been lost
There is a good case that the mountains could be reopened and meet the requirements
of the framework.
The mountains provide an excellent opportunity for local people to exercise with
good social distancing. We would need the ability to exercise for a whole day to make
this possible. This could be done in a way that meets the requirements of the framework
and has a positive impact on peoples wellbeing. If local people wanted to engage
an instructor to manage risk then this would bring small economic benefits.
2. The ability to undertake our work safely with social distancing measures in place
Some activities are better suited than others to working with social distancing. Low
ratios would mean social distancing is easier to achieve ie 1 instructor with two
Hillwalking would be an ideal activity. Single Pitch climbing could also be possible
with preparation and planning.
More details on risk assessing activities is being undertaken for AMI members with
partner organisations such as MTUKI & BMG.
3. The freedom for our clients to travel to the mountains
At the moment it is hard to see how this can be achieved and meet the requirements
of the first 4 questions of the framework. I think that Contact Tracing could be the
closest we get to a short term solution.
The whole of the tourism industry in the UK & Ireland is in the same situation as us on
this point and it will require us to be a part of the bigger picture. This is unlikely to
change until we have a working solution for the whole of society which could be Contact
Tracing, a cure or a vaccine.
4. The opening of accommodation facilities for our clients to stay in.
As point three.
In addition we need to consider the local community in which we work. Fewer than
one in five of the British public believe the time is right to consider reopening
schools, restaurants, pubs and stadiums. The findings, in a new poll for the Observer,
suggest Boris Johnson will struggle to convince people to return their lives to normal
if he tries to ease the lockdown soon. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/
The villages around the mountains are full of signs asking visitors to stay at home and
the timeline above shows the vigilante element that exists.
We live and work in rural communities who do not have the health resources of the
bigger cities and we do not want to bring additional risk to those communities.
We could work safely with social distancing. There are some activities that we provide
that are more suitable than others.
AMI are clear that we may have to adopt ‘new normals’ in terms of how we use venues
and interact with clients. This will follow as government guidelines evolve.
The main bulk of our income relies on visitors to the area. For us to work in a way that
is economically meaningful we need the outdoor tourism industry to re-start in the
mountains and climbing regions across the UK and Ireland. This can only happen
when measures have been put in place by Government that allow this to happen safely.
Leaving the Lockdown – how its happening in Europe
Switzerland, France and Austria have been “ahead of the curve” from the outset of
the Pandemic and now we are starting to see restrictions being eased that will allow
mountain professionals to work overseas.
Mountain tours have reopened from 29th April.
Mountain huts and climbing walls are re-opening from the 11th May
Source and further info: https://www.sac-cas.ch/en/the-sac/sac-huts-remainclosed-
The SNGM have issued to their members a ‘roadmap’ for returning to work, in line
with the French state. They are looking at a graduated return from mid May.
What activities :
– Week 1: Favor simple activities (walking whatever the terrain, running, cycling,
climbing on a school site). Per day.
– Week 2: Ski touring, large climbing routes, possible bivouac …
– Week 3: no restrictions.
– Adaptation of the practice on simple bases resulting from the general health rules
(distancing, masks at the gathering points within 2 m, hand washing or hydroalcoholic
gel at the start and end of activity, do not touch your face, wearing gloves
when necessary …).
Source: John Cousins – CEO – MTUKI
Austria has allowed mountain sports to resume from the 1st May, including more risky
pursuits such as off piste skiing but with participants being asked to “stick to something
easy” Source: https://sportstar.thehindu.com/other-sports/coronavirus-covid19-
Risk & Rescue
“As one of the purposes of the restrictions is to reduce pressure on the NHS, there is
an expectation also that the reasonable excuse to exercise does not include activities
that involve a significant degree of risk (for example swimming or other exercise at
sea, or in lakes, rivers or other waterways). Exercise, therefore, should be done locally
and generally be limited to walking, running and cycling.” Source: https://gov.wales/
As professional instructors we are very good at assessing and managing risk in the
mountains. It forms the basis of our experience and our qualifications. We are able to
add value to peoples experience in the great outdoors by providing them with skills
that allow them to stay safe and appreciate the environment that they are in. This has
never been more important than in the current situation and it would be important
that instructors reflected this in their daily risk assessments.
Mountain Rescue in the UK is provided by volunteers, many of whom are AMI members.
Teams have remained on call throughout the period.
Health benefits of climbing and hill walking
The health and well being benefits of the great outdoors are numerous. As well as the
physical benefits, there are many mental health and social benefits.
Physical health: Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of exercising, and an
effective way of managing weight. Regular brisk walking will improve performance of
the heart, lungs and circulation, as well as lower blood pressure. Source: https://
Regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart
disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers. Source: https://
Mental health and well being: Walking may be more powerful than we realise. It helps
us cope at work by helping de-stress amongst nature, it ‘heals’ our brains, helps us
concentrate, makes us more creative and can help treat depression. Source: https://
Once we can solve the problems of coming out of the lockdown the future for British
tourism could be very bright. Air travel is likely to increase in costs and people are
likely to have less money to spend.
“People are likely to be travelling less internationally, what used to be called a staycation
will change, and could become the norm,” Andy Rutherford, founder of UK-based
tour operator Fresh Eyes, says. Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-52450038
Our industry is worth protecting for the economic benefit it brings to the UK & Ireland
as well as the many psychological benefits it brings to all members of our society
The majority of Mountaineering Instructors run small business that have so far fallen
outside of the financial support provided by Government. The sector needs specific
funding for it to survive.
Our industry does have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing. Walking and climbing
contribute to peoples physical and mental health and we can facilitate those activities
in a way that reduces risk and increases participation.
Our industry does have a positive impact on equality – the mountains are open to all.
As professionals we should aim to look back on our response to the pandemic and be
able to demonstrate that our behaviour was unimpeachable. Our reputation as individuals
and as an industry in the communities we work in could easily be damaged as
we come out of lockdown. In the Highlands, The Lake District and in Snowdonia the
issue of holiday home owners and tourists behaving irresponsibly has been very visible
in all types of media. Memories are long and if we don’t wish to poison future relationships
we need to manage the return of our customer base to the places we
Many of us rely on a customer base that travels to us and needs residential accommodation.
We should not seek to encourage visitors from outside our local areas until
Government Guidelines support this and the recreational public have also returned.
Obstacles to be overcome
• Access that has been lost needs to be re-instated – this includes officially closed
rights of way and access land and parking areas across the UK.
• Our industry needs to address the practical steps of how we work with social distancing
including how we deal with an injury/emergency scenario in the form of
training guidance. MTUK have said this is something they can help provide in video
form and I am working with them on this. The AMI are also going to produce technical
advice for its members.
• Restrictions on travel and exercise need to be lifted by Government.
• Government guidelines need to be adhered to at all times