Reopening the Walls – A Message from The Association of Climbing Walls


30th April 2020

For Immediate Release

Reopening the walls

‘A message from the Association of Climbing Walls’

The Association of British Climbing Walls (the trade body representing 180 walls in the UK) is leading an initiative to develop a set of guidelines to get walls open again safely.  Working very closely through the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) and with UK Active (the Trade Association for the fitness and health sector), the ABC is conducting research in order to provide a solid foundation for the recommendations that will follow.

The ABC has 5 working groups looking at different elements of a strategy for reopening, all consisting of a mix of climbing wall operators, individuals with expertise and partner organisations.  The teams are being coordinated by ABC Chairman, Rich Emerson who commented that, “We will ultimately provide guidelines for safe opening and operational procedures to our members and other climbing walls.  Our guidelines will be based on those that are imposed on the fitness sector and have been agreed with Public Health and the Governments across the UK. 

Indoor climbing is about our communities, our customers, employees, suppliers and friends.  Many of us know each other personally and it is this sense that makes climbing walls so special to everyone.  In the week beginning March 17th, when we all closed our doors, these communities had their focal points removed and the walls went into damage limitation mode.

With government support we’ve worked hard to stabilise the situation and, over the past few weeks have started to look at how we can reopen in a way that is safe for our customers and staff.  We know that our customers want us back as much as we want to be back.

We’ve had some amazing support from our customers and suppliers: Kind words, people continuing to pay their membership others making gifts and buying products from us.  These acts have made a huge difference to us all, way beyond their material value.”

The reopening strategy will be based on three elements:

  • Hygiene measures – for both staff and customers
  • Capacity Management – the guidelines we are working on with UK Active mean that it’s very likely that customer numbers will have to be limited
  • Social Distancing – everyone has become accustomed to the 2m rule – this will be no different in a climbing wall environment

Alongside the work with UK Active, there is also close cooperation with the Outdoor Industries Association, British Mountaineering Council, Mountain Training and the ABC Training Trust.

Furthermore, an international group of climbing wall bodies has been set up to share procedures and learning from different countries. 

The group met on April 27th 2020 with representatives from the CWA, IFSC, ABC, DAV, CEC, FASI, and several leading national federations held a meeting to discuss creating an international working group to facilitate the sharing of hygiene, social distancing, and operational guidance. These organisations have their own internal task forces working towards developing best practices for their respective localities, however by coordinating information and advice the international indoor climbing industry can deliver stronger and more defensible arguments to local authorities. This work group will meet weekly for an indefinite period of time as each organisation works to deliver information in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


They agreed to release the following statement:


If there is one word that defines the indoor climbing industry above all others it is community. Many other sports and businesses use this word but very few see it manifest in their everyday interactions with peers, customers, and employees at the same level that we enjoy. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every climbing gym, every owner, every competition, and every climber. What everyone wants to know is: When and how can I get back into my gym? In order to help provide guidance that will make climbers, parents, and employees feel as comfortable as possible several of the world’s climbing organizations have joined together to share information internationally.




For further information please contact:

Rich Emerson, Chair of ABC 07970 621092

Kath Hipwell, Chief Exec ABC 07786 838274