Without exception, every one of us is affected in some way by the current crisis. Although there are different, country-specific degrees of lockdown, one thing has become clear in the course of the past few weeks: the greatest risk of the Sars-Cov-2 virus spreading is when large numbers of people meet unprotected. A drug, vaccine or even herd immunity cannot be achieved in the foreseeable future. For this reason, social distancing and good personal protection and hygiene remain the only truly effective means of containment.

How can we support and guide climbing gyms towards responsible reopening, when by nature gyms are a place where people have close interaction?

Over the last month we connected with several gym operators, friends and partners from the industry and discussed their concerns and questions. Together with a group of influential leaders and experts within the indoor climbing industry, we decided to draw up a strategy outline that is intended to be the basis for gyms to safely transition from lockdown.

Our aim is to develop measures, standards and recommendations based on scientific findings so that gyms are ready for approval when it is safe to reopen. We want to make this strategy outline available to all gyms and invite everyone to share open questions and input with us.

European Strategy Proposal for COVID-19 Risk Mitigation in Climbing Gyms

Extract - Working Paper, April 2020
Contributors to date: Christian Popien, Matthias Polig, Christian Benk, Florian Schiffer, Vertical-Life

The Current Situation

Climbing gyms, like many other sports facilities, have been for the most part closed to the public in most European countries since March of this year. The only exception currently (as of 06.04.2020) is Sweden. 

The duration of the closure, as a means to contain and suppress the COVID-19 pandemic, is subject to different time frames in each individual European country. However, in light of current developments, it can be estimated that sports facilities throughout Europe, and especially indoor sports facilities, should be prepared for being subjected to even longer periods of closure. 

Sports and leisure facilities are not system relevant and their reopening will not be the focus of politicians and policy makers for the time being. The fact that sport fosters good health is a socially relevant issue, but one must assume that under the current circumstances an initial opening of climbing gyms under similar or comparable conditions as before the closure, is not to be expected. 

A comprehensive expansion of strategies and measures to reduce the risk posed by COVID-19 and to maintain high standards of hygiene is required, from which a possible reopening and operation of climbing gyms can be justified.

Climbing gyms across Europe are all facing similar challenges. Up to this point there is little to no cross-national communication. Gyms in Europe are not yet organised and networked under an international association, whereby knowledge and know-how is exchanged, solutions are worked out and concentrated lobbying with politicians is carried out. 

“It can be estimated that sports facilities throughout Europe should be prepared for being subjected to even longer periods of closure.”


In order to pool resources and develop European solutions, an actively working cross-border group should further develop plans and measures for this European plan of action strategy. Key multipliers from individual countries should share information with their national representatives and their respective gyms. Furthermore, the exchange of experience and expertise beyond national borders allows us to look at different scenarios with a more informed perspective. Findings from national experiences and studies can be taken into account and incorporated into the preparation of a broader strategic plan of action.

The goal must be drawing up a strategic plan and workable solutions that will make it easier for the national authorities to evaluate the reopening of climbing gyms. The plan of action should contain scientific findings and take into account the latest recommendations from the experts in order to provide a helpful and well-founded basis for the decisions that health authorities and politicians make.

“The goal must be drawing up a strategic plan and workable solutions that will make it easier for the national authorities to evaluate the reopening of climbing gyms.”

For the plan of action strategy, concrete measures must be worked out for the following cornerstones, taking into account the most current risk analysis information.