A Guide for the Indoor Climbing Industry


Most indoor climbing gym owners and operators will have to assess whether they need to alter their existing operations to open and comply with government requirements and recommendations. First, identify the authorities relevant to your location or locations. Follow rules from every level of government, city to national, and examine the sources of their rules and recommendations; distinguish what is required from what is optional.

As you develop your plan consider all of the risk management choices that you have made in the past and consider how any changes you may be implementing could affect your exposure to risks beyond COVID-19.

When creating systems to control exposure to any form of hazard, we recommend following the hierarchy of controls (diagrammed below) most effective for mitigation of the specific risk. Each of us will face unique situations and no recommendations will encompass all the challenges you will face. Work through the following graphic from top to bottom as you develop and revise your plan. By taking this approach at each step of the way, you will be able to see how a solution you are considering to reduce risk for your customers and employees will balance with its cost and benefit. 



The methods of control shown here can be demonstrated by comparing them to normal climbing gym operations:


Each one of these strategies has elements that fall into different levels of the hierarchy of controls. For example, when planning for physical distancing, putting up plexiglass screens at your front desk is an engineering control, but putting up a sign to remind people to maintain distance is an administrative control.  As you develop your reopening plan, keep in mind the effectiveness of the individual procedures you are applying.


Your staff and customers need to know what is expected from them and what they can expect from you.


The practices or activities used to maintain health and prevent the spread of disease.


Maintaining physical distance between individuals and/or small groups.


Disinfecting surfaces and potentially using other additional methods to deactivate viruses or kill other microorganisms.


This guidance provides a framework to assist climbing wall operators to develop sound policies (for your people and your business) in response to COVID-19. Specific ways of implementing this guidance will vary because our facilities and the communities in which they operate are all unique. Identifying risks and hazards and developing appropriate and adequate plans to address those risks is ultimately the responsibility of each operator. This framework does not advocate any one specific solution to every risk and hazard.

We want this guidance to be flexible in its implementation. Remember that professional judgment cannot be removed from any decision you make for your business. Although this framework represents an industry effort to outline responsible practices, you will still need to use your best judgment when making choices for your business.

We developed our guidance through a consensus effort by members of the indoor climbing industry and reviewed by industry experts, using information from the WHO, CDC, ECDC, and a broad review of international guidelines and scientific literature. Our goal is to provide you with a framework to think through the sea of information being recommended so you can design and implement the reopening plan that works best for your business and its stakeholders. But, because information keeps changing as we learn more about COVID-19, our recommendations will evolve. We will review this document periodically and frequently, revising as needed.


We wrote these guidelines with the underpinning from current scientific consensus that COVID-19 can be transmitted by individuals who show no symptoms; and that personal hygiene and physical distancing are effective and essential methods to reduce the risk of transmission.

We did not attempt to encompass every possible policy, procedure, or practice that could be implemented in each circumstance. Furthermore, implementing these procedures does not guarantee, as there are none, that a climbing facility will be risk free for employees or guests or a safe workplace where workers will be free from all risk.