Climbing in the Time of Corona

Is it OK to run to the hills?

Nate Caines

On Friday the 27th, Governor Herbert announced Utah would be under a Stay at Home “directive”. Making it voluntary (and most likely wise) for all those in the state, besides residents of Salt Lake City. Mayor Erin Mendenhall introduced an order, making the same restriction compulsory for those in the city. Breaking of which can be charged with a potential class-B misdemeanor. These orders don’t prevent people from leaving the house, as much as discourage congregating.

They make it clear, that they hope Utahns can maintain their basic health, do things like walk the dog and get groceries.

The urge to get away from people and stress from living in a pandemic has made many eager to flee to the hills. In places like Utah, the hills might already be teeming with too many people, and six feet proves impossible. Which is why many national parks will be closing, starting with Arches and Canyonlands. Zion and more could follow quickly. Herbert has said state parks may remain open for locals within that county. This won’t surprise anybody who’s ever stood in line at Delicate Arch or Angels Landing.

For many though that suddenly limits the boundless outdoor adventure of Utah.

Since the climbing gyms have been long closed at this point and will remain so at least into early April. Climbers and unemployed climbing coaches like myself, are itching to get up to crags, but is it safe?

If it involves any travel, no, it’s not safe right now. Additionally, most of these areas get enough hands-on traffic to leave a mix of germs that make one worry at the best of times.

Which is why you’ve probably seen a lot of your favorite climbers developing first ascents on and inside their houses, as we all avoid going stir crazy. Unfortunately, many of them who were excited about climbing’s debut in the Olympics have their hopes, like many others, indefinitely deferred.

One can obviously take this time to train at home. Check out Gripped Magazines’ daily home climbing training sessions, if you need a little direction . It’s still fine to go out on a small run or bike ride. Some though might want to stay home and get acquainted with all the new climbing movies you may have missed in the wake of Free Solo, which is also available to stream.  Not to mention all the classic climbing novels from classics like the Dharma bums to Into Thin Air.

If you can, consider taking a moment to rest. Especially if you feel this is interrupting a tough training regime. People have been suggesting a myriad of ways to stay busy inside. Which still hasn’t changed the fact many of us haven’t had time to compose our thoughts from one crisis to the next. Luckily there might be time now, so process things.

One advantage rock-climbing has, is that it’s not going anywhere. If anything, less people on the crags is only going to preserve things. If we make it through this, then everything’s going to be right where we left it for the most part.

Hopefully things will bounce back in time to save our local gyms. If not, the pandemic could present a temporary existential threat to the previously booming gym economy. Really, only time will tell.

If you can, take time to assist any place you care about that’s going to be hit hard by the shutdowns. The first thing you can do though, is stay safe, keep others safe.

Sadly, many things won’t weather the storm as well as our crags. So, it’s important to continue to support the vulnerable around us. Many moments in life lack the permanence of rock, so continue to appreciate what you can, if you can.