Be Safe - Be Responsible - Be Considerate

This advice is for all hillwalkers and climbers. Its purpose is to highlight the additional considerations that we should be aware of due to COVID-19. It builds on good practice which is commonplace among responsible hillwalkers and climbers; checking weather forecasts, checking access arrangements, selecting routes that are appropriate for fitness, skill and experience, environmental awareness etc.

Since the arrival of COVID-19 on the island of Ireland, many aspects of our lives have changed. Together, we have adhered to government restrictions and public health advice. Thanks to this collective effort, progress has been made in the fight against COVID-19. We all play our part in keeping it suppressed. As restrictions ease our personal and social responsibility become ever more important.

Everyone should continue to be aware of the risk factors for getting COVID-19:

  • Distance – The risk of getting COVID-19 increases as the distance between you and others gets smaller. Keep 2 metres apart where possible.
  • Activity – How you spend time with people and what you do with them can increase your risk. Follow the government’s Stay Safe Guidelines when spending time with others.
  • Time – The more time you spend in close contact with other people can increase your risk of getting COVID-19. Keep track of who you spend time with and how.
  • Environment – Being outdoors is safer than being indoors. Where possible, meet with others outdoors. If this is not possible, keep windows and doors open when meeting others inside.
  • Symptoms – Know the symptoms. If you have them self-isolate and contact your GP immediately.

The publication of plans by government, in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, for the phased relaxation of restrictions provides high level guidance on when and how we can return to hillwalking and climbing. To view the current information from government please click on the relevant links below:

Government guidelines and restrictions may be prone to misinterpretation. If in doubt you should be guided by your sense of social responsibility and follow the spirit of the guidelines which are intended to reduce the transmission of the virus.


 Summary of Restrictions 

 

Republic of Ireland - Current

Northern Ireland - Current

Travel Inter-county travel can resume.  To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading you should stay in your local area. If you go somewhere and there are crowds which will make social distancing difficult, consider going somewhere else instead.
Hillwalking & rock-climbing Outside of an organised club setting, hillwalking and climbing can take place in a group of people from a maximum of 3 households or up to 6 people from any number of households. This limit of 6 does not include their children aged 12 or younger.  Up to 10 people (including children of all ages) from a maximum of two households can take part in outdoor exercise or sports activities.
Organised activity outdoors

In an organised club setting with COVID-19 controls in place, hillwalking and climbing can take place in groups of up to 15.

Organised outdoor activity i.e organised walks and climbs with qualified professional leaders guiding clients are also permitted. The maximum group size is 15. COVID-19 controls must be in place.

Up to 15 people (including coaches) can take part in structured outdoor sports training, through clubs or individuals affiliated to recognised sports governing bodies or representative organisations for sport and physical activity.
Climbing walls Remain closed. Reopen on the 7th of June.

Open for individual training and 1-2-1 coaching.

An indicative date of 24 May has been set for the return of indoor group exercise and training (numbers informed by venue). This will be subject to review.

NGB Course Provision Permitted Permitted

 


 Landowners and Rural Communities

Please be mindful and respectful of the landowners and local communities in the places where you walk and climb. People living in rural areas may be nervous to see groups of people coming into the area. Consider too that upland areas have a higher proportion of older residents.

• Please respect rural residents by keeping your group size small (see below).
• If possible, park in locations that are not close to houses.
• Plan your route to avoid passing close to homes and through farmyards.
• Places where you buy food and drink may be closed, so bring the supplies you need, but where services are open, please support them.

• Some toilet facilities may not be open.


Clubs

Clubs with organised activities and events should appoint a COVID-19 Contact. This person will act to inform club members and implement best practice regarding COVID-19. Completing the Sport Ireland COVID-19 Return to Sport online course will provide additional information on the role of the COVID-19 Contact within a club. Click here to complete the course: Sport Ireland COVID-19 Course

Participants in organised activities and events should provide a COVID-19 Declaration in advance each time you go out.

The three key questions are:

  1. Have you travelled abroad in the past 14 days?
  2. Have you had any of the symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
  3. Have you been in contact with anyone who has COVID-19 in the past 14 days?

To comply with GDPR participants consent should be sought before this information is shared with the club committee. Assurances should be given that this information will not be shared or used for any other purposes.

For the purpose of Contact Tracing a digital record of participant’s personal details should be kept. The club activity list that you use for organised activities can be used for this purpose, additionally you can encourage members to download the relevant contact tracing app.


 Choosing Locations

  • Consider how popular the location is and whether there is an alternative venue?
  • As people who know the mountains, choose less popular venues, which should be less busy.
  • Does the venue provide you with a choice of routes should your chosen route be too busy?
  • Can you do your activity at off-peak times such as mid-week or early in the day?
  • Take dogs only where they are permitted. Keep your dog on a lead to prevent interaction with other people, and to protect wildlife and farm animals.
  • Large clubs with multiple groups should use different locations and routes.
  • Marked walking trails provides useful locations with a lesser demand on navigational skills.

If you have any queries or feedback regarding access, please contact Mountaineering Ireland’s Access & Conservation Officer Helen Lawless. E-mail: helen@mountaineering.ie


 Group Size

  • Stay within the group sizes advised by government.
  • Mountaineering Ireland’s advice is that group sizes should be kept small, ideally less than 10, and should not exceed 15, or the government’s prescribed number whichever is lower. As well as making parking and social distancing easier, a smaller group size will reduce environmental impact and allow for easier group management.
  • Going hillwalking or climbing on your own may seem like the perfect example of physical distancing. However, in the event of an injury, even a minor injury you may not be able to self-rescue. If you go in a small group, you may be able to self-rescue.

Travel

  • Please make yourself aware of, and adhere to the relevant travel restrictions.
  • You should not share private vehicles with people from outside your household. If this is not possible such as in the case of an emergency, face coverings should be worn when sharing a vehicle.
  • If using private buses, ensure that adequate hygiene and physical distancing practices are adhered to.

Parking

  • Car parking capacity has been considerably reduced due to the restrictions on car-pooling, previously four people in a car would have taken one carparking space, now those four people will likely require four spaces.
  • Car-parking spaces will be in high demand – consider alternative less popular areas for parking.
  • When parking, be considerate of other road users. Do not block access for residents, emergency services or farmers who may need to enter fields or farmyards.

Equipment

  • Include facemasks and additional gloves in your first-aid kit.Carry hand sanitizer or some means of washing your hands.
  • Minimise sharing of equipment.
  • After hillwalking or climbing, quarantine your equipment for 72 hours, or wash it appropriately, before going out again with another person.

 When Hillwalking

  • Take time to regain your fitness and refresh skills.
  • Keep 2 metres apart where possible, responsibility for maintaining physical distance and appropriate hygiene practices within the group should be shared, rather than the leader’s responsibility (if there is a leader).
  • If you meet another group, step to one side to let them pass or walk in single file and make sure to allow at least 2 metres space. Use a facemask/buff for times when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Be extra vigilant on maintaining distance when breathing hard during ascent.  
  • Be especially mindful of not gathering together around a map, at summits, or for photos, and whilst stopped at gates / stiles.
  • Carry a spare bag to take home any fruit peels, packaging etc from your snacks and consider picking up (with care) any litter you come across in outdoor spaces.
  • If you come across rubbish or dumping that is more than you and your friends can deal with, phone the National Environmental Complaints line 1850 365 121, or use the 'See It, Say It' app, in Northern Ireland call the Environmental Crime number - 0800 80 70 60

If you have any queries regarding hillwalking, please contact Mountaineering Ireland’s Hillwalking Development Officer Ruth Whelan. E-mail: ruth@mountaineering.ie


When Climbing

  • Take time to regain your fitness and refresh skills.
  • Aim to minimise time spent within 2m of your climbing partner.
  • When bouldering, spotting should be carried out by members of your household as much as possible.
  • Be aware that climbs may be a little dirty and overgrown due to a lack of activity.

If you have any queries regarding climbing, please contact Mountaineering Ireland’s Climbing Officer Damien O’Sullivan. E-mail: damien@mountaineering.ie


Key Considerations for commercial and voluntary led activities

  • Appropriate insurance cover.
  • Move briefings outdoors or online.
  • Revisit your risk assessments and operating procedures.
  • Include a COVID - 19 questionnaire for your participants, e.g. temperature, contact with known cases, etc.
  • Revisit your leadership decision making, e.g. group size, venue & activity choice.
  • Equipment sharing, social/physical distancing & hygiene procedures.
  • First Aid; Administering, personal PPE, renewing & updating your certificate.
  • Mountain Rescue service (COVID - 19 protocols may reduce response time, increased participation may increase callouts, PPE resources may be limited).

For further information on commercial and voluntary led activities please click on the links below:

If you have any queries regarding commercial or voluntary led activities, please contact;

Mountaineering Ireland’s Training Officer Jane Carney. E-mail: jane@mountaineering.ie


Resources 

The following are links to useful information for both climbers and hillwalkers during COVID-19

Forms for Clubs:

Keep up to date with advice:

Information on locations:

Equipment maintenance and cleaning:

Refresh Your Skills:

 

 

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