Pandemic Q&A

May 22, 2020

To the climbing community
Dear Members and Partners

It seems like an eternity has passed since Canadian climbing gyms temporarily closed their doors in March. We are all anxious to get back to climbing. It’s where we belong, where our friends are, and where our adopted family is. Climbing Escalade Canada (CEC) understands how exciting it must be to see that a handful of Canadian Climbing Gyms have announced a reopening date. It seems to be the end of a long road.

Although this is exciting, we all must act with caution. Having successfully flattened the curve doesn’t mean the virus has been eradicated. It simply means that the ICU can support a second wave of outbreaks.

It is crucial that the climbing community educate itself about the challenges surrounding reopening. It is everyone’s responsibility, from gym owners and staff to the climbers themselves, to know what is allowed and what is not. As such, CEC and its National Pandemic-Response Task Force recognizes that you must have many questions, and we will endeavor to answer them.

When can climbing gyms reopen?
This is the million dollar question. There are a lot of unknowns in the answer, although information is starting to trickle in. Each Provincial Government and Public Health Agency are responsible for developing an economic relaunch and reopening plan for their jurisdiction. These plans are often divided into phases, and climbing will be included within these plans. However, the phase where climbing is located may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some provinces may see climbing included in an earlier stage than others.

To keep yourself informed, you can look at your province’s website (see some helpful links at the end of this post), contact your Provincial Sport Organization (PSO), and your local gym.

What does this mean for my favorite climbing gym?
Climbing gyms are private businesses owned by local entrepreneurs. These businesses are not governed by an overall regulating body. They are all independently operated. However, in many provinces, owners have created Associations to support each other in these unprecedented times. Ultimately, the decision to open must be made by each owner independently. Some gym owners have agreed to work with other gyms to collaborate on decisions. Ask the owner of your favorite gym what their approach is.

What does this mean for me?
The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), the CEC, and the PSOs have postponed or cancelled upcoming competitions. Very few athletes have a pressing need to get back to training (exceptions could be made for athletes who have qualified for high-profile sports events, such as the Olympics). Therefore, resuming climbing, or other recreational sports for that matter, is considered a non-essential activity by government authorities, which could explain why you may have to wait longer until your favorite gym opens.

As for any other businesses under the current states of emergency, penalties for being caught in a non-authorized business are high, and the negative impact it would have on the climbing industry could be catastrophic. Let’s all be patient, and trust our gyms to make the right decisions at the right time.

How will my gym adapt to the new normal?
All climbing facilities will need to consider safety measures to mitigate risk for clients and employees. These safety measures and guidelines will come from the provincial Health Agencies, and be updated from time to time based on how the pandemic progresses.

Here are some examples of questions the gyms must confidently answer prior to opening their doors:

  • What physical distancing measures will be in place?
  • What capacity management protocols will be adopted?
  • What will circulation flow look like in the building?
  • How will employees be protected?
  • What additional hygiene measures will be created?
  • Should there be an outbreak in your city, how will your gym support contact tracing?

No one can provide a “one size fit all” solution to these issues. Each climbing facility is different and has access to different resources. Further, each city/province will have different rules, regulations, and requirements. The considerations and challenges associated with these regulations have caused many sleepless nights for climbing gym owners. Climbing facilities are doing their best to develop plans to mitigate the risks, and the community must understand the challenges they are facing. If you choose to go back to the climbing gym when it is allowed to reopen, you must accept and support the decisions made by the owners and comply with any special requirements they have developed for their facility.

The National Task Force, a collaboration between Canadian gyms, the PSOs and the CEC, has developed a Guidance Document to help the gym owners develop their strategy.

What should I expect when going back to the gym?
Once you can legally and safely walk back into your climbing gym, expect many changes. As a client, you will have to educate yourself and follow the guidelines, regardless of your beliefs. Breaking these guidelines could result in costly fines for you and your climbing gym. Be kind, be respectful, be positive. This is our new normal, at least for now.

Climbers should expect changes to the way they use their climbing gyms. Expect your first visit to be all about learning these new procedures. Some of the changes that you may expect include:

  • Having to reserve your spot to climb
  • Being limited to a 2 hour time slot
  • Having to come with a partner from the same household
  • Staying 2 metres apart from any other individual in the facility
  • Following a “one direction” flow in the building
  • Having to sanitize your hands upon entry and exit
  • Using your own equipment
  • Climbing only your assigned route(s)

Will I have to wear a mask at the gym?
Maybe. In Canada, wearing a mask is not mandatory when physical distancing is possible. Therefore, it will be up to each climbing facility to decide if they require their members to wear a mask or not. If your local authorities or local gym require the use of masks at all times you should comply with those regulations.

Is liquid chalk enough to protect me from the coronavirus?
No. There is no scientific evidence supporting (or not) liquid chalk as a way to sanitize hands after contact with the coronavirus.


Do you have questions or concerns that were not addressed in this post? Please send your question to Christiane Marceau, Executive Director of CEC, at We will add your question and the answer to this list.

Provincial Government Resources:


Alberta Health Services:
Government of Alberta:
Government of Alberta re-opening plan:

British Columbia:
Government Response to COVID-19:
Restart Plan:
WorksafeBC Returning to Safe Operation Guide:
BC Centre for Disease Control:

New Brunswick:
Government COVID-19 Recovery Plan:
New Brunswick COVID-19 Business Guidance Info:
New Brunswick Business Operational Planning Guide:
New Brunswick Chief Medical Officer of Health:

Ontario Government COVID-19 Information:
Ontario Reopening Framework:
Public Health Ontario COVID-19 Information:

Public health:
Government COVID resource page:
CNESST – QC Work health & safety:

Saskatchewan Government COVID-19 Information:
Reopen Saskatchewan Plan:

Visit Our Shop

Follow Us on Instagram

The Briançon IFSC World Cup will take place from July 17th-19th. Speed is up first and will be followed by lead tomorrow! Go team! 🇨🇦

See the link in bio to follow results / Voir le lien en bio pour suivre les résultats

La coupe du monde IFSC de Briançon se déroulera du 17 au 19 juillet. La vitesse est à l'honneur et sera suivie par la difficulté demain! Allez l'équipe! 🇨🇦



@arcteryx @ifsclimbing @panamsportclimbing

photo: Drapella Lena

The Briançon IFSC World Cup will take place from July 17th-19th. Speed is up first and will be followed by lead tomorrow! Go team! 🇨🇦

See the link in bio to follow results / Voir le lien en bio pour suivre les résultats

La coupe du monde IFSC de Briançon se déroulera du 17 au 19 juillet. La vitesse est à l'honneur et sera suivie par la difficulté demain! Allez l'équipe! 🇨🇦



@arcteryx @ifsclimbing @panamsportclimbing

photo: Drapella Lena

73 0