COVID-19 guidance for members

Here you can find guidance for Club members and others on COVID-19 precautions that everyone should observe in relation to Club activities. Please read it carefully.

Risks are certainly lower in 2023 now the majority of the population is vaccinated. Remember, though, there are some groups (those more vulnerable due to age and/or underlying health conditions, and those that have chosen not to be vaccinated) for whom significant risks still exist.

As a general rule, as the severity of the COVID situation in the general population increases, so the guidelines given here should be adhered to with greater stringency and more rigorously enforced. When the COVID situation is less severe, the guidelines can be used in a more relaxed manner. Nevertheless, whatever the current situation, adhering to most of the guidelines most of the time is the right thing to do and a good habit.

This guidance is reviewed and updated regularly and in line with the latest Government and BMC advice. Last updated: 9th August 2023.

General national guidance

For guidance in relation to all general aspects around COVID-19, please use the resources listed below. More specific Club guidance follows.

Duty of care

Every member of Gwent MC has a duty of care to themselves, to other members and to the wider public, including those acting for the emergency services. Every member must adhere to Government guidance on protecting the wider population and the
NHS. Every member must adhere to guidance from relevant sporting authorities such as the BMC and to guidance from Gwent MC itself concerned with protecting other club members (see below). Ideally, all members should also adhere to Government guidance aimed at protecting themselves as individuals. Except where statutory requirements exist, this is in the end a matter of choice for the individual as to what risks they are willing to expose themselves to.

Individuals taking part in Club events

Individuals should assess the extent to which they consider themselves vulnerable, whether due to age, underlying health conditions, or other factors. Such assessments should be made before each and every Club event. You should consider the nature of the activity and its duration, the terrain, the weather forecast, and your own skills and competencies.

Remember, your mountain fitness may have declined through any lockdown period and it may take some weeks to regain a previous level of fitness. Similarly, if you have recently had COVID, your recovery may be slower than you expect. If in doubt, do not participate or seek advice.

The possibility of having to rely on emergency services, especially mountain rescue teams must be minimised. In times of high COVID infection rates and lockdown or other movement restrictions, each individual member should exercise extra prudence in their ambitions and stay well within their capabilities. More than ever, members are expected to have the necessary skills for self-reliance in the event of an unforeseen incident – either to themselves or to another person. This especially means having the ability to navigate an escape route in poor weather and basic first aid skills.

The following rules apply to ALL individuals for ALL Club meets, outdoors or indoors as

  • Members must not participate if they or any member of their household has COVID-19
    symptoms (one or more of high temperature, continuous cough, or loss/change in sense of smell/taste. See links above for NHS guidance on symptoms).
  • If in doubt about the possibility of recent exposure to coronavirus, Members should carry out a Lateral Flow Test or equivalent and expect a negative result prior to participating in a Club event.
  • As and when required by Government or other authority guidance, Members should seek to maintain two-metre social distancing requirements. At other times, it’s good practice anyway. Pay attention to this as it’s easy to drift closer together. Members should not be afraid to ask other members to move away if they feel their space is being invaded.
  • Carry a face mask (ideally, CE 2163 FFP2 standard) as a part of your standard hill/rock kit for the foreseeable future. As and when required by Government or other authority guidance, Members should wear their face mask if the social distancing requirement cannot be met for a short period of time; up to 15 minutes. Examples for when this might be necessary include the following:
    a. When buying a drink from a bar;
    b. When occupying a small belay with another climber;
    c. When sharing a wind shelter for a rest/break.
  • Carry an alcohol-based hand-gel as a part of your standard hill/rock kit for the foreseeable future and practice proper hand hygiene. This means washing with soap and water when possible; otherwise use alcohol-based gel. Carry this in an easily accessible location on your person.
  • Be self-sufficient. As far as possible, do not share equipment. Carry enough food and drink for your own needs. Make sure you have adequate clothing, including a spare hat and gloves and a survival/bothy bag.
  • Climbers and scramblers should take extra care. Handling gear and touching rock is unavoidable so climbers should use their own gear and avoid sharing as much as possible. Similarly, climbers/scramblers should aim to minimise handling of other people’s gear and/or in-situ gear. Assume gear/rock is contaminated and avoid touching your face while climbing. Sanitise your hands frequently (e.g., before and after completing a route, between pitches, etc.).

Guidance for event organisers/leaders

Risk assessment: Early on, when thinking about where/when to organise and lead a meet, meet leaders should carry out a risk assessment for the planned activity. In addition to routine matters of route planning, checking the weather forecast, packing the correct equipment, etc., meet leaders should now pay specific attention to the following:

  • What is the maximum group size that is sensible? Will you ask people to inform you of their intention to participate? Will you set and announce upfront a limit on numbers?
  • Is there sufficient car parking? And will it be empty/full when you arrive there?
  • Can social distancing requirements be maintained throughout?
  • Is there a need to appoint an experienced back marker / tail-end Charlie to bring up the rear or to act in the case of a group becoming split?
  • Will the planned meet bring members into close contact with each other, or with other
    members of the public? To what extent and for how long?
  • Are there pinch points where people would be expected to come into closer proximity? How can that be avoided?
  • What is the level of risk of contamination from touching hard surfaces? And how will that be mitigated? Ensure each person cleans their hands after touching a gate, for example.
  • What are the escape routes?

For each factor, the meet leader should assess the risk on a scale of low, medium, or high risk. In practice, the constraint most likely to affect group size is the avoidance of car sharing and whether enough car parking space is available at the meeting point.

General directions for event organisers/leaders: Social distancing will be easier for walking groups to maintain than for climbers belaying. At the start of each event, leaders should remind participants of their obligations (see above).

The risk of contamination is highest from hard surfaces such as rock, climbing equipment, gates and styles. Avoiding touching these surfaces is the best defence. Remind participants present.

Lunch and other break stops should maintain social distancing. Thus, look for and use well sheltered opportunities, especially in poor weather even if this means the normal rhythm of breaks is disrupted.

Although never condoned, barbed/pig wire fences and stone walls sometimes must be crossed. Such crossings, which in any case come with a higher accident risk, often bring people into close proximity as they assist one another. All efforts MUST be taken to avoid such situations and to find an alternative route – even when that means a detour.

Use of Club equipment

The following rules apply, as appropriate for the use of Club equipment:

  • No Club equipment/gear is to be shared around during meets unless it can be sanitised in-between passing from one member to another.
  • If a member wants to borrow an item of equipment (ice axe, harness, via ferrata kit, etc.) it must be sanitised on handover and/or quarantined for a week before use. Similarly on return. Equipment should be transported in plastic bags or similar.
  • Abseil ropes must be quarantined after use (as well as usually being washed after sea cliff climbing). Ropes must be transported in plastic bags or similar.
  • For the two club emergency shelters, these can continue to be carried as necessary during the winter but will be for emergency use only i.e., in the event of an injury. They are, in effect, permanently in quarantine so long as they are held by a single healthy member. As with other gear, if they need to be transferred to another member, they must be quarantined for one week after transfer.
  • For flasks, pans and other utensils typically used for the Christmas pudding gathering,
    these must be washed, sanitised, and quarantined for one week before and after use. When being handed over to another person they must be transported in plastic bags, boxes, or similar.

Weekend hiking/walking

Stay well within your capabilities. Be less ambitious than you might otherwise be normally. Try to avoid doing anything that might result in a call to the rescue services and/or land you in hospital.

  • Avoid popular/crowded routes for the foreseeable future.
  • Maintain social distancing, especially when conferring about route choices and on matters of navigation. Spread out during coffee and lunch stops.
  • Sanitise hands after opening/closing gates, using stiles, handrails, etc.

Climbing outdoors

Climbers and scramblers should familiarise themselves with the latest BMC guidelines on climbing.

Climbers should assess whether an intended crag is too crowded or likely to become too crowded and plan accordingly.

Shared equipment can be sanitised with the use of electrolyzed water (a.k.a. Hypochlorous Acid). Spray products such as Natrasan and Salvesan, for example are suggested as suitable. They can be applied by spraying into disposable tissue/papertowel and wiping gear over thoroughly. Gels may be easier to work with.

Stay well within your capabilities. Be less ambitious than you might otherwise be normally. Try to avoid doing anything that might result in a call to the rescue services and/or land you in hospital.

  • Avoid popular routes for the foreseeable future.
  • Start with single pitch sports routes.
  • Use your own climbing equipment.
  • Ensure social distancing when tying on and when being lowered back down.
  • Sanitise hands after tying on and belaying.
  • Sanitise lower off points before being lowered back down.
  • Use a similar approach for single pitch trad routes.
  • Multi-pitch routes are more problematic, especially ensuring social distancing at stances. Wear a face mask whilst sharing stances.

Climbing indoors

Climbing indoors can resume as and when individual climbing wall establishments reopen their doors. Climbers must be guided by and will need to adhere to the regulations put in place by the management of individual establishments.

As explained above, shared equipment can and should be sanitised. The venue will probably offer their own guidelines on cleaning procedures and use of personal protective equipment (face masks, etc.). Please check the venue website(s).

  • Avoid venues at popular times i.e., minimise crowds.
  • Use your own climbing equipment.
  • Ensure social distancing when tying on and when being lowered back down.
  • Sanitise hands after tying on and belaying.
  • Sanitise lower off points before being lowered back down.
  • Wear a face mask if necessary.

Evening hiking/walking (Thursdays)

At the present time there are no circumstances dictating that the summer evening and winter night hiking/walking programmes cannot run as normal.

If circumstances change these programmes may be suspended in the future.

Members should be aware that the need for social distancing makes it trickier for the leader in the dark to monitor the whereabouts of all group members. Group members are more likely in the dark to become detached from the group. Care must be taken to avoid this happening.

Gathering afterwards in a pub may need to be omitted i.e., turn up, go for walk, go home. 

Winter evenings – Goytre Village Hall (Thursdays)

Monmouth Borough Council allow us to use the village hall for the time being. Sensible social distancing and hand sanitisation procedures should be followed.

In the event of an increase in infections, more formal restrictions may be reintroduced in the future.

Weekends/week away

Members attending away events with indoor accommodation, such as club huts or youth hostels are at greater risk of contracting COVID. Guidance for individual meet participants applies, as given above.

In addition:

  • For their own safety, members without up-to-date vaccinations should not participate in such events. They do so at their own risk.
  • Members participating must take a lateral flow test on the day of departure and if a positive result is obtained, must not attend. Participants should consider taking additional tests during the period away.
  • As far as is practical for the type of accommodation the aim should be to maximise separated sleeping arrangements. All rooms should be adequately ventilated while the building is occupied.
  • Regular washing/gelling of hands is essential at all times indoors.

Travelling abroad

When travelling abroad, much will depend on the situation, regulations, and procedures applying in the destination country. Members should do their own research.

Nevertheless, much of the guidance given above also applies and it is good practice to follow it.