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Outdoor Climbing and Social Distancing

Jeff Yoo climbing in Bishop

Is outdoor rock climbing a safe form of social distancing?

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I’ve been wrestling with this question a LOT over the past couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to consider all of the angles. I’ve gone back and forth in my own mind and in discussions with other people. This is a new ethical issue that nobody has ever dealt with. Here are my thoughts on the topic.


There are 2 things to consider: (1) Risk at an individual level and (2) risk at a societal level.


Many will argue that being a nomadic climbing dirtbag or going climbing at your local crag is a great way to practice social distancing. I mean…You’ve got time off work, the weather is getting nicer, you’re out in the mountains, you’re with a small crew, and you’re practicing hand hygiene between climbs. So what’s the harm, right? 

The problem is that social distancing only works if we all practice it. If every climber has the individualistic mentality that “I’m going to go climbing solo or with a small crew,” all local crags will end up being overrun in the way that Bishop, Joe’s valley, and Moab are right now. These areas are busier than ever and it seems like it’s business as usual with sends, laughs, and the usual shenanigans. The flip side is that crowded climbing areas can quickly become a breeding ground for spreading the infection to other climbers and introducing it to vulnerable residents inside the towns. 


Climbers… I FEEL YOU!! It’s REALLY hard to stay put during this time. We’re all usually so active, fit, and our outdoor projects are still waiting to be sent. 

Let’s be a part of the solution and not the problem. Look around and see what is happening all over the world with the economic meltdown and people dying from coronavirus. Realize that we are NOT just dealing with the flu. Go for a hike or learn to love your hangboard. 

I hope that climbing companies and athletes will display leadership in this regard going forward. 

We’re all in this together (while being apart).


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Jeff Yoo Climbing Athlete

Jeff Yoo is a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team. 

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Originally posted 2020-03-31 06:37:15.

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