I think we all saw it coming, even before the details began to leak out late on Friday night. Influential voices from the worlds of science and politics had been clamouring for a temporary lockdown, a ‘circuit beak’, since well before the half-term holidays.
So, here we are again. Let’s hope that it’s not too little too late.
I can confirm that both The Castle Climbing Centre itself and therefore Geckos Climbing Ltd will be closed from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December 2020. If you have a session booked with Geckos between those dates we will shortly be in contact with you to rearrange it after the reopening or, if you prefer, issue a full refund.
In the spring, as climbing centres closed in line with the initial lockdown, rumours abounded that climbers’ chalk could be a source of transmitting particles of the virus, fomites, to use the jargon.
However, more recent research would suggest that these early fears were misguided. Investigations by a team at De Montfort University suggests that, on the contrary, chalk may actually help to prevent transmission. A statement has been issued by the Association of British Climbing Walls (ABC):
A model coronavirus for SARS-CoV-2, human coronavirus OC43, was used for the experiments. The presence of infectious virus on a plastic surface dusted with chalk was monitored over the course of one hour. The results indicated that the amount of infectious virus was reduced by around 99% immediately upon contact with the chalky surfaces. By comparison, the control test where no chalk dust was present, showed only a slight decline in infectious virus over these time periods.
Traditional liquid climbing chalk chalk contains less than 70% alcohol, so it is below the minimum level required to kill Coronavirus. New forms of liquid chalk have a higher percentage, but the latest research suggests that it is no more effective. A chemist charged to investigate the issue concluded that:
[Liquid chalk] is completely ineffective in killing any potential viruses on the climber’s hands, and more importantly, on the holds on the wall.
As of Saturday 17 October 2020, London is to be moved from Tier 1 into Tier 2, a response to the recent rise in infections in the capital. Parents of children who climb with our regular kids’ club and prospective customers may be concerned at the impact of the myriad new rules and guidelines. However, for the moment, we can continue to provide climbing activities to children and young people.
In line with guidelines from national sporting bodies, you can take part in sport and physical activity outdoors. Organised indoor exercise classes are only permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing in with people you do not live with or share a support bubble with. There are exceptions to enable disability and youth sport and physical activity indoors, in any number.
Finally, finally Geckos is getting back to (some kind of) normal. It’s been a difficult few months for everyone. We are now taking bookings for personal tuition and taster sessions and the kids’ club will be reopening in mid-September. Hopefully climbing parties will return soon after that.
Not surprisingly, while the pandemic is still with us, things are going to look a little different. A number of changes have been made in order to limit potential transmission between anyone in the climbing centre. While evidence suggests that the overwhelming majority of children experience few, if any, serious symptoms, we are erring on the side of caution. After all, children interact with adults at home and at school who have a greater chance of becoming seriously ill, if infected.
The Association of British Climbing Walls, who publish a regular Covid update on their website, have been taking the lead and clearly both the Centre itself and Geckos will follow their advice. Their guidelines will probably need to remain in place until there is an effective, widely-available vaccine or treatment. Key changes include the following:
A limit on the maximum number of people in the Centre at any one time
Maximum numbers in specific areas
A one-way system within the building
2m distance between climbers
The use of face-masks for anyone not climbing, including belayers and instructors
A reduced number of courses
Smaller groups and shorter sessions
No cafeteria or communal water-fountains
In addition, all communal surfaces will continue to be cleaned regularly, particularly the rental and teaching equipment. While it’s clearly not going to be feasible to individually clean all of the thousands of climbing holds or even the ropes, antiseptic hand-gel is provided at reception and hand-washing facilities are available around the building. Efficient ventilation is also useful; fortunately The Castle Climbing Centre benefits from very high ceilings and a sophisticated aeration system.
If you have any concerns, comments or suggestions, please get in touch using the form below.
Geckos is in the process of putting together an application for a license from the Adventure Activities Licensing Service to teach unsupervised groups outdoors (rather then requiring parents/guardians to attend). All being well, we hope to take our first unsupervised group to the Peak in the summer of 2020.
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the process of obtaining a license has had to be put on hold. Once the situation begins to return to (some sort of) normal, we will re-activate the application. Realistically, we’re unlikely to be able to take out unsupervised groups until the spring or summer of 2021, at the earliest.
Hang in there!
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