Getting back to normal

Bouldering on the first floor

With the government planning to lift many of the Covid restrictions on the 19th July, Geckos will be able to restructure some of our activities, particularly at weekends. What is likely to remain in place is the centre’s stipulation that anyone entering The Castle Climbing Centre must wear a mask when not actually climbing.

It’s still difficult to predict exactly what the position will be in September, but this is the structure of sessions that we are likely to be running. Prices have still to be calculated, but they should be very similar to pre-pandemic levels.

Kids’ club
We will be running the kids club from 5-7pm weekdays and 10-12 and 12.30-2.30pm at weekends. Groups will once again comprise 6 children and sessions will last 2, rather than 1 hour. This would allow time for a short break, half way through the session.

Climbing parties
Will also return to groups of 6, with parties lasting 1.5 hours, rather than 1 hour. This would allow time for up to 30 minutes bouldering, plus 1 hour of top-roping on the 8m walls. Parties will be timetabled to run on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, or in the daytime during school holidays.

Taster & family taster sessions
To remain essentially the same: up to 4 at a time for 1 or 1.5 hours.

Personal tuition
Up to 3 people at a time for 1, 1.5 or 2 hours.

Summer climbing!

The majestic view from Stanage Edgee

With overseas travel likely to be challenging and domestic holidays booked up or over-priced, this might be the year to join one of our outdoor climbing trips.

This summer, weather and Coronavirus permitting, we hope to run a number of trips to different climbing locations in England. Cost is in the region of £99 per head, inclusive of all necessary equipment.

PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL UNDER 18s NEED TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY A PARENT OR GUARDIAN.

Full details of dates and locations will be posted on our website, but are likely to include:

The Southern Sandstone in Kent
All climbing is top-roped, so suitable for beginners and upwards. Less than 90 minutes from central London, the crags of Harrison’s Rocks and Bowls are ideal for day trips.

Harrison's Rocks
Harrison’s Rocks

The Peak District in Derbyshire
Mainly top-roped climbing, though we can offer traditional lead-climbing trips for older kids and advanced climbers. Over the years we have climbed at a number of crags in the Peak, including Stanage Edge, Burbage, Froggatt, Bamford, Yarncliffe Quarry and Birchen Edge. Normally our trips run for two days during the week to avoid the crowds. Accommodation is either the North Lees campsite, or a local B&B.

Stanage Edge
Stanage Edge

Portland and Swanage in Dorset
We hope to run both top-roping and sports-climbing trips to these popular seaside climbing areas. Accommodation is either in campsites such as Tom’s Field, or in local B&Bs.

Dancing Ledge, Swanage
Please email us for more details.

Pixie’s poem

We love this. This was written by one young member of our climbing club during the frustratingly long months of lockdown. What a lovely and touching way for them to express their enthusiasm for going climbing each week. It’s reassuring to know that that the kids enjoy the session as much as the instructors do!

Roll on the 12 April!

The Lockdown Newsletter

During the three lockdowns of 2020-21, our diligent kids’ club manager, Larner, produced a series of informative newsletters, helping keep parents and kids up to date and in touch. The latest copy, produced for the spring, has just been produced. Hopefully, if the vaccination rollout and the government’s roadmap both go to plan, we’ll be returning to some kind of normal soon and the latest issue will also be the last.

We shall see!

For those of you who missed out on any of the issues, here they all are:

Once more unto the lockdown…

Vovid-19

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.

Image from The Guardian

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.

The Prime Minister insisted that the lockdown will end on 2 December, though Michael Gove has already suggested it may need to go on longer. We shall see. In the meantime, I’d like to thank everyone for their continued support. We all very much look forward to resuming all our kids’ climbing activities just as soon as we can.

If you’d like to get in touch, please use our contact form.

Covid-19 and climbers’ chalk

Chalky hands
Frictionlabs chalk, available from The Castle Shop

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.

Read the ABC press release

What about liquid chalk?

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.

Read the full report on liquid chalk and Covid-19

Conclusion…

While powder chalk may help to limit transmission, it is important to stick to the three things that we know to be effective:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based gel for at least 20 seconds
  • Wear a mask (over your mouth and nose) wherever and whenever possible
  • Maintain social distance

London moves to Tier 2

Level of infections in London, October 2020

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.

The stipulations, as they appear on the government’s website, are as follows:

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.

If you would like to know more, the Association of British Climbing Walls has a FAQ page.

Obviously, to minimise the risk to the children in our care and to our staff, we will continue to follow The Castle’s social distancing and hygiene policies set out in an earlier blogpost.

Geckos, The Castle and Covid-19

The Corona virus

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
A useful reminder

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.

AALS licensing application

Stanage Edge

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.

Coronavirus update

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!