Climbing wall association

What is a climbing wall? How can they be safe in a pandemic?

Virologist statement
Dr Pat Fidopiastis

"Climbing gyms have unique properties that allow them to operate safely."


Everything you need to know in a quick one page document.

CU Study on LIquid Chalk

After five minutes of contact time, the Secret Stuff eliminated recoverable virus – performing just as well as the disinfectant.

position letter to the CA Gov't

We want our own category: 25% open in purple and more as the tiers go to yellow.


Contains summary of their concerns and our response, along with resource.


Follow up to their nonresponse after our meeting.

SUGGESTED COVID-19 Industry Guidelines

Follow up to their nonresponse after our meeting.

Virologist statement
Dr Pat Fidopiastis

"I fully support CICC’s proposal to safely open indoor climbing gyms outlined in their document, “COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Indoor Rock Climbing Facilities.”"

Virologist statement

DR A Marm Kilpatrick

"Climbing centers have many characteristics that reduce the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and make them safer than most other fitness gyms."

Virologist statement

Dr Susan HUANG

"Solo sports such as rock climbing enable a safe alternative to group sports and should be allowed to increase availability as an important exercise avenue during this time."

Virologist statement

Dr Michael Lin

"I believe that the opening of California climbing gyms in a limited capacity with appropriate safety measures presents a minimal risk to public health."

Virologist statement

Dr Thomas Lee

"In my professional opinion, from what I have witnessed and experienced in gyms that have

managed to stay open during the Covid-19 crisis, indoor climbing can safely be conducted in a manner that minimizes the risk of spreading Covid-19.."

UK Study on Chalk

Results showed that within just one minute of the virus coming into contact with the chalk, the number of infectious particles in all of the samples was reduced by more than 99%.  

USA Climbing

Defines climbing as a sport and not entertainment.


See an example video put together by SenderOne showing pandemic protocols.

Letter of support from CA Outdoor Recreation Partnership

Equity is important: "As most Californians do not have access to outdoor rock climbing near their homes, we need the support of rock climbing gyms to make that access possible."

VIROLOGIst statement DR SUSan Huang

"I am writing to advocate for increasing climbing gym capacity within the Blueprint for a Safer Economy tiers."

Our wins:
01/21: With our help, WA state climbing centers successfully lobbied to label indoor climbing as low (Covid) risk, allowing their climbing centers to reopen. Read our full statement and two WA articles: The News Tribune and The Spokesman-Review.

10/20: Successfully moved "climbing walls" out of "Family Entertainment" designation, allowing certain local jurisdictions the freedom to consider climbing centers part of the fitness guidelines and open in red tier. KTVU article: "Climbing gyms among San Francisco businesses allowed wider reopening."

Our progress:
- Met with California Department of Public Health to make our case

- Turning toward addressing aid packages available and their inability to meet our needs

- Met with Senior Business advisors Che Salinas and Chris Dombrowski

- Our materials were used to support opening Washington State indoor climbing centers

- Second meeting with state epidemiologist and member of guidance and policy team at California Public Health

I believe, from a public health and safety standpoint, that climbing centers have inherently less exposure than standard gyms, and they have well-defined protocols in place that will minimize transmission of COVID-19. 

To clarify, there is no sustained heavy breathing and no physical contact in climbing centers, with the ability to maintain continual mask wearing, physical distancing, as well as frequent hand sanitization, making this a lower risk than many indoor shared spaces. 

I am working on the front lines in the ER and considering our use of PPE in a hospital environment, the policies and practices proposed by indoor climbing centers are adequate to ensure as high of a level of safety for members and the community as possible.

Dr. Clint Slaughter, MD MPH Emergency Room doctor, public health services community programmer

Soon-to-be-published research reveals that the number of infectious coronavirus (they used a close relative of SARS CoV2) drops by 99% in less than 1-minute following exposure to magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate, the components in powdered climbing chalk.

This study is significant because they didn’t just look a virus recovery using a technique that picks up virus RNA, they actually measured infectivity of the viruses that were deposited in the chalk. One can assume that with additional time, virus infectivity would be reduced to practically zero.

In sum, combining chalk from climber’s hands with regular cleaning will virtually eliminate the transmission risk from surfaces. Tall ceilings, distancing, masks, and the overall good health of the clientele will further minimize transmission.

Dr. Pat Fidopiastis, Ph.D. Microbiologist

Climbing centers are spacious, and with reservation systems, they can maintain a safe number of people in the building at all times so that everyone can maintain at least 6’ of distance from other climbers. They  have higher ceilings than most buildings which minimizes concentration of aerosols and climbing centers have efficient air handling systems to remove and exhaust air at much higher rates than most indoor venues. 

The risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through surface contamination on climbing holds can also be kept very low by using hand sanitizer before and after each climb, and climbing centers now provide many big dispensers of hand sanitizer throughout the building to make this easy; the use of chalk (and especially liquid chalk with >70% alcohol) reduces this risk further. 

A well-run climbing gym is a relatively safe environment, and the health benefits of exercise play a key role in maintaining good physical and mental health that we all need to get through this pandemic.

Marm Dec 2018
Dr. A. Marm Kilpatrick, PhD Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz; Research focus: Infectious diseases
A recent nationwide survey by the Climbing Wall Association, our national industry organization, found only 20% of climbing centers believed they would survive the current economic crisis, whether they were open or not. 

While we fully support the purpose of the current county-by-county restrictions, we now know enough to move indoor climbing into less restrictive bounds. Based on our discussions with local public health officials, we believe that we can operate safely under pre-closure COVID guidelines, whether we are purple or not. 

We cannot operate outside. Our businesses are literally built around tall, engineered, indoor climbing structures made of steel, wood, and concrete that range from 15 to 60 feet high that cannot be moved.

We are heavily involved in community empowerment and support - our industry supports community based organizations broadly from charity birthday parties to mentorship nonprofits like Big Brothers Big Sisters to working with people on the spectrum or those who come from underserved communities. We continue to provide tangible services to these organizations that are also under threat of permanently going under and are losing their funding streams. It costs us nothing to keep these charitable operations going as long as we are allowed to operate.

Indoor climbing centers are slowly dying and will not rebound quickly: open locations around the country are reporting revenues of only 40% what they were at closure. Almost all of us did not pay for our climbing centers with cash; we financed the hundreds of thousands--and in some cases, millions--of dollars. The hundreds of tons of wood and steel and plastic are bespoke to their locations and cannot easily find another home, particularly if there is a huge cloud of uncertainty over our ability to operate. This financing means we continue to pay huge debt service whether we operate or not. 

We are specifically requesting to be able to open at 25% capacity immediately.
  1. WIN! 10/20, CA Recognizes Indoor Centers Do Not Fall Into Established Guidelines For Indoor Fitness Facilites Nor Family Entertainment Centers
  2. Uneven application of the State guidelines by counties has resulted in major confusion. We are not nonessential family recreational facilities with kids running around everywhere and lack of discipline making the spread of virus a possiblity. We are also not banks of sweaty machines filled with people breathing heavily on one another. We need our own treatment and classification during the pandemic that reflects our business model and user patterns.

Chalk Kills the Virus

Making contact points safer than any other community gathering area. Some centers have opted to utilize liquid chalk only, which has been shown to kill the virus, limiting the spread.

Protocols that Work

All centers have adopted policies to support the guidelines provided by California for fitness centers. This is a link to one member’s policy, which many across the country have adopted - we made it public so that they could utilize it themselves. Others have added extra measures to aid in contact tracing, health questionnaires and waivers, etc.

Aid Packages Are Not Serving Those Hit Hardest

All centers have adopted policies to support the guidelines provided by California for fitness centers. This is a link to one member’s policy, which many across the country have adopted - we made it public so that they could utilize it themselves. Others have added extra measures to aid in contact tracing, health questionnaires and waivers, etc.