The American Alpine Club has started a new initiative, the Give a Belay, Get a Belay program, that allows people to request or give a helping hand during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the case that someone falls ill, or is in an at-risk demographic, he or she can use sign up with the program to ask others to shop for them. Give a Belay, Get a Belay is open to anyone, not only members of the American Alpine Club.
Although only a few people have received aid so far, nearly 400 people across the nation have signed up to “give a belay.” With people willing to help out in nearly every state, climbers in need throughout America can get “a soft catch,” as the AAC puts it.
Rock and Ice spoke to Shane Johnson, Marketing and Membership Director for the AAC, about his personal experience with the COVID-19 illness, and why he thinks Give a Belay, Get a Belay will take root in the climbing community:
“My family and I were exposed through the preschool, I’ve got two young boys,” Johnson said. “All four of us were sick and my climbing partner for 10 years, Ryan, delivered groceries, and someone I’ve worked with at the American Alpine Club, and climbed with a lot, Keegan, delivered groceries. He went to multiple grocery stores to get what we had listed, which was totally unnecessary, but amazing.”
Johnson continued, “At one point, maybe a week in, my wife was having difficulty breathing, and I was debating whether I should call an ambulance and send her to the hospital. That was a struggle. I couldn’t take her to the hospital, because I’ve got these two young boys, and they don’t want four people there with COVID-19. I got my friend and climbing partner, and main training partner, Jeff, to provide tools like a pulse oximeter, blood pressure cuff, and stethoscope, so I could monitor her vitals and keep a close eye on her for a couple of days.”
Based on this experience, Johnson believes there are a lot of other climbers out there who will step up to help through Give a Belay, Get a Belay. With 25,000 members, AAC has the potential to mobilize a lot of manpower for a good cause. “I would love for people to sign up to offer help, or to get help, and I think that it’s a cool opportunity for people to get involved,” he said. “I want people to not be shy about asking for help because we’ve got a really big network of people offering help across the country and they’re eager to offer that support for each other.”