With restaurants, bars, ski resorts, and climbing gyms closing down to slow the transmission of COVID-19, we’re reminded of the incredible value of our nearby public lands, open spaces, and local parks. The impact of this pandemic will inevitably increase anxieties and continue to separate us from each other, but nature can help sustain us—physically and mentally—in these difficult times.
Over sixty years of scientific research has proven that being outside in nature, or even just viewing natural landscapes, helps reduce stress hormones, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Being in nature also lifts our spirits and helps us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.
It’s also easier to practice social distancing in outdoor spaces. We can maintain the necessary six feet of distance while still being able to see others in our community from across the park or trail, helping us feel better connected.
Should I Be Climbing Outside Right Now?
We encourage our community of climbers to get outside in nature, but to do so responsibly. That doesn’t mean road trips to climbing areas or cragging with a group of friends. Take this time to explore your backyard public lands, county open spaces, and local parks while maintaining distance and exercising caution. We must thoughtfully maintain our physical and mental health while being mindful to not endanger other people and communities. Local health services have their hands full already, so it’s critical not to take risks. Many public lands and climbing areas are closed, so check site-specific restrictions. Gateway communities—like Bishop, CA; Moab, UT; and Estes Park, CO—are urging visitors to stay away.
“I cancelled my upcoming climbing trip to the southwest, not because I think my family will get sick while we adventure in the desert, but because it’s the responsible thing to do to slow the spread and protect vulnerable people,” says professional climber Tommy Caldwell. “It’s our responsibility to stay put. But it’s also a great opportunity to stay home with your family, practice low-impact living strategies, and get some fresh air.”
It doesn’t matter if you live in Washington, D.C. or the Rocky Mountains, most people live closer than they think to an open space. So go out and responsibly enjoy the sun and fresh air, but take seriously the practice of social distancing. Access Fund will continue to be here, working to protect these amazing outdoor landscapes and the experiences they offer.
As we navigate these unprecedented times as a community, we ask you to take care of yourselves and each other. Make decisions from the perspective of the most susceptible people in our community. We will miss seeing you at events and at the crag. We will miss the cherished experience of climbing together. But we will gladly make this temporary sacrifice to protect our community, and we hope you will do the same.
Access Fund’s Response to COVID-19: How we’re protecting staff and volunteers.