Coronavirus

As the new year brings tighter coronavirus regulations both within and between nations, we’re committed to enabling our courses to recommence as soon as possible. We strongly believe in the benefits of our courses, we recognise the effort required by candidates to complete a qualification and we are grateful to our providers for putting in place mitigation measures in an evolving landscape.

We are liaising with the mountaineering councils and government agencies in all nations and endeavour to update this information as quickly as possible following any new announcement, bearing in mind that it often takes several days to digest and interpret any new guidance/legislation and reach an agreed conclusion.

For information three Mountaineering Scotland members have been involved in producing a scientific paper on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mountain sports. The key conclusion in the paper, which is currently being peer reviewed, is that there is no evidence of anyone becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 during outdoor mountain sports, suggesting that the SARS- CoV-2 infection risk is low while pursuing these activities. The paper summarises measures that can be adopted to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection during mountain sports and associated activities, and makes a recommendation on how to return to mountain sport after a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Find out more.

Please contact one of our approved providers if you have any questions or concerns about taking part in a Mountain Training course.

England

Updated: 07/01/2021

New national regulations came into force on 20th December 2020 which added a fourth tier to the existing three tiered system. On Monday 4th January the Prime Minister announced a national lockdown in England. Government guidance can be found here.

Mountain Training England consider our scheme pathways to fall under ‘Education’. The majority of our leadership scheme delivery could be considered ‘Further Education’. Guidance states;
  • Colleges, primary and secondary schools will only remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other students will learn remotely until February half term.
  • FE students… ‘should remain where they are wherever possible, and start their term online’ until at least Mid-February. There are exceptions noted but these are not applicable to Mountain Training course delivery. There is no specific exception for ‘practical’ delivery.
Although a number of other restrictions significantly impact on course delivery (inc. travel, accommodation, closure of venues etc.) Mountain Training England feel it is difficult to see how scheme delivery is permissible if educational establishments have significantly restricted face to face learning as outlined. Due to the practical nature of our schemes, delivery purely online is not acceptable.

Mountain Training England therefore feel it is not permissible to deliver public Mountain Training courses during the ‘national lockdown’. We will update you if legislation is further amended and as the restrictions are eased.

Our approved providers are communicating with candidates about courses. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the provider directly.

Useful links:

MTA - Helping keep outdoor activities Covid secure

BMC article: Covid-19 Latest - National Lockdown in England

Countryside Code in England

Ireland

Updated: 04/01/2021

The Republic of Ireland is currently at Level 5. Level 5 restrictions include the following:
  • people must stay at home and work from home unless providing essential services (as defined by the Government)
  • people are permitted to exercise within 5km of their home, with a penalty for movement outside 5km of home
  • it is possible to meet with one other household in an outdoor setting which is not a home or garden, such as a park, for exercise
  • there should be no organised indoor or outdoor events
These restrictions make Mountain Training course delivery unworkable while Ireland is at Level 5, except where providers operating within an education service as defined by the Irish Government.

Useful links:

Mountaineering Ireland latest

Irish Government - A guide to Level 5

Mountaineering Ireland Good Practice Guide

Northern Ireland

Updated: 04/01/2021

Following an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, additional restrictions were introduced for people in Northern Ireland on 26 December 2020. The regulations apply for six weeks, with a review after four weeks.
  • Work associated with education can happen.
  • Avoid all unnecessary travel, walls/gyms closed.
  • Only individual or household outdoor exercise is permitted.
  • Physical activity such as walking, running, cycling, horse riding, or just walking the dog, bring many health benefits.
  • You cannot participate in personal one-to-one training sessions or group activities such as running or cycling.
  • Physical education delivered by or for schools, pre-schools and other education providers is permitted to continue.


All previous protocols relating to social distancing, hand sanitizing and wearing masks in enclosed spaces remain in place.

Useful links:

Mountaineering Ireland latest

Northern Ireland Executive - regulations and what they mean for you

Countryside Code in Northern Ireland

Scotland

Updated: 20/01/2021

Scotland Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’ guidance for organised mountain-related activity remains in place until mid-February.

Current lockdown measures will stay in place across mainland Scotland and some island communities until at least the middle of February, the First Minister confirmed to the Scottish parliament on the 19/2/2021.

In addition, Barra and Vatersay will move into lockdown from 00:01 on Wednesday 20/1/2021 following a sharp increase in infection rates. The rest of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will remain in level 3.

During an update to Parliament the First Minister said that although lockdown appears to be having an impact on case numbers, transmission of the virus remains too high to relax restrictions.

Nobody who lives in an area under lockdown should leave or remain outside their home except for an essential purpose like caring responsibilities, outdoor exercise and work that cannot be done from home.

These measures will be kept under consideration and Parliament will be updated following a review by the Cabinet on February 2.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Any relaxation of lockdown while case numbers remain high, even though they might be declining, could quickly send the situation into reverse.
“We believe that the lockdown restrictions - and the sacrifices everyone continues to make - are beginning to have an impact. However, it is important to be cautious.
“I continue to be very grateful to people across the country for their patience and resilience in the face of this extraordinary challenge.
“At the moment, lockdown is the best way of keeping each other safe, as vaccination continues. It is how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.”

Mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 to a Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’, with new guidance to stay at home except for essential purposes on the 5/1/2021.

Organised and formal led mountain-related activity

For those local authority areas covered by the Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’ the guidance in Appendix B in the Mountain Training Scotland guidance document “Guidance for Those (Leaders, instructors, and coaches) Involved in Organised and Formal Led Walking, Scrambling & Climbing (Including indoor climbing and bouldering) Activities – Scotland” supersedes all other travel and staff ratio guidance within that document.

Guidance for Those (Leaders, instructors, and coaches) Involved in Organised and Formal Led Walking, Scrambling & Climbing (Including indoor climbing and bouldering) Activities–Scotland.

The key changes that will impact on Mountain Training qualification course provision (including Winter Mountain Leader and Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor) provision in Scotland are:
  • Only those living in a Level 4 local authority area can travel within that local authority area to provide/undertake organised mountain-related activity as per the MTS guidance noted above. Note: travel from one Level 4 area to another, or from outwith Scotland to participate in organized mountain-related is NOT permitted.
  • Leaders/instructors/coaches should not deliver an organised outdoor mountain-related activity to more than one other person if aged 12 years or older at any given time i.e. a 1:1 ratio staff/participant.
    The combination of travel restrictions and low ratio means that no Mountain Training qualification courses (including Winter ML and Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor) training or assessment can currently be delivered in Scotland. 1:1 Re-assessments can still be undertaken provided candidates reside in the same local authority area as the assessor undertaking the re-assessment.
We as individuals and organisations, have all been asked to act in ways, since 17 March 2020, that will aid the safety of ourselves and others, by suppressing the spread of the epidemic as much as possible.

We acknowledge that the disruption and cancellation of Mountain Training qualification courses – especially Winter Mountain Leader courses – and the impact on the provision of organised mountain-related activity by activity providers will have a huge impact on participants and providers alike. We fully understand and appreciate the financial, social and community impact this guidance will have.

We will keep you updated with more information and will be doing everything within our power to support the professional mountaineering community.

Accommodation

All mountain-related activity providers, staff, and participants (including Mountain Training Scotland Providers, staff, and candidates) should be aware that under Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’ restrictions in Scotland all holiday accommodation is closed to tourism.

Accommodation providers have been advised that when providing accommodation to workers, this should only be open for essential workers who require accommodation as part of their role.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-workers-accomodation/

Travel

Travel restrictions are legally enforceable in Scotland by Police Scotland.

The intent of the message from Scottish Government regarding travel restrictions is to minimise the risk of spreading the virus by:
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel - if you have to travel for an essential purpose, then ensure you stay as close to home as possible.
  • Travel no further than you need to reach a safe, non-crowded place to exercise
Those living in a Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’ local authority area can travel within that local authority area to provide/undertake organised mountain-related activity. Note: travel from one Level 4 ‘Stay at Home’ area to another is NOT permitted.

Please be aware that in the unlikely event of being stopped by, or contacted by Police Scotland you may be asked to produce evidence as to why you deem your journey essential.

MTS General advice to providers, staff and participants in mountain-related activity

There is no doubt that we have moved into a very uncertain and fast evolving situation.

Enforcing the guidelines and rules, especially on 'essential travel' is not the responsibility of Mountain Training Scotland.

All those seeking to be involved in undertaking organised mountain-related activity – please check the Scottish Government website for updates before making plans.

https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

For mountain-related personal activity advice please see the Mountaineering Scotland guidance.

Following the above MTS guidance, and what you choose to do within it, involves making judgements and decisions that only you, as an outdoor professional can make. These will involve many factors including your own sense of social, personal, and professional responsibility. There are other factors that may impact on your decision making, which include but are not limited to access and car parking may be busy, mindful of the sentiments of rural and remote communities and those living and working in the countryside.

When planning your activity stay well within your limits and minimise the risks to yourselves and others. For Scottish Mountain Rescue teams COVID-19 has an impact on their ability to respond to an incident quickly and efficiently. With regards casualty management r, COVID is not a risk they can effectively manage on winter rescues due to limitations with the PPE currently used.

https://www.scottishmountainrescue.org/new-year-new-guidance/

Finally, if making such decisions seems complicated and leads only to uncertainty and doubt in your mind, then Mountain Training Scotland advice is to please stay at home and make best use of whatever options for organised mountain-related activity are within your local area.

Our hope and expectation is that if we follow the intent of Government action now, the scope to deliver formal mountain-related activity will increase in February following the review.

#ThinkWINTER


Guidance for formal led activity:

Useful links:

Mountaineering Scotland article - Guidance for hill walkers and climbers in Scotland

Scottish Government: What you can and can't do

Scottish Outdoor Access Code

Wales

Updated: 04/01/2021

All of Wales is currently at alert level 4.

At alert level 4 there is an overarching requirement to stay at home, except for very limited purposes. Some highlights from the level 4 guidance include:
  • Exercise can only be carried out directly from your home and done alone or with members of your own household. Driving to a location to exercise is not allowed by regulations. The only exception to this is for those who need to travel to a suitable local location due to a physical or mental health issue as defined by Section 6 of the Equality Act.
  • Any travel to or from Wales is prohibited by regulation (apart from the reasonable excuse clauses, such as travel for work, medical purposes, education, etc.).
  • Meeting with other persons from outside your household, even outdoors, for any purpose not defined as a “reasonable excuse” in the regulations is prohibited.
  • All non-essential shops and businesses, including leisure facilities and gyms (including climbing walls) must close.
The alert level 4 restrictions currently in force create extremely challenging circumstances which must be overcome in order to deliver a Mountain Training course in Wales, in particular, obtaining accommodation and other related aspects of candidates’ transport and travel logistics. In addition, all education must now take place online until Monday 18th January, at the earliest. Accessing and receiving education is, therefore, no longer a reasonable excuse within which courses can be delivered in Wales.

Useful links:

Welsh Government Alert level 4 frequently asked questions

Wales lockdown part 3 - BMC Article

Countryside Code in Wales

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