Back to School: Pandemic Drives Students to Regional Climbing Gyms

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NH Climbing & Fitness
Two climbers boulder at NH Climbing + Fitness. While Dartmouth’s facility remains closed, the gym has become one of the new stomping grounds for the college’s climbers. (Image by NH Climbing + Fitness)

The student newspaper at Dartmouth College, The Dartmouth, recently published an article titled: Students, frustrated by continued climbing gym closure, seek alternative locations.

In the piece, author Ben Fagell notes that the bouldering-focused Dartmouth Climbing Gym, traditionally the on-campus climbing facility for the college’s students, has been closed since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the summer, in particular, the facility reportedly remained closed “after an internal review uncovered poor ventilation in the space.”

 

However, it should be noted that, according to Outdoor Programs Office director Coz Teplitz, some issues with the facility are independent of COVID-19. Funding concerns for the necessary renovations, for instance, were also mentioned in the article. “We are still actively working to determine if any access to the facility might be able to be provided in the short term,” said Teplitz.

Yet, with a timeline for the gym’s reopening still unknown and uncertain due to the pending renovations, Dartmouth’s collegiate climbing team has increasingly ventured to other climbing facilities—such as NH Climbing & Fitness, which offers mixed climbing in Concord, New Hampshire…more than an hour away.

The article notes that the Dartmouth climbing team “is also exploring the possibility of building its own climbing wall,” perhaps at an off-campus location.

It’s likely that college students elsewhere have had to adjust their climbing habits in light of the various gym closures amid the pandemic; for example, the Doti-Struppa Rock Wall at Chapman University in Orange, California, is another school wall that is “closed until further notice”―despite other recreational and fitness campus amenities there reopening. But Fagell’s article in The Dartmouth is among the first to expound on a specific university wall closure of late and the impact on the students who typically climb on it.

On a broad level, university and school campuses (particularly those with significant populations) are logically at risk of COVID-19 spread. Thus, as fall college and university semesters begin around the country, schools in many regions may need to continue to take a more restrictive approach to climbing wall closures than commercial gyms—which based on past CWA reopening surveys have not been sites of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Stay tuned to CBJ for more news as we continue to monitor the pandemic’s continued impact on the climbing industry.