The annual Halls & Walls trade fair, like many events in 2020―from Global Climbing Day to competitions like Yank-N-Yard―had to look quite different this year due to the pandemic. Hosted by the German Alpine Association (DAV) and taking place in Germany, Halls & Walls is one of the leading business-to-business events in the climbing industry. Last year, the international event attracted around 1,200 visitors and nearly 150 exhibitors―many based in Europe, but also brands from North America and Asia. The digital version of Halls & Walls this year consisted of an alternative symposium format, showcasing select panel discussions and interviews streamed online on November 6.
The discussions focused on a variety of statistical findings from the consumer to gym level. The first discussion kicked off with a presentation of the 2020 International Climbers’ Survey published by Vertical Life, an Italy-based software company. Matthias Polig, co-founder and CEO of Vertical Life, summarized the responses of the 12,565 climbers taking the survey. Collected from November 2019 to January 2020, the results provided insights into the general behaviors and preferences of climbers (primarily based in Europe).
An interview with Julia Janotte, DAV Safety Research expert, followed the first discussion. Janotte shared research on auto-belays, PPE and accident data. Overall, the results suggested that bouldering and roped climbing in gym settings―when compared to other sports like skiing/snowboarding or even basketball―has a much lower rate of accidents. This finding is consistent with the Climbing Wall Association research cited in the 2019 State of Climbing Report published by the American Alpine Club:
The study found that the rate of accidents among climbing gym patrons is .007 per 1,000 visitor hours. Compared to an activity like CrossFit (2.3 injuries per 1,000 athlete training hours), this is an exceedingly low rate of injury.
The final discussion highlighted a survey of climbing gyms in Europe on how they have been navigating the pandemic crisis and COVID-19 restrictions. Christian Popien, co-founder of Climb-Inn Klettersport and co-owner of Bahnhof Blo Bouldercafé Wuppertal, dived into the results. Of note is that, of the +130 gym operators responding to the survey, most respondents do not believe the indoor climbing industry will suffer greatly from the consequences of the pandemic in the long run. Despite the current challenges, participants in the roundtable showed optimism and noted the importance of keeping a growth mindset.
The digital Halls & Walls 2020 concluded with a hint of what’s to come next year. First organized in 2011, Halls & Walls has since outgrown its resources and will take place next year as part of Vertical Pro in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The Vertical Pro trade fair combines activities across multiple work at height industries into a single event. The DAV, however, will continue to play a role in organizing the Halls & Walls symposium.
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