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An Ontario Climbing Gym is Set to Open on May 23

The Rock Oasis has said they'll do a soft reopening this weekend

On May 16, The Rock Oasis announced that they would have a soft re-opening. The proposed date for the Toronto gym is May 23. The decision was announced on social media and has been met with both excitement and criticism.

Ontario is currently in phase one of its reopening plan. Phase one has allowed for the opening of some businesses. The Ontario Climbing Federation (OCF) released in an announcement on May 17, “As private businesses, Ontario climbing gyms will each make their own decisions about reopening. Ontario gym owners have been collaborating to coordinate their planning around reopening.”

The provincial government has allowed for private businesses to begin reopening, but fitness facilities remain closed. It is unclear as to where climbing gyms fall in relation to these guidelines.

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Re-opening Saturday May 23rd!! We are excited to be able to welcome climbers at the gym again, albeit in a modified manner to reflect our new reality. We are committed to maintaining good social distancing and sanitization with the following: Customers must pre-book 1 ¾ hr time slots in advance. The time slots start at 8am, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, 8pm and 10pm. Book Bouldering, Autobelay or Roped climbing. Only one activity per visit. Bouldering: Book in partner pairs who will boulder together for the entire session. Maximum 10 boulderers per session. Singles can be paired with another single. Autobelay: Book singly or in pairs. Maximum 4 per session. Must be autobelay certified. Roped Climbing: Book in partner pairs who will climb together for the entire session. Maximum 16 climbers per session. Must be belay certified. Booking details: Book the week before. The ‘booking week’ will be Saturday-Friday. (first week available to book is May 23-29) Starting at 10am on Tuesdays: Annual members, monthly members and 10 pass members can book one or two time slots. (booking process starts May 19th) Starting at 10am on Thursdays: 3rd time slot can be booked and non-members can book one time slot. To book email infotoronto@rockoasis.com and include the following: 1. Do you want to boulder, autobelay or climb? 2. Your first choice of day/time 3. Alternative day/times 4. Full name of both people in booking. Bookings will be done in order received. We will send a confirmation email with more details of our new policies and procedures to maintain social distancing and sanitation. Please be patient as we try our best to open in a safe and responsible manner. Finally, we welcome feedback; please let us know if you have any issues or concerns. Sincerely, The Rock Oasis

A post shared by The Rock Oasis (@rockoasisclimbing) on

New Normal

As mentioned in conversation with Andrew Coffey last week, the “new normal” for climbing gyms will not resemble pre-covid policy. The Rock Oasis has released a set of regulations in preparation for their opening.

The list of policies that respond directly to the pandemic can be found here. A few notable measures are as follows:

  • Climbers must book time slots
  • Masks must be worn at all times
  • No more than 20 climbers will be allowed in the facility at any given time
  • There will not be any direct staff-to-customer interaction unless there is an emergency
  • Climbers will have to stick to the discipline they have booked
    • Bouldering
    • Roped climbing
    • Auto belay

This facility has decided to allow all memberships that are frozen to remain frozen, unless members wish to access The Rock Oasis. Otherwise, these memberships will retain their frozen status.

The Rock Oasis is welcoming feedback from the community on their decision to open. A lot of the feedback that has been displayed by the community offers concerns as to the safety of reopening.

The community has vocalized its concerns on social media. Their concerns extend to the sterilization of climbing holds and the dangers of exercising in an enclosed space. Conversely, people are excited to return to climbing and The Rock Oasis has offered many the first opportunity to do so.

Gyms in B.C. are approaching opening dates, but are looking toward phase three before doing so. The number of new cases of covid-19 in B.C. on May 21 was 12 while in Ontario the number was 413. In Alberta, fitness gyms will not open until phase three. That may not occur until the end of summer or the early fall.

If the Rock Oasis does open tomorrow, it will be the first indoor climbing gym in Canada to do so. As of April 24, climbing gyms in the state of Georgia have been allowed to open with restrictions at their own discretion. Onsight Climbing in Knoxville, Tennessee, is also open with restrictions.

In an Instagram post, The Rock Oasis emphasized that this date is for a soft opening. If The Rock Oasis is viewed as a fitness gym, it is unlikely they will open on Saturday. They are meant to hear back from the government on May 22 as to whether or not their opening is legal. Currently, the indoor climbing that is allowed pertains specifically to competition climbing.

Without a doubt, this is a confusing time for the climbing community. Learn more about Ontario’s approach to reopening here.