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Scotland’s great outdoors providing paths to healthy Covid recovery

By 10 November 2020No Comments

New research analysing Covid risks around hill-walking and mountaineering could provide the Scottish population with a key route out of the pandemic.

Levels of outdoor walking and other exercise have risen significantly through the pandemic lockdown restrictions, both at local levels and across the country’s more famous national venues, and in young and older age groups. Visits to Mountaineering Scotland’s website have rocketed as people seek guidance on how to be safe in the hills.

Now, three Mountaineering Scotland members, Henning Wackerhage, Roger Everett and Simon Richardson, have worked with an international team of researchers and mountaineers from Europe and North America to look at how this rise might impact on the spread of Covid-19, and how the virus impacts on outdoor sports.

Their scientific paper is currently awaiting peer review and publication, but has been made available in draft form to help the wider public and politicians to understand the risks of Covid-19.

A key conclusion to the research is that there is no evidence of anyone becoming infected with Covid-19 during outdoor mountain sports, suggesting that the Covid infection risk is low while pursuing these activities.

The paper summarises measures that can be adopted to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection during mountain sports and associated activities, and makes a recommendation on how to return to mountain sport after infection.

The paper has been shared with the Scottish Government and sportscotland, and it is hoped the information will be found useful as winter approaches and people navigate the pandemic restrictions, and instil confidence in outdoor walking. Mountaineering Scotland have also written directly to the First Minister highlighting the importance of mountaineering and hill-walking activity from a health and wellbeing perspective, and urging consideration of that when restricting travel.

Stuart Younie, Mountaineering Scotland’s CEO, said: “This draft paper is the first comprehensive study into Covid-19 as it impacts on mountain sports and is a significant step forward in understanding how we can manage and reduce the risks of transmission. It is encouraging that it confirms many of the risk areas we have already identified in our guidance documents and, importantly, the relatively low risk overall of transmission when participating in mountain sports. We would like to convey our thanks to the research team for all the work they have put into the study and are grateful that they have been willing to share it with us at this early stage.”

The authors are keen to receive feedback on the paper, which can be submitted via Mountaineering Scotland to For more information and guidance on hill-walking and mountaineering, visit:

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