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Face Masks are required at ALL Vertical Endeavors Facilities

Face Masks are once again REQUIRED for all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, who are over 2 years old and medically able to tolerate a face covering while in ALL Vertical Endeavors facilities.

Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday, August 26, 2021, that everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, must wear an appropriate face mask while in indoor settings open to the public throughout Illinois. Beginning Monday, August 30, 2021, all individuals were required to wear a face mask inside our Glendale Heights, IL indoor rock climbing facility at all times.

Amid rising cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 both St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors signed on to new mask requirements for local businesses and city buildings. Mask mandates for both cities went into effect on Thursday, Jan. 6 at 5 p.m., however there are a few differences in the approach by each city. Executive Order 2022-3 for the city of St. Paul, MN states that while face coverings are required in all City-Controlled Property and Businesses Licensed by the City of Saint Paul, all businesses are “(s)trongly encouraged to continue to require that all individuals, regardless of vaccine status, wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained.”

In Minneapolis Emergency Regulation No. 2022-1, Mayor Jacob Frey's order affects all businesses within city limits and "places of public accommodation." The order defines a place of public accommodation as "any indoor locations where members of the public may gather, visit, or patronize and can include, but are not limited to, bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, schools, recreational facilities, retail locations, and service offices." Therefore, “any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a medical-grade mask or cloth face covering in accordance with CDC guidance when in indoor spaces of public accommodation regardless of vaccination status, except for the purposes of eating and/or drinking” in Minneapolis, MN.

As a result, the leadership of Vertical Endeavors has decided to reinstate a face mask requirement in all of our facilities, whether they are in Illinois, Minneapolis, St. Paul, or not. There are two compelling reasons for this decision.

First, because we must abide by the mandates in Illinois, St. Paul, and Minneapolis, it is a logistical difficulty to have one facility as an outlier and have different requirements. We have had to adjust quickly to the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic for two years. We have discovered it is better to have consistency throughout the organization. Therefore, making face masks required at all facilities helps our management team, marketing, and staff operate consistently from facility to facility. It is also less confusing to our customers to have a central, unified message and policy, whether they agree with it or not.

The second, and most important, reason is for the health and well-being of our staff and customers. The pandemic has had severe impact on everyone, individuals and businesses alike. With the omicron variant, infections and hospitalizations are increasing and the impact is becoming pervasive. Our staff requested that we institute the face mask policy at all facilities because they felt uncomfortable and at risk otherwise. We agree with them and do not want to put them at unnecessary risk of getting sick, missing work, and leaving our facilities without the necessary staff to operate. Without staff or if a significant portion of our staff contract COVID-19, cannot work, or must miss work to protect themselves or vulnerable family members, then we have to close our doors and no one would be able to climb, work-out, or enjoy our facilities.

Our first priority is customer service, and we have to (1) have good, well-trained staff on hand to serve our customers, (2) take the safety and well-being of everyone who enters our facility seriously, and (3) show care and concern for others. That is the primary reason for this temporary requirement . . . compassionate concern for the well-being of others! We would be negligent if we did not do everything that we can reasonably do to protect our members and guests from unnecessary risks.

As climbers, we have always put safety as a priority even though climbing is inherently dangerous, and you can never eliminate all the risks associated with the sport. We require proper training, the proper use of safety equipment, diligent adherence to necessary policies, procedures, checks, and double-checks, belay qualifications, etc. A casual observer would argue that we “overdo it” with all of the rules and procedures. We feel it is better to “err” on the side of caution and safety, rather than to take unnecessary and unwarranted risks. The same can be said for the current and temporary inconvenience of our mask requirement.

We hope that our customers understand this rationale. One does not have to like it or agree with it, but I do hope that everyone respects our position of caring and being concerned for the health and well-being of our staff and guests. Our hope is that this will all be over soon.

Vertical Endeavors will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State health department guidelines and recommendations regarding face masks and face coverings. Each facility must abide by State and local requirements, as well, as is the case here. We ask all of our staff, members, and guests to show respect and concern for others and to abide by the appropriate specifications

NOTICE TO ALL MEMBERS:

On July 5, 2021, Vertical Endeavors reactivated all memberships that had been frozen or placed on hold due to the COVID closures and restrictions. All Month-to-Month (EFT) membership accounts began to be charged the appropriate monthly fee from July 2021 onward. Pre-paid annual memberships were automatically reinstated, and a definitive expiration date was assigned based on how many days were left on the membership.  Pre-paid members can confirm their membership’s expiration date the next time they check-in at one of our facilities.

Here is the history of what happened with VE memberships. On March 17, 2020, VE temporarily closed all of its facilities due to mitigation efforts and State mandates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made at that time to freeze all Month-to-Month (EFT) memberships and waive the freeze fee for the duration of the initial closures. Additionally, VE put all pre-paid annual memberships on hold with the understanding that the length of the closure would be added to the end-date of all memberships. Therefore, members would not lose the value of their investment.

In June and July 2020, VE began to open its facilities with mandated capacity limits. As a result, a RESERVATION SYSTEM was instituted to accommodate those restrictions. Because members would not have complete access to our facilities and capacity limitations could prevent them from climbing as often, as long, and when they would prefer, VE decided to keep memberships frozen and on hold until capacity limits were loosened, and all of our facilities could open and accommodate member benefits. At that time, we felt that some of our members might not be ready to return to climb for various pandemic-related or personal reasons. Our desire was to be sensitive to those concerns even though our business was suffering through unprecedented challenges as a result of these dynamics.

Eventually, all of our facilities were re-opened by the end of October 2020. However, we continued to face facility capacity limitations and had various social distancing, face mask, and operational requirements. From November 21 to December 16, 2020, all five of our Minnesota facilities faced another mandatory closure. Traffic in our facilities was down considerably and we were doing everything we could to keep the doors open for our climbing community and guests. Through the first half of 2021, restrictions loosened, access increased, and the impact of the pandemic began to improve. On May 28, 2021, all capacity restrictions and programming limitations were removed in Minnesota, except for recommendations for those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to wear face masks when they are indoors and unable to maintain social distance guidelines. Illinois removed its restrictions on June 11, 2021, as they moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois recovery plan. However, it is still going to be some time until business returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Vertical Endeavors Climbing facilities (“VE”) provide memberships so that participants can enjoy unlimited climbing, pro shop discounts, and exclusive member-only benefits. Memberships offer all-access to any VE facility during open hours and special member-only events or single access memberships which grants you member access to any single facility of your choice. Once we were fully open and restrictions were lifted, it was appropriate to restore those memberships that were frozen or placed on hold.

For over 15 months, VE allowed memberships to remain frozen or on hold at the member’s discretion. We realized that some of our members would not want or be unable to return while access was limited or until further pandemic metrics were met. Some had various personal reasons for keeping their membership frozen or on hold. If anyone wanted to reactivate their membership they could do so, with an acknowledgement that they understood the temporary access limitations. Up to that  point, if a member whose membership was frozen or on hold and they wished to access our indoor climbing and fitness facilities, they were required to pay for a regular Day Pass or reactivate their membership.

When we announced that we were reactivating all memberships on July 5, 2021, if a member desired to keep their membership frozen or on hold for an additional month, or until August 5, 2021, they were able to do so. However, they had to notify Vertical Endeavors before July 1, 2021, by filling out the Membership Update Request form online. Month-to-Month EFT memberships can be cancelled or frozen (for a $10/month fee) by the member by submitting a Membership Update Request before the 1st of the month. EFT memberships can be unfrozen at any time but may be subject to prorated dues that will be added to the next monthly billing.

If those with a pre-paid annual membership wish to cancel their contract, they may cancel by delivering or mailing a written notice to the Vertical Endeavors Business Office. The notice must say that you do not wish to be bound by the contract and must be delivered or mailed before midnight of the third business day after you sign the current contract. The notice must be delivered or mailed to: Vertical Endeavors 845 Phalen Blvd St Paul, MN 55106. If you cancel, the club will return, within ten days of the date on which you give notice of cancellation, any payments you have made. Subject to the right to cancel as set forth above, all prepaid membership sales are final, and no refunds will be given. The membership agreement for all pre-paid memberships states that a member cannot “suspend, place on hold, or transfer this membership to another person for any reason.”

Our Journey Back to "Normal"

As more and more people in Minnesota and Illinois are vaccinated and the pandemic restrictions are loosened, Vertical Endeavors will continue to monitor and review our mitigation efforts. Some of our COVID related policies will continue, some will be refined, and some will be discontinued when it is appropriate to do so. Here are some adjustments we have made:

  • Vertical Endeavors will continue to follow CDC and Health Department guidelines and recommendations regarding face masks and face coverings. Each facility will be required to abide by State and local requirements. Check with your local facility for the current face mask policy.
  • The COVID diagnostic questions and temperature check will no longer be required when check-in.
  • While social distance requirements will be removed, we ask our members and customers to continue to be aware of others and recommend keeping an appropriate social distance from others.
  • VE recommends that everyone continue to wash and sanitize their hands on a regular basis. We will still have sanitizing spray placed around the facility.
  • Spectators will no longer be required to pay for admittance; however, they must still complete the appropriate waivers and receive any orientation that is necessary.
  • Member bring a friend is back! However, your membership must be active to be able to take advantage of this membership benefit.
  • All rental gear, including chalk bags, is available.
  • VE will accept cash transactions at most of our facilities. Although, credit and debit card transactions are recommended. (Our Duluth facility will continue to only allow credit and debit card transactions)
  • VE Climb Teams, Leagues, Groups, Birthday Parties, Lessons, and Classes are available. We will continue to conduct them within appropriate social distance and capacity guidelines.
  • Climbing shoes will no longer be required, however, the following policies will continue to be in effect:
    • Do not wear the shoes in which you are climbing into the restrooms.
    • An extra pair of shoes, flip-flops, etc. are recommended.
    • No walking around in bare feet is allowed in the facility.

Personal responsibility.

If you feel ill or have displayed any symptoms associated with COVID-19, please stay home.

COVID-19 affects different people in different ways. Infected people have had a wide range of symptoms reported – from mild to severe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people with the following symptoms may have COVID-19: Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever (100.4° or higher), chills or shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. This is not an all-inclusive list; other less common symptoms have been reported: headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette.

Maintain a minimum of 6 feet of social distance between you and anyone who is not a member of your family or intimate social circle in climbing and exercise area, including yoga and fitness classes. Do not touch other people (no handshakes, no hugs, no high fives, etc.). Climbers and belayers should use a "non-contact" double check procedure and continue to maintain 6 feet of social distance.

Vertical Endeavors will continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State health department guidelines and recommendations regarding face masks. Each facility must also abide by State and local requirements. We are continually monitoring the situation for each of our facilities and will make adjustments where appropriate. Our policy will vary from facility to facility depending on the local orders and mandates. We ask all of our staff, members, and guests to show respect and concern for others and to abide by the appropriate specifications. Check with your local facility to see what the current face mask policy is where you climb.

Wash, sanitize, or disinfect your hands before and after each climb. Sanitizer and disinfectant will be placed throughout the facility.

Increased cleaning.

There will be increased cleaning, disinfecting, and decontamination of facilities and equipment by both staff and patrons. We ask that climbers wash or sanitize their hands before and after each climb or belay. We ask that patrons using the fitness facilities wipe down any fitness equipment with disinfectant spray before and after use.

Frequently asked questions.

Please take a couple minutes to read through these Q&As and if you still have questions about Vertical Endeavors' reopening, email us at marketing@verticalendeavors.com. Thanks!

Who can climb?

Everyone! Members will be able to utilize their complementary guest passes and Member Bring a Friend promotion. 

What is the cost?

With all memberships reactivated and capacity restrictions lifted, regular pricing is in effect.

What is the capacity limit?

There are currently no capacity limits. Everyone is still required to check in at the front desk.

When will VE be open at normal capacity?

All facilities are open to full capacity. 

Do I have to make a reservation or can I walk-in?

At all VE facilities, you will no longer need a reservation to climb. Reservations are still required for Yoga, Strength and Fitness classes.

Do I have to wear a mask when I climb?

UPDATED January 6, 2022: Face Masks are once again REQUIRED for all individuals, regardless of their vaccination status, who are over 2 years old and medically able to tolerate a face covering while in ALL Vertical Endeavors facilities.

Whether an individual is in a common area, such as the entrance lobby, restroom, hallway, etc., fitness area, yoga room, climbing area, or climbing a wall, everyone is required to properly wear an appropriate face covering at all times in the facility.

Illinois Governor, J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday, August 26, 2021, that everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, must wear an appropriate face mask while in indoor settings open to the public throughout Illinois. Beginning Monday, August 30, 2021, all individuals were required to wear a face mask inside our Glendale Heights, IL indoor rock climbing facility at all times.

Amid rising cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19, on Wednesday, January 5, 2022 both St. Paul and Minneapolis mayors signed on to new mask requirements for local businesses and city buildings. Mask mandates for both cities went into effect on Thursday, Jan. 6 at 5 p.m., however there are a few differences in the approach by each city. Executive Order 2022-3 for the city of St. Paul, MN states that while face coverings are required in all City-Controlled Property and Businesses Licensed by the City of Saint Paul, all businesses are “(s)trongly encouraged to continue to require that all individuals, regardless of vaccine status, wear a face covering indoors at all times when social distancing of at least 6 feet is not maintained.”

In Minneapolis Emergency Regulation No. 2022-1, Mayor Jacob Frey's order affects all businesses within city limits and "places of public accommodation." The order defines a place of public accommodation as "any indoor locations where members of the public may gather, visit, or patronize and can include, but are not limited to, bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, schools, recreational facilities, retail locations, and service offices." Therefore, “any individual who is over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a medical-grade mask or cloth face covering in accordance with CDC guidance when in indoor spaces of public accommodation regardless of vaccination status, except for the purposes of eating and/or drinking” in Minneapolis, MN.

As a result, the leadership of Vertical Endeavors has decided to reinstate a face mask requirement in all of our facilities, whether they are in Illinois, Minneapolis, St. Paul, or not. There are two compelling reasons for this decision.

First, because we must abide by the mandates in Illinois, St. Paul, and Minneapolis, it is a logistical difficulty to have one facility as an outlier and have different requirements. We have had to adjust quickly to the ever-changing dynamics of the pandemic for two years. We have discovered it is better to have consistency throughout the organization. Therefore, making face masks required at all facilities helps our management team, marketing, and staff operate consistently from facility to facility. It is also less confusing to our customers to have a central, unified message and policy, whether they agree with it or not.

The second, and most important, reason is for the health and well-being of our staff and customers. The pandemic has had severe impact on everyone, individuals and businesses alike. With the omicron variant, infections and hospitalizations are increasing and the impact is becoming pervasive. Our staff requested that we institute the face mask policy at all facilities because they felt uncomfortable and at risk otherwise. We agree with them and do not want to put them at unnecessary risk of getting sick, missing work, and leaving our facilities without the necessary staff to operate. Without staff or if a significant portion of our staff contract COVID-19, cannot work, or must miss work to protect themselves or vulnerable family members, then we have to close our doors and no one would be able to climb, work-out, or enjoy our facilities.

Our first priority is customer service, and we have to (1) have good, well-trained staff on hand to serve our customers, (2) take the safety and well-being of everyone who enters our facility seriously, and (3) show care and concern for others. That is the primary reason for this temporary requirement . . . compassionate concern for the well-being of others! We would be negligent if we did not do everything that we can reasonably do to protect our members and guests from unnecessary risks.

As climbers, we have always put safety as a priority even though climbing is inherently dangerous, and you can never eliminate all the risks associated with the sport. We require proper training, the proper use of safety equipment, diligent adherence to necessary policies, procedures, checks, and double-checks, belay qualifications, etc. A casual observer would argue that we “overdo it” with all of the rules and procedures. We feel it is better to “err” on the side of caution and safety, rather than to take unnecessary and unwarranted risks. The same can be said for the current and temporary inconvenience of our mask requirement. 

We hope that our customers understand this rationale. One does not have to like it or agree with it, but I do hope that everyone respects our position of caring and being concerned for the health and well-being of our staff and guests. Our hope is that this will all be over soon.

Vertical Endeavors continues to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State health department guidelines and recommendations regarding face masks. Each facility must also abide by State and local requirements. We are continually monitoring the situation for each of our facilities and will make adjustments where appropriate. Our policy may vary from facility to facility depending on the local orders and mandates. We ask all of our staff, members, and guests to show respect and concern for others and to abide by the appropriate specifications. Check with your local facility to see what the current face mask policy is where you climb.

Appropriate face masks and face covering may be required depending on State and local mandates or guidance. Everyone should provide their own mask. The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case YOU are infected. So, we are asking everyone to take personal responsibility and wear a mask. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Please continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.

The most effective measures for preventing increased spread of COVID-19 are staying home when you are sick, maintain physical separation between other people while out in public (at least 6 feet), and frequently washing your hands with either soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Additionally, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., public transportation, stores, pharmacies, even health and fitness facilities), especially in areas where significant community-based transmission is occurring, or vaccination rates are low. The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings, non-medical grade, to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. VE has decided to ask our customers to take personal responsibility and follow these guidelines.

Everyone must do their part in helping to reduce the spread of this pandemic. Face masks/coverings must cover the mouth and nose to be effective. Because individuals should also avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth to allay possible virus transmission, also avoid touching your face mask while wearing it. Children between the ages of 5 and 12 years will be required to wear a mask or face covering in our facilities and we ask parents to adequately supervise them while in the facility.

Additionally, The CDC and a Minnesota Executive Order (20-81) notes that “(m)asks that incorporate a valve designed to facilitate easy exhaling, mesh masks, or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material, or vents are not sufficient face coverings because they allow exhaled droplets to be released into the air.” With the type of mask that has a valve or vent, unfiltered air is released when the wearer exhales. Therefore, VE will not allow face masks that incorporate a valve or vent because this does not protect others from a potentially infected wearer.

Vertical Endeavors will continue to monitor all guidance and recommendation from the experts. Our face mask policy will be adjusted when it is appropriate to do so. We are committed to take the proper steps to keep our staff, members, and guests safe and healthy. Therefore, we ask everyone to do their part to support and comply with all our COVID-19 protocols.

Will there be classes and lessons?

Yes! Yoga, fitness, and climbing lessons are offered at this time. Please check our website or call your local facility for more information on classes and lessons.

Will there be groups?

Yes! You may schedule a group. Please call your local facility.

Will there be camps, climb teams, or climb league?

Yes! Check the website (under the Activities link) or call your local facility for more information on how to sign-up now!

Can I rent equipment?

Climbing shoes, harnesses, chalk bags, and belay tools will be available to rent.

Can I lead climb? Is rope available to use?

Yes, you can lead climb if you are lead belay certified! You may check out a VE lead rope at no cost.

How do I cancel my membership?

If you wish to update your Month-to-Month EFT membership please fill out a Membership Update Request. All Membership Changes, including Freezes and Cancellations, must be submitted by the 1st of the Month in order to be applied to that month’s billing.

Pre-paid annual memberships cannot be transferred or cancelled per terms of the membership agreement. Although Vertical Endeavors placed all membership on hold during the pandemic closures and capacity restrictions, they were reactivated on July 5, 2021, when members could have full access to our facilities. Pre-paid memberships cannot be placed on hold by the member unless there are severe and limited circumstances.

If you wish to reactivate your membership immediately please fill out a Membership Re-Institution Acknowledgment Form.

Will I have to retest for belay qualifications?

You may have gotten one of our automatic emails saying you have to come in to climb or your qualifications will expire. Retesting will be done on a case by case basis but please be prepared to retest.

What happened to my Vertical Endeavors membership as your facilities begin to reopen?

On July 5, 2021, Vertical Endeavors reactivated all memberships that had been frozen or placed on hold due to the COVID closures and restrictions. All Month-to-Month (EFT) membership accounts began to be charged the appropriate monthly fee from July 2021 onward. Pre-paid annual memberships were automatically reinstated, and a definitive expiration date was assigned based on how many days were left on the membership.  Pre-paid members can confirm their membership’s expiration date the next time they check-in at one of our facilities.

Here is the history of what happened with VE memberships. On March 17, 2020, VE temporarily closed all of its facilities due to mitigation efforts and State mandates in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision was made at that time to freeze all Month-to-Month (EFT) memberships and waive the freeze fee for the duration of the initial closures. Additionally, VE put all pre-paid annual memberships on hold with the understanding that the length of the closure would be added to the end-date of all memberships. Therefore, members would not lose the value of their investment.

In June and July 2020, VE began to open its facilities with mandated capacity limits. As a result, a RESERVATION SYSTEM was instituted to accommodate those restrictions. Because members would not have complete access to our facilities and capacity limitations could prevent them from climbing as often, as long, and when they would prefer, VE decided to keep memberships frozen and on hold until capacity limits were loosened, and all of our facilities could open and accommodate member benefits. At that time, we felt that some of our members might not be ready to return to climb for various pandemic-related or personal reasons. Our desire was to be sensitive to those concerns even though our business was suffering through unprecedented challenges as a result of these dynamics.

Eventually, all of our facilities were re-opened by the end of October 2020. However, we continued to face facility capacity limitations and had various social distancing, face mask, and operational requirements. From November 21 to December 16, 2020, all five of our Minnesota facilities faced another mandatory closure. Traffic in our facilities was down considerably and we were doing everything we could to keep the doors open for our climbing community and guests. Through the first half of 2021, restrictions loosened, access increased, and the impact of the pandemic began to improve. On May 28, 2021, all capacity restrictions and programming limitations were removed in Minnesota, except for recommendations for those who are not fully vaccinated to continue to wear face masks when they are indoors and unable to maintain social distance guidelines. Illinois removed its restrictions on June 11, 2021, as they moved to Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois recovery plan. However, it is still going to be some time until business returns to pre-pandemic levels.

Vertical Endeavors Climbing facilities (“VE”) provide memberships so that participants can enjoy unlimited climbing, pro shop discounts, and exclusive member-only benefits. Memberships offer all-access to any VE facility during open hours and special member-only events or single access memberships which grants you member access to any single facility of your choice. Once we were fully open and restrictions were lifted, it was appropriate to restore those memberships that were frozen or placed on hold.

For over 15 months, VE allowed memberships to remain frozen or on hold at the member’s discretion. We realized that some of our members would not want or be unable to return while access was limited or until further pandemic metrics were met. Some had various personal reasons for keeping their membership frozen or on hold. If anyone wanted to reactivate their membership they could do so, with an acknowledgement that they understood the temporary access limitations. Up to that  point, if a member whose membership was frozen or on hold and they wished to access our indoor climbing and fitness facilities, they were required to pay for a regular Day Pass or reactivate their membership.

When we announced that we were reactivating all memberships on July 5, 2021, if a member desired to keep their membership frozen or on hold for an additional month, or until August 5, 2021, they were able to do so. However, they had to notify Vertical Endeavors before July 1, 2021, by filling out the Membership Update Request form online.

What are you doing to clean the hand holds and climbing surface?

We cannot sanitize the hand holds and climbing surface between each person. So, we are asking everyone to diligently wash or sanitize their hands before and after you climb. Avoid touching your face, after you climb, after you cough, sneeze, eat, use the restroom and at other times, or until you can wash or sanitize your hands. Surface contamination is not the main way of viral transmission according to the CDC and medical experts. Therefore, diligently washing/sanitizing your hands will go a long way in mitigating potential transmission.

The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory fluids carrying infectious virus. Exposure occurs in three principal ways: (1) inhalation of very fine respiratory droplets and aerosol particles, (2) deposition of respiratory droplets and particles on exposed mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, or eye by direct splashes and sprays, and (3) touching mucous membranes with hands that have been soiled either directly by virus-containing respiratory fluids or indirectly by touching surfaces with virus on them.1

People release respiratory fluids during exhalation (e.g., quiet breathing, speaking, singing, exercise, coughing, sneezing) in the form of droplets across a spectrum of sizes. (see references 1-9) These droplets carry virus and transmit infection.

  • The largest droplets settle out of the air rapidly, within seconds to minutes.
  • The smallest very fine droplets, and aerosol particles formed when these fine droplets rapidly dry, are small enough that they can remain suspended in the air for minutes to hours.

Infectious exposures to respiratory fluids carrying SARS-CoV-2 occur in three principal ways (not mutually exclusive):

  1. Inhalation of air carrying very small fine droplets and aerosol particles that contain infectious virus. Risk of transmission is greatest within three to six feet of an infectious source where the concentration of these very fine droplets and particles is greatest.
  2. Deposition of virus carried in exhaled droplets and particles onto exposed mucous membranes (i.e., “splashes and sprays”, such as being coughed on). Risk of transmission is likewise greatest close to an infectious source where the concentration of these exhaled droplets and particles is greatest.
  3. Touching mucous membranes with hands soiled by exhaled respiratory fluids containing virus or from touching inanimate surfaces contaminated with virus.

The infectious dose of SARS-CoV-2 needed to transmit infection has not been established. Current evidence strongly suggests transmission from contaminated surfaces does not contribute substantially to new infections.2 Therefore, efforts to continuously clean and sanitize handholds on the climbing wall or the climbing surface will have very little impact on potential viral transmission. Our holds are cleaned and sanitized before they are put on the wall. Additionally, peer-reviewed scientific studies3 on the impact of climbing chalk powder (magnesium carbonate and/or calcium carbonate) and the transmission of COVID-19 shows that it significantly diminishes the risk of viral transmission. In fact, climbing chalk powder deactivated the coronavirus according to these studies. Climbing chalk on the hands and hand holds actually helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19. However, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our facilities is through social distance, face masks, washing/sanitizing hands before and after each climb, and everyone practicing good cough and sneeze etiquette.

Is there increased ventilation in the facilities?

Yes! Since opening our St Paul facility in 1992, we have used the best HVAC filters for our application. In the furnace filter world, filters are categorized by the MERV rating system. MERV, otherwise known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a system used to evaluate the efficiency of an air filter based on how effective it is at catching particles of varying sizes. Basically, the higher the MERV rating, the higher the air filtration capabilities of a particular filter. MERV 8 is what is recommended based on our buildings and HVAC usage. We use MERV 10, which is a better and more robust filter. Higher rated filters are usually only found in hospitals, cleanrooms, and nuclear power plants.

To further increase the filtration of our HVAC systems, we have built or added special “return air” plenums to accommodate multiple filters, instead of just the standard one or two filters on regular commercial HVAC systems. This allows for extra filtration that most other systems do not provide. We have done this to not only increase filtering, but to increase air flow through our systems. This allows us to use the more restrictive MERV 10 filters that allow less air thru the filter but capture more particles/dust. This may sound odd but by using a more restrictive filter we make up for it by using more filters.  In this way we are moving more air and providing more air filtration in our facilities. We originally designed this to better capture chalk dust, but it certainly helps in the new reality of life with COVID-19.

Add to the enhanced air filtration at Vertical Endeavors, the HVAC systems in our facilities have enhanced fresh air capabilities with additional  exhaust fans to move air to a greater degree, the high ceilings dissipate any contaminates in the air over a more expansive area, climbers socially distancing in three-dimensions (few other public spaces have individuals literally climbing the walls!), and ceiling fans scattered throughout the facilities. The overall result is fresher air, more air, and better air filtration to enhance your climbing experience.

Have there been any COVID-19 outbreaks associated with Vertical Endeavors?

Vertical Endeavors has experienced NO COVID-19 outbreaks* associated with any of our facilities since the pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) at the beginning of 2020. We feel this is largely due to a number of factors:

  • The mitigation efforts of our facilities such as capacity limitations, face mask requirements, social distancing, hand washing, and sanitizing.
  • The high ceilings, increased airflow, and high capacity air filtration systems that are necessary in indoor climbing spaces. Of all indoor settings, a climbing facility is more like being outdoors when it comes to air quality and capacity.
  • Social distancing is three-dimensional in a climbing facility. Not only are people distancing horizontally, but they are also distancing as they climb vertically. Combined with the reduced facility capacity requirements, people are much more distance in these settings than any other public space.
  • Close contact is rare in our facilities. Infection is most likely to happen when an unmasked and infected individual is in close contact with another unmasked individual. Close contact is defined by proximity and duration of exposure.In other words, someone who was less than 6 feet away from an infected person (laboratory-confirmed or a clinical diagnosis) for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. This is unlikely to occur with others in our facility unless they are your climbing partner or group of friends.
  • Surface transmission of COVID-19 is not as prevalent as first believed.1Studies and investigations of outbreaks point to the majority of transmissions occurring as a result of infected people spewing out aerosol droplets and small particles called when they cough, talk, or breathe. These can be directly inhaled by people close by. Experts agree that surface transmission, although possible, is no longer considered a significant transmission risk.
  • Peer-reviewed scientific studies2on the impact of climbing chalk powder (magnesium carbonate and/or calcium carbonate) and the transmission of COVID-19 shows that it significantly diminishes the risk of viral transmission. In fact, climbing chalk powder deactivated the coronavirus according to these studies. Climbing chalk actually helps mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Vertical Endeavors will continue to follow the CDC and State health department guidelines and recommendations. Each facility is also required to abide by State and local requirements. While continually monitoring the situation for each of our facilities, VE will adjust our policies and practices appropriately. Some of our policies may vary from facility to facility depending on the local orders and mandates. We continue to ask all of our staff, members, and guests to show respect and concern for others and to abide by the appropriate specifications.

*The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has chosen to define an “outbreak” as seven (7) or more cases of COVID-19 associated with a single source, person, or facility.

Masks are now required at all Vertical Endeavors locations