Participant Responsibilities Regarding COVID-19
New Requirements to Help Prevent Infection During the Pandemic
Updated February 14, 2021
In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, American Alpine Institute (AAI) has developed a set of operational guidelines to minimize the risk that you, other climbers, and our staff will become infected with COVID-19. Like many of the hazards that we encounter in the outdoors, exposure to COVID-19 will always be a possibility. Because of the character of the disease and the intimate nature of many aspects of mountain recreation, AAI can only mitigate the risks, not eliminate them.
Just as we work as a team to reach a summit, we must work as a team to minimize both our chances of exposure and our chances of spreading the disease to others while on the trip and thereafter. As a climber coming to join us, your choices affect others, and you share a responsibility to help mitigate the risk that COVID-19 poses to yourself, your fellow participants, the AAI community, and society at large.
AAI has made substantial changes to our operating plans to manage the risks of COVID-19. Among these, AAI will reduce the standard group sizes to a maximum of 5 people (max ratio of 4-student-climbers to 1-instructor). All programs will abide by state and local regulations concerning group size limits.
Unless participants already live together in the same household, participants must:
- Strive to maintain a social distance of at least six-feet between themselves at all times.
- Wear face coverings any time that the six-foot distancing cannot be maintained.
- Use exemplary hygiene practices, especially when handling shared items. This includes frequent hand washing/disinfecting, disinfecting common spaces and group gear, covering all coughs and sneezes, bringing adequate hygiene products, and minimizing the sharing of personal belongings.
- Refrain from sharing tents, clothing, food, cooking equipment, or personal items.
If at any time a participant feels unwell in any way, they may elect to leave the course. They may be eligible for tuition credit (credit amount will be calculated by the Administrative Office depending on circumstances). If the participant did not drive themselves, then a van pick up will be provided. If the participant drove themself to the trailhead, the guide will accompany them on the hike back from the camp to the trailhead.
Acknowledgement of Additional Risks and Responsibilities
Before joining AAI on a trip, you affirm that:
- You have been practicing social distancing, wearing proper personal protection including masks, washing your hands and keeping surfaces disinfected.
- You have had no known or suspected exposure to someone with symptoms of respiratory infection, including COVID-19, or a positive COVID-19 test result in the last two weeks; and that you are not prematurely leaving a quarantine or 14-day shelter in place.
- You feel healthy; believe you are free from any infection, including COVID-19 but also including colds, flu, “stomach flu”, or any other contagious disease; and are willing to participate honestly and with integrity in a health screening on the first day of your trip, including allowing AAI to measure your body temperature and blood oxygen saturation (SpO2).
- At the time of your health check, you are not experiencing, and have not recently experienced, any of the following COVID-19 symptoms listed by the CDC in a way that feels new and has no obvious explanation: fever/chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; or diarrhea. (This list of symptoms may change as the CDC updates its list.)
In preparing for the trip, you agree to bring the following additional required items added to all AAI trip equipment lists:
- Hand sanitizer (at least 2/3 oz per day, or about 2 small bottles for a 3-day trip).
- Face coverings in sufficient supply to provide a clean mask for each day of the program (either disposable or washable; minimum of two).
- At least three 1-gallon-sized resealable “Ziploc” plastic bags (one to store clean face coverings, one for used face coverings, one for washing face coverings).
- One package of backcountry biodegradable soap or detergent
- One personal medical thermometer
- One personal pen to sign documents
While on your trip with AAI, you affirm that you will:
- Follow the directions set out by AAI staff to help minimize contact within our facilities and in the field;
- Participate with honesty and integrity in daily health checks, including taking your body temperature and blood oxygen readings, if requested;
- Strive to maintain a social distance of at least six-feet between yourself and other members of the group;
- Wear a facial covering any time six feet of distance between yourself and another person cannot be maintained.
- Use exemplary hygiene practices at all times. This includes frequent hand washing/disinfecting, covering all coughs and sneezes, bringing adequate hygiene products, and minimizing sharing of personal belongings.
- Refrain from sharing tents, clothing, food, cooking equipment or other personal camping items with other participants whom you do not already live with.
- Refrain from shaking hands and other customary forms of interpersonal contact.
By agreeing to participate in a program with AAI, you acknowledge that:
- AAI continues to offer activities that, by their very nature, require close proximity and/or contact with others, and social distancing of 6’ therefore can not always be maintained.
- Activities requiring close proximity may include, but are not limited to, steep climbing on rock or ice; transitioning at belay and rappel stations; practicing rescue drills and other hands-on instruction.
- Despite the steps that AAI and you yourself have taken, there is still a possibility that you may come into contact with someone who is sick.
- There is a possibility that you, yourself will contract COVID-19.
- A person can develop a contagious COVID-19 infection without showing any symptoms, and you may become infected, and/or infect others, without knowing it.
- According to the CDC, while anyone can develop severe infection, persons with certain conditions or risk factors are at a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Those conditions and risk factors include, but are not limited to: asthma; chronic lung disease; diabetes; serious heart conditions; chronic kidney disease; severe obesity; liver disease; people aged 65 or older; those who are immunocompromised.
- The risks and consequences of severe COVID-19 infection, while not necessarily applying to you personally, may be borne by members of your household, by those close to you, or by those in your care.
- You may be asked to leave your trip and/or your trip may be terminated early.
- You may need to self-quarantine after leaving the trip.
- You are responsible for any additional expenses incurred due to self-quarantining or becoming ill, including but not limited to: additional nights of lodging; flight or reservation change fees; medical testing costs.
If you have to leave your program early due to illness or suspected illness, you agree to follow up with AAI and inform us whether or not you have been confirmed to have COVID-19.
First Aid/ CPR
Traditional Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) requires a rescuer to place his/her mouth over the patient’s to provide rescue breaths, while also providing chest compressions to keep the heart beating. This places the rescuer in harm’s way if the patient has COVID-19, or any other communicable disease.
In accordance with American Heart Association guidelines, AAI guides are not required to provide rescue breathing during an incident that requires CPR due to the risk associated with this activity. Chest compressions will still be provided as dictated by their first aid training.
Transportation While On AAI Programs
One of our recommendations for reducing exposure to COVID-19 is for climbers to drive their personal vehicles to the AAI headquarters, climbing venues, campgrounds, and trailheads during their program. While many of the forest roads we use are adequately maintained, some roads are rough and potholed. While a high-clearance, off-road vehicle is not required, something with more clearance than a standard sedan is recommended. You acknowledge that:
- You will follow the driving directions and guidance of your instructor while on the trip and will not divert from the intended driving plan unless it is approved by the instructor.
- That you will be diligent and timely and not cause undue delay.
- There will be extra costs associated with driving yourself such as fuel, trailhead and campground parking.
- AAI is not responsible for break-ins at trailheads or theft from your vehicle.
- You are responsible for any damage done to your vehicle as a result of driving mountain roads, including but not limited to damage from ruts, potholes, rough roads, and/or slick, wet, loose, or otherwise slippery road conditions.
If you choose to not follow these guidelines, cannot make the above affirmations, or falsify any information regarding COVID-19 and your health, you acknowledge that you will not be allowed to participate and may be expelled from the program.
A printed copy of this agreement will be presented at the beginning of your program for your review and signature. Please call our office at (360) 671-1505 if you have any questions or concerns about the contents of this document.