Here is a list of upcoming climbing competitions in southwestern Germany for those interested. They are usually low key affairs and fun to watch as a climber, or even with the family. The events are listed below and all take place at the respective DAV gym in each city. You may want to think twice before watching kids climbing comps though, they tend to put us adults to shame =)
04 March 2018 – Bouldering competition in Tuebingen.[
05 May 2018 – Bouldering competition in Stuttgart (at Waldau)
09 June 2018 – Lead climbing, Offenburg
15-16 Sept. 2018 – Lead & Speed competitions in Heilbronn
Belaying has a few universal principles that transcend culture. However, as fellow expats and travelers can attest to, there are still some noticeable belay differences in Germany compared to the US. In short, “semi automatic” tube devices are preferred and the munter hitch is very often used outdoors.
Belay Differences between Germany and the US: Death to Tubers! Long Live the Smart!
An observant foreigner may notice that German gyms have a conspicuous lack of tube style ATCs (aka “tubers” in German). This is not to say you won’t see them, but at least half of all belay devices will be assisted braking devices like the Edelrid Megajul or Mammut Smart or Austrialpin Fish. A German Alpine Club (DAV) study which is widely read and cited here in Germany strongly warns against using standard tube devices and indeed, you’ll never find them for rent at a gym and rarely even being used by
HMS forever, or Halbmastwurf
English speaking climbers all know the term HMS, usually from HMS carabiner. What they don’t know is that it stands for Halbmastwurf in German, or munter it’s known to us. The reason the carabiner is called such is because it was the style used (and most suited) for belaying with a munter or HMS. While many Americans cringe at the idea of belaying without a device, it’s something you still often see outdoors in Germany. Moreover, it is still taught and encouraged as well, and not just as a backup. Be prepared to see it used, especially outdoors for both leader and follower.
The Banshee Belay / Reihenschaltung
Reihenschaltung sicherung, which means approximately series connection/switching belay, is the German name for banshee belay. This is something that many American climbers may never have seen before. It seemingly violates the basic teachings drilled into us when starting out. Nevertheless, it’s safe, fast and very practical when used in the right context. As soon as you head outdoors in Germany, do not be alarmed =) Expect to see the locals using it liberally. So what is it? From multipitchclimbing.com:
Connecting high quality bolts in series is fast. This can be done with the rope or with a sling. Many will see this as a controversial approach as it doesn’t try to equalise, or minimise extension under partial failure. It is however common in much of Europe were new big fat bolts have been placed by trained individuals into solid rock.
Reihenschaultung sicherung is meant for use on high quality bolts only and looks like this:
With solid modern bolts, building a redundant anchor with force distribution is overkill. It may take a little getting used to, but the many crags with beautiful titanium glue-ins will soon win you over. You can find some German language resources on it here and here.
Summary: American and German Belay Differences
Germans and Americans both prefer different styles of belay devices, however, the Grigri is widely loved and used in both places. With less trad climbing and far better maintained crags nationally, Germany also has the luxury of using the Banschee belay (Reihenschaltung) on bolts in good condition. This is just not possible in many places in the US, UK or Australia due to geography, culture and climbing style. Americans should refresh their knowledge of the munter hitch before coming over and not be shocked when they see people using it as a primary method outside, not a backup after having dropped your belay device on multipitch!
Here’s an overview of my home gym, the DAV Kletterzentrum Stuttgart. Just a five minute drive or 20 minute walk away for me, I’m incredibly thankful to be so near. Let’s begin with a few stats to give you an idea of how awesome it is.
The Gym in Numbers:
Climbing area (inside): 2939 m²
Climbing area (outside): 1087 m²
Wall height: 17m
Routes: ~320 inside / ~ 145 outside
Grades: 2 to 11- UIAA
Max climb length: 28m inside / 22 outside
Bonus: All route grades are listed in the UIAA, YDS and French systems!
The DAV Kletterzentrum Stuttgart
As the name suggests, the gym is run by the Deutscher Alpenverein in Stuttgart. Located south of the city in the Waldau neighborhood, it’s easy to access by subway (u-bahn) and the largest facility in the city. Locally, most climbers simply refer to the gym as Waldau. It also also about two blocks from the local DAV chapter’s headquarters, DAV Sektion Schwaben, which includes a library and gear rental.
The gym has a small cafe serving both caffeinated and alcoholic beverages (it’s Germany) and the typical long green beer tables outdoors. There are very few top ropes available as it is generally seen as something reserved for beginners. Therefore, any TR routes are usually going to max out at 5.5 YDS. Around 90% of the routes are lead, though you can always follow which many people also do. For boulderers, there are three separate bouldering areas.
Two highlights for me are that there’s ledge on one of the walls setup to create a two pitch climb where people can practice multipitch technique. No permission, training or anything else required. Just try it. The same can be done outdoors as well.
The second highlight is the outdoor area consisting of an outer building wall as well as a large, modern-art esque structure covered in bolts and features. It’s a great way to get your outdoor fix when the crag is too far away. Unlike indoors, here you’re required to use your own quickdraws.
Route Logic / System
Routes are defined by hold color, NOT tape. So the entirety of a route will all be the same color. Volumes can be used IF they can be used to bolt additional holds onto. A volume which does not accept further bolt on holds is only for use on the route of its color.
Admin & Legal
This is Germany! There are no belay tests, certifications or anything similar. Don’t be stupid is the motto. You’ll sign a one paragraph document agreeing to follow the gym’s rules and that’s it. Climbers must bring their own rope and quickdraws (for outside) though you can rent everything should you forget.
The DAV Kletterzentrum Stuttgart is very family friendly for those of us with kids to think of. There is a small children’s climbing area that is enclosed as well as a large playground outdoors with a sandbox, slide, bridge, swings and more. There is no childcare on site which is unusual here (and in my experience, in the US too) so keep the little one’s in view.
If you can accept I’m not a professional photographer and just a guy using his phone, please enjoy an impromptu series of snaps from my last visit.
Video: Baden-Württembergischer Jugendcup 2017 in Tuebingen