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.
Death to Tubes. 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
I’m posting this both as news and for cultural purposes. Compared to its counterparts abroad like the American Alpine Club, the German DAV is more widespread, well organized and advanced/omnipresent. An example is this upcoming youth event in Radolfzell, on the western end of Lake Constance (Bodensee). It is an overnight bouldering competition followed by a party sponsored by the Jugend DAV (Youth DAV). With a huge number of youth climbing groups, teams and competition, this is nothing unusual.
Youth Climbing Culture in the US vs Germany
I’m not familiar with equivalent organizations or events in the US. But that may be because I grew up in a flat part of the country, a good 5 hour drive from anything that could pass as a mountain. In America, sports like football, basketball and baseball are firmly anchored in society and offer many teams and events for young people. But America’s much broader geography means climbing isn’t a standard sport. Just as one wouldn’t think twice about a little league team, the same goes in Germany for youth climbing.
My impression of Germany is that far more people have at least tried climbing as a child and/or are familiar with it. Being a smaller country with many mountains and climbing opportunities nearby, climbing occupies a higher rank among country’s standard sports than in the United States. It’s comparable to Colorado where geography has similarly led to it having a disproportionately greater cultural impact than other activities.
Radolfzell Bouldering Night & Party
So, on the off chance you’re a “youth” and looking to boulder, here’s the ad from my gym. Entrance starts at 18:00 on March 11th 2017. Cost is 15 EUR which includes entrance, food and sleepover)
Explained: The DAV – German Alpine Club – and its advantages for foreigners
If you’re climbing in Germany, you’re bound to come across the Deutscher Alpenverein, or DAV. But what is it and why should you join?
Discounted gym membership
Courses and guided trips/climbs
Free guidebook and super cheap gear rental
Access to “Huetten” or mountain huts around the country
DAV magazine subscription
A brief overview of the DAV:
First of all, let’s translate it. The Deutscher Alpenverein, or DAV (pronounced “day ah fau”), means German Alpine Club and is one of the largest organizations in the country. While the word “alpine” is part of the name, it is better thought of as generally rock and mountain related as they also offer information about skiing and mountain biking. However, the DAV and the bulk of its information, activities and focus are on climbing whether rock, ice, alpine or mountaineering.
The DAV was founded in 1869 in Munich with the goal of developing the German alps for tourism (history in German here). This included building trails and mountain huts. Over time, it has expanded to include environmental work, conservation, education and training, guided trips, insurance, and climbing gyms. As that short and incomplete list suggests, the DAV is the club to join for climbing in Germany.
Luckily, they’ve started adding an English version of their site but it’s limited. The DAV itself is actually a national umbrella organization consisting of hundreds of local chapters. So first off, you’ll need to find the local one where you live.
How the DAV can help you as a foreigner:
Let’s take an example. I’m a member of the Sektion Schwaben which runs my local gym, offers numerous courses and has a library full of free book rental as well as very cheap gear rental. DAV membership means discounted entrance to the gym (and is required for yearly membership). Now, let’s say I want to climb Zugspitze. I can go rent crampons and an ice axe for just few Euros as well as borrow maps and guidebooks free! And if I somehow bungle the entire thing and need to get rescued, DAV climbing insurance has my back.
Moreover, they also offer classes throughout the year on climbing, ice climbing, alpine climbing, skiing, mountaineering and more. They are for beginner and intermediate climbers and of course taught in German. These include both instructional classes at local gyms to week long course in the Alps on alpine skills to mountaineering.
Despite the dearth of English-language material on their website, joining the DAV is a no-brainer for climbers. It’s far more advanced than most Anglosphere equivalents and offers everything a climber needs. The current cost (which can differ between sections) is around 65 EUR per year. If you’re German isn’t great, have no fear! Find your local chapter’s office, walk in and join. They’ll be happy to help and will almost certainly speak English.