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)
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
- Rescue insurance
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.
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.