While thumbing through the recent issue of Schwaben Alpin, the DAV magazine of my local chapter, I noticed a picture of a concrete outdoor climbing structure that I didn’t recognize in an article about nearby Boeblingen. Being curious and having only ever seen and heard of the one at Waldau, I started looking. Sure enough, there’s a very small one in Boeblingen as you can see:
It’s part of the SVB Bergsport group and unfortunately NOT open to the public anymore. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see another similar structure. Does anyone know of other ones elsewhere in Germany or other countries?
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.
Photo: Kletterzentrum Stuttgart in Waldau, in Winter
Here’s a recent snap of the Kletterzentrum Stuttgart in Waldau. Their outdoor area features this unique, modern art-esque concrete structure as well as a regular wall on the outside of the building. The concrete structure features both bolt on holds as well as pockets and other features directly in the concrete. In total, there’s 1,087 m² (11,700 ft²) of climbing area outside.
There is also a speed climbing wall and a slackline setup. For families, it also features a full playground with swings, slides, a sandbox and more. Being Germany, it of course also has several beer garden type tables, picnic tables and a grill. As you see, none of it looks particularly inviting this time of year, but allegedly spring is right around the corner.
New climbing gym Sportzentrum Ost in Ludwigsburg (near Stuttgart)
Ludwigsburg – Die Gaststätte und der Pool sind zwar noch nicht fertig, aber das wird die Kletterfans kaum schrecken: Am nächsten Wochenende öffnet die neue Kletterhalle an der Ludwigsburger Fuchshofstraße: am Samstag nur für Vereinsmitglieder und am Sonntag, 22. Januar, von 11 bis 18 Uhr erstmals für alle. „Wir wollen den Leuten endlich zeigen, was da entstanden ist, auch wenn wir die Halle offiziell erst im Frühjahr einweihen“, sagt Hans-Peter Schmitt, der das Bauprojekt für die Wolfgang-Reisser-Stiftung betreut hat. Beim bloßen Zeigen wird es aber nicht bleiben, mit dem Sonntag beginnt auch der normale Kletterbetrieb.
If you can’t read German, the highlights are that this new gym ranks second in the area for size, but is clearly the best equipped in the Stuttgart area.
The new Sportzentrum Ost offers 2,600 m² of climbing area, 2,100 m² indoors and 500 m² outdoors. It includes a small restaurant, swimming pool, outdoor climbing area, yoga studio and gym. In contrast to the United States, climbing gyms usually do NOT have yoga or exercise equipment in Germany. That makes this unusual and a welcome addition to Stuttgart.
For parents, according to their website, they even offer childcare though no further details are available at time of writing. As a parent in the US, I found regular gyms often offered childcare while climbing gyms did not. In Germany it does not appear to be common, mostly because climbing gyms are rather non-profit and DAV run instead of pure businesses trying to compete.
Here’s a mock-up from their website, which is still under construction.
In the United States, we have the V system for bouldering problems. In France, they use the Fontainebleau, or font scale. Yet, while Germany has its own UIAA system for roped climbs, there is no standard for bouldering which initially confuses us poor foreigners.
How boulder problems are often set in Germany:
First of all, I can’t promise everyone uses this system. But it’s common in one variant or another. Problems are color coded with a letter to indicate the wall and number for the route, written on a colored tag. So, you’ll see “M5” at the start of a route and then you look at the top to find the end of M5. Note the grade is indicated by the color, NOT the number since boulder problems are numbered instead of named. And best of all, problems are set in a single color. You won’t find a mess of tape surrounding every hold like in the US. The same goes for normal routes. Ordnung muss sein!
My gym’s modified font scale
Below, you’ll see a photo I recently snapped of the new bouldering grades at my local gym in Stuttgart. It was a new year’s surprise and came in response to customer gripes. In German, it says on top “Explanation of the Grade Signs” and then features a table with the French or Fontainebleau grading scale on the left hand side and the gym’s new system on the right.
The bouldering grades at my gym were originally white, yellow, blue, red, black (from easiest to hardest). But this of course meant each color contained many grades. The new sign explains they are split into six categories: easy, moderate, medium, tricky, difficult, and extreme and still color coded. Basically they just added orange. Nearby Cafe Kraft in Vaihingen uses the standard font system which includes several additional colors. For more info on the history of bouldering and grading systems, check out 99boulders.
Below, is the “true” font scale that Cafe Kraft uses. Given they’re a purely bouldering gym or Boulderhalle, it is unsurprising.
Stay tuned for a brief overview of the UIAA grading system for roped climbs.