The Castle has always been committed to development and research especially when it comes to climbing and facilities. In the name of research in the past years we have travelled to France to participate and network in international events, toured all over the UK visiting the latest walls, and climbed around the country to get a feel for grading and styles. These trips have always been productive: we learnt a lot from others and took steps to implement changes as a result.
This year was no different - our mission was to travel through Germany learning what we can from the very pinnacle of climbing centres in Europe. Over the last few years I have been hearing time and time again: "have you seen this place in Germany it’s definitely the next level of facility". So we wanted to see for ourselves what all the fuss was about. The ‘research’ team consisted of Mike Langley - head route setter, Kornelija Howick - route setter/route setting developments, and UK legend Gaz Parry- guest setter/ GB team manager. With the final Bouldering World Cup being hosted in Munich while we were in Germany the plan was laid out:
Visit a select list of "next level" climbing gyms throughout Germany
Learn as much as we can from the people we meet and the facilities we visit and feed this back into the Castle with the aim to improve our services and on-going developments
Climb at each facility and discover new holds, volumes, setting styles and wall layouts
Learn how the World cups are run and how we can develop these ideas into our local events and of course support the GB team
And lastly get super psyched and return to the Castle full of inspiration and ideas for the future.
Such was the plan however the trip didn’t get off to a great start with our vehicle braking down within 30 minutes of leaving the Castle... But soon enough we were back on the road with a shiny replacement van.
Our first stop was the legendary Cafe Kraft in Nuremberg. This place has become well known across the world for being Wolfgang Gullich’s spiritual home and Alex Megos's training ground. After a 'Coffee Kraft' we proceeded to test all the facilities and have a real good mooch about. The non-climbing facilities here were awesome: the cafe/ bar lounge was really cosy and the huge photos around the centre were very inspiring.
The climbing facilities were MASSIVE (turns out this is a bit of a theme in Germany) with plenty of interesting angles, mezzanine floors, and lots of top out walls. It was amazing and a pint of beer (which they serve in the climbing café!) on the decking amongst fellow climbers put the cherry on top of a great atmosphere.
Next stop was Boulder Welt in Munich. Guess what - it was MASSIVE, possibly the biggest and busiest bouldering centre in the world. The facilities were unbelievable: a huge comp wall (4 times the size of the Castle's), hundreds of different angled walls, 2 outdoor comp walls, a circuits and training area, and a slackline park to name a few. Once again the owners have gone for a high quality finish and somehow they have made a pretty drab looking industrial building have a great atmosphere. There was simply too much to do here in the time we had which was pretty much a whole day! The circuits’ board was of a particular interest to us considering The Castle’s next phase of developments.
After getting over-excited about all the climbing walls we made some notes and headed for the 1972 Olympia Park which hosted the Boulder World Cup. Over the weekend we stayed with Team GB as they participated through the rounds. On the evening of the qualifiers Shauna Coxsey and Dave Barrans pushed through to semi-finals. The next day in the semi-finals Shauna once again made it to the finals!!!
In between the World Cup rounds we headed to our first roped climbing wall - the DAV Kletterzentrum, also in Munich. A little older than the other centres the Kletterzentrum was still HUGE with masses of outdoor lead walls and a bouldering room. Although some of the facilities were a little dated, the sheer number of big lead routes and walls made up for it. After a freshly made pizza in a cafe overlooking the outdoor space it was time to head back to World Cup Arena where Shauna did Britain proud and won a bronze medal!
Our last stop was Climbmax in Stuttgart. A brand new bouldering centre with jaw dropping images of the walls on the internet - the visit was much anticipated. The angles, shapes and colours of climbing walls were so interesting and creative - the psyche was instant. After an ok session we realised one thing: if you take away ‘the bling’ and concentrate on the moves you come to appreciate just how good the route setting is in the UK. Obviously I’m slightly biased but to quote Gaz: “if we paid to climb here today I would be asking for a refund"! Apart from the route setting, Climbmax was still a very high quality wall and one of which we took away a number of positives.
After Climbmax is was time to head back to the UK after a pretty exhausting week of travelling, climbing and competitions. To summarise here is our list of the top 10 ticks of Germany Climbing gyms:
1. Best Coffee
No brainer - the Cafe Kraft signature coffee had to be good and didn’t disappoint – whipped cream, chocolate n'all.
2. Best walls
Although each of the centres blew our minds in different ways the trophy has to go to Boulder Welt and the comp wall.
3. Best atmosphere
Chilling in low lighting, comfy sofa and pictures of climbing heroes all around, with a beer at Cafe Kraft helped seal the deal for best atmosphere. All were really good though.
4. Best value
Certainly not the hotel in Munich! Kletterzentrum had a lot to offer for the entry fee.
5. Best setting
If you want a lot of good blocs Boulder Welt is a must visit.
6. Best Training
Cafe Krafts legendary peg board will take some beating. Although the circuit area at Boulder welt was huge.
7. Best looker
Climbmax looked good in the photos and looked equally good as you walked in.
8. Best ‘bogs’
Kletterzenturum had about 4 sets of toilets and monsson showers!
9. Best cafe
Kletterzentrum may look a little dated but the cafe was very smart and had a pizza chef on show preparing fresh meals.