Climber in Berlin - The local blog

First part. Notes and insights of a local climber from Berlin, Germany, who tries to set the inner conflict of being a climber, connected to the mountains, and still deciding to live in a flat big city. Dealing with the opportunities one must forgo, the desire to travel it maintains and the creativity it requires to find what to climb on.


Berlin is not exactly what you have in mind when imagining places to go climbing. It is grey, urban, and, most of all, flat. Located in the middle of the north European plain, the major city of Germany has no mountains anywhere on its horizon but still, nevertheless, contains an extensive and active community of climbers, with a great variety of places to climb, a mixture of different styles and of course, a touch of history.

Like many big cities nowadays, most of Berlin's lively community focuses on bouldering. The sport that took over and spread beautifully among urban souls brings together high-tech developers, dirtbag mountaineers and adventurous dates. The proximity of bouldering gyms to the centre of cities makes it easy for anyone to try it out, maintain their strength or casually work out with friends. Unlike other types of climbing, bouldering doesn't require anything but shoes and a chalk bag, and it is no surprise it attracts so many, becoming a worldwide rising trend by itself.

The metropole has many climbing gyms to show, at least 10 for bouldering and 5 for rope climbing, together with different playgrounds with city-sized boulders and artificial walls. These are home to the thousands of climbers who attend them regularly, take care of their maintenance and develop unique opportunities for the climbers who choose to be located in the German capital. Besides the different types of climbing that can be performed (bouldering, sport routes, trad climbing), there are also a variety of styles one can approach, from competition style boulders problems that are taking the world by storm and influencing a lot of the direction of route setting, to rigid, dirty concrete ruins, full of graffiti and not always friendly to try.

Though the gym's setting style aligns with the world's newest trends, the Berlin outdoor scene and routes are still old school. Climbing concrete walls is quite a different experience than a gym or a mountain. The rigid material is solid and quite polished, the routes are hard and pumpy, and the whole experience could be tough. That reflects also the ones who go out, conquer the concrete, slab a bridge structure and smear the graffiti, the climbers who crave the outdoors and will climb any obstacle on their way have beautiful challenges and urban problems for any climbing level possible.

Lastly, to finish introducing this niche topic, we will dive into the historical point of view. Berlin took a massive part of Germany's history during the last century, shaping the city into how it looks today. Some bunkers built during the two world wars are used today to climb on. The combination of ruined concrete and climbing could sound weird to some and inevitable to others. Ultimately, it creates a great local experience that is unique and true to the place. Berlin climbers show that where there is a will, passion, and the urge to climb rises, there will always be walls to be found.

I'll end up with two of my favourite quotes that I think complement each other and summarise well the great combination between architecture and climbing:

"Architecture appears for the first time when the sunlight hits a wall.
The sunlight did not know what it was before it hit a wall." Louis Kahn

"Walls are meant for climbing." The North Face