German company looks to build artificial climbing mountains
By C.C. Weiss
April 16, 2014
You no longer need a mountain or sheer cliff face to enjoy the thrill and challenge of technical climbing. Rock gyms have sprouted up across cities and suburbs around the world, providing a climbing option for those that don't have access to mountains. These gyms don't usually look anything like real rock, but a German company has a plan to construct climbing "mountains" out of an artificial material that it says looks and feels like the real thing.
For decades, climbing gyms have given folks in the flatlands a way to scratch their climbing itch. While they are a nice alternative, brightly colored handholds mounted to wood walls and towers don't exactly create a realistic simulation of actual rock and mountains. For that, climbers still need to venture outside the city to real, natural features.
Climb Up!-Kletterwelt wants to offer Berlin-area residents a closer alternative. The company built its first "forest adventure park" outside of the German capital in 2006 and now has two other locations. These courses are essentially high ropes tree courses, combining challenges like rope ladders, bridges and zip lines. The parks are family oriented and available to everyone, including those that are completely inexperienced. Climb Up says that the three parks attract more than 100,000 visitors each year, helping to spark a new breed of adventure forest park tourism.
Now Climb Up is setting its sights on a more ambitious facility that it refers to as a "mountain and climbing world." The Berlin-Brandenburg region doesn't have any mountains of its own, so the company plans to build them using new modeling and construction techniques. It says this feat has never been done before.
Understandably, Climb Up doesn't go into a detailed explanation of its materials or patent-pending construction techniques, saying simply that the synthetic rock material will look and feel authentic. It plans to plant multiple boulders, peaks, faces and ridges on an area the size of a soccer field, adjacent to its Strausberg forest park. The rock features will be connected into a "mountain range" with bridges, ropes, buckets and zip lines, creating a full-blown adventure park for children and adults.
Climb Up's rock-like structure eliminates the need for those colored holds, allowing climbers to muscle their way to the top by grabbing and stepping on crevices, ledges and protrusions, just like they would on real rock. Based on the initial photos and videos, it also appears that the company will add via ferrata-style metal rungs as an easier way up. To add to the authenticity, it plans to include summit crosses and log books at the top of the climbing routes.
The use of integrated safety cables bolted to the climbing surfaces and via ferrata clip harnesses eliminates the need for a belayer, allowing people to climb without a partner and without rope skills. Climb Up also plans to include non-climbing "ridge walks," in which guests can clip in and walk along the "rocky" ridge line.
In addition to climbing on boulder faces and tops, visitors will be able to explore the insides of the artificial mountains. These features will simulate caving, and plans call for a few cave areas designated for BBQing and overnight stays. That part is reminiscent of the CaveSim we covered a few years ago, but without the electronic monitoring.
Climb Up has been working on the mountain park project since 2008, designing renderings and scale models. Last year, it added a full-sized, 16-ft (5 m) model boulder (pictured at the top of the article) to its forest park. More than 10,000 visitors have already climbed the feature.
We would think that an established company with a track record and demonstrated market would able to line up funding through traditional avenues, especially with an idea that could reach well beyond a single location. Instead, Climb Up turned to Indiegogo on March 31 in an effort to raise €750,000 (US$1 million) to pursue development of the park. There are some of the usual T-shirt and hat pledge levels, and a €60 pledge earns you a climbing pass at the new park, assuming it gets built. A €1500 earns a lifelong climbing pass to all Climb Up's parks. Note that it is a flexible funding campaign, which means that Climb Up collects the money pledged whether or not it reaches the full €750K goal. At just over €1,700, it's off to a slow start.
The video below provides a closer look at the project.
Source: Climb Up!-Kletterwelt