The largest indoor climbing facility in Europe

Trip Start Apr 05, 2006
Trip End Apr 17, 2006

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Flag of Switzerland  ,
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Oliver enjoys climbing, but Rhonda does not. He was excited to have to climbers (albeit slack ones) visiting. He brought us toKletterzentrum, the local indoor climbing facility, which happens to be the largest one in Europe. The building is about four stories high, large enough to be an airplane hangar. It had several halls with walls up to the ceiling, as well as a bouldering cave, and shorter walls on the second and third levels. Plus locker rooms, showers, a cafe, and a gear shop with a better selection of shoes and harnesses than most outdoor stores in Atlanta.

As I'm learning to expect, everything was very organized. Nearly all routes had lead clips, regardless of difficulty - and all clips arranged in line with each other across the wall, like a grid. Having lead on easy routes is a much better way to learn lead climbing, in my opinion. Every climb was labelled at the bottom with route color, difficulty level, route setter, and set date. A few walls had a movable auto belay on a separate I-beam for people climbing alone. Mammut is one of the primary partners of the gym; nearly all the equipment was that brand. The staff wore Mammut shirts rather than ones advertising the gym.

What struck me as most different from the US was liability issues. Craig and I did not sign waivers or show any ID. We didn't take any belay tests. At first we thought we wouldn't have time to lead climb because it would involve a lengthy test, like at home. All Kletterzentrum requires for lead climbing is a lead rope, available for rent if you don't bring your own. None of the above would happen in an American gym. Moreover, some people didn't use belay devices; they just wrapped the rope around a carabiner. Oliver explained the Swiss mentality: climbing is dangerous, so if you hurt yourself, you are to blame and it is your responsibility. The only safety steps the gym provided were the topropes - one end was tied to a biner on the wall, and the other was looped and tied so that climbers hooked the loop into a carabiner rather than directly into a harness.

I thought about the lack of personal responsibility in the US. Insurance would be a lot lower if safety and liability were an individual, rather than a business, responsibility. Excluding negligence, I don't think businesses should be liable for the nature of the service or product they provide. Climbing is dangerous. Irresponsible climbers are responsible for their own injuries - a gym shouldn't be responsible for making the nature of climbing safer, an impossible feat anyway. Or the classic McDonald's coffee suit, that a restaurant should be punished because it made a product to its normal specification, ie incredibly hot. Silly Americans.

Anyways, we had a great time climbing. Not nearly enough time to explore much of the gym. Oliver is fearless, even though he doesn't climb that often. He inspired me to push myself harder than I normally do.
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