Climbing strategies: an environmentally friendly approach to climbing, Germany

Many rocky crags and rockfaces provide refuge for rare and protected species of flora and fauna. Ferns and mosses flourish in the damp and shady conditions at the foot of rock walls, while adaptation to drought and temperature extremes is required if species are to survive in the intense sunshine at the mountain top.
© DAV Archiv
© DAV Archiv

And between these two extremes, many different plants find their niche at close quarters: lichens grow on smooth rock surfaces, flowering plants find a habitat in small cavities, clumps of vegetation proliferate on rocky ledges, while heathers can be found at the summit. Highly specialised fauna also have their habitat among the rocks: the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) are just two of the species of bird which are highly dependent on rocky biotopes. Some extremely specialised and rare species of insect can be found here as well, while the highly endangered mammals living in rocky habitats include various species of bat which overwinter in caves and often have their summer roosts in rock fissures. To ensure that these unique biotopes are not damaged by climbers, strategies for environmentally compatible climbing are both useful and necessary.

Measures adopted by the German Alpine Association (DAV)

The package of measures adopted by the German Alpine Association (DAV) on eco-friendly climbing involves working with public authorities and nature conservation organisations to develop climbing strategies. The DAV is relying on a wide variety of solutions to identify, at micro level, those areas where environmentally compatible climbing is possible and those where no climbing should take place in the interests of nature conservation. Approaches and sections of rock which are closed to climbers are marked with symbols which have been standardised on a nationwide basis. During the breeding season of protected species of bird, such as the peregrine falcon, rocky areas, or sections of them, will temporarily be declared no-go areas.

Local wardens with responsibility for crags are a key element of this strategy. Together with the other German climbing associations (e.g. the German Climbing Association (Bundesverband IG Klettern e.V.) and Pfalz Climbers Association (Vereinigung der Pfälzer Kletterer)), the DAV has created a structure for the management of Germany‘s non-Alpine climbing areas which encompasses the highest body at federal level to the state and regional committees down to local wardens and safeguards the continued existence of Germany’s climbing areas in an intact natural environment. The wardens coordinate activities such as environmentally compatible renovation of routes, creation of access pathways, and active participation in peregrine monitoring.

Standardised nationwide signage of crags facilitates communication with climbers. Vegetation on rocky areas is often a colourful mosaic, with vegetation-free zones intermingling with patches of vegetation growth. In order to take account of this diversity, micro-scale rock zoning often forms part of the climbing strategies. The “cross and arrow” symbols ensure clarity and mark out the border between those areas of rock which are off-limits and those to which there is free access. They also indicate the optimal approach route in sensitive areas.

Furthermore, a unique rock information system has been created as an Internet portal which provides in-depth information about Germany’s climbing areas. It includes a detailed crag search facility, interactive maps, background information on regional biotopes, national and regional news, and useful tools for wardens.

Balance

Through a contractual (voluntary) agreement, acceptance of the requisite measures among stakeholders is very high. The easing of burdens on the authorities and the ensuing cost savings, as well as the high degree of flexibility, also testifies to the usefulness of this approach. If monitoring of the scheme’s success brings new scientific knowledge to light, the arrangements can be adapted without major organisational or financial effort.

The strategy presented is based on clear agreements with users (climbers) and active participation by volunteers. It is flanked by PR work which also offers a simple but effective opportunity to engage in dialogue with climbers and raise their awareness of nature conservation issues within the framework of their leisure activities.

Further information

  • Comprehensive information about the climbing strategies and environmentally compatible climbing is available from the rock information system:
    http://www.dav-felsinfo.de (de)

Measure

Agreements on environmentally compatible practice of sports with sportspersons and associations

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