Climbing gardens in “Perfect Shape”
Renovation of the climbing routes in the Salzburger Saalachtal
The mountain climbers’ village Weißbach in the Salzburger Saalachtal enjoys an outstanding reputation on the international climbing scene. Here in the foothills of the Steinernes Meer, there are 15 climbing areas, each with 10 to 50 routes of a very wide range of difficulties. There is playful scrambling for the whole family and beginners, diverse routes for ambitious climbers and the most difficult tours for rock professionals.
A real rock professional is the local Manfred Neumayr who oversees the renovation of the climbing area. The middle school teacher is a mountain guide and has been climbing in the Saalachtal for 30 years and this is how Manfred came to be employed by the village of Weißbach for the renovation of the climbing routes in the popular mountain climbers’ village. Safety is the most important thing in climbing. This doesn’t just mean that you have to rely on your climbing partner 100% but it also means that rock climbing on designated sport climbing routes needs regular checks of the bolts and anchors.
Manfred, do you go out with your tools to ensure safety on the routes?
No, not exactly. That would be unthinkable alone! It’s much more than that, I organize and coordinate a team of 30 volunteers who, alongside me, undertake the renovation of the individual climbing areas around Weißbach. They have all been climbing for many years and have experience repairing routes and have completed a special drilling course with the Alpine Association. With a lot of passion for the job, they make sure all of the routes are in perfect condition.
What exactly has to be done on the climbing routes?
In 2016, the tourist office took over the maintenance of the climbing areas and began the first fundamental renovation. A second wave of repair has been underway since 2019. The Naturpark Weißbach covers numerous historically developed climbing areas, 12 of which are included in the Tyrolean project “Climbing Paradise”. This corresponds to around 350 to 400 tours. In general, the climbing areas in the region are in very good shape but we want all of them to meet the safety standards. That’s why we don’t just check the bolts and anchors at the end of the routes but also the approach and the rock itself for any danger points.
What does a working day look like?
The renovation work is not without its dangers and demands a lot of manual dexterity and rope knowledge. As well as this, our work rucksacks rarely weigh less than 25 kilos and all of the equipment has to be carried on foot by the renovators via the approaches to the climbing routes. The renovators choose for themselves which route they would like to repair and enter this on our online platform. After this they collect the required materials and tools from the store. And don’t you dare forget a tool……
because then you’ve hiked all the way up the approach trail for nothing. This has happened to me before. I was hanging on the rope on the route I was to repair and noticed that the drill or the angle grinder hadn’t made it into my work rucksack.
So you make climbing safe?
We make sure that standards are met and we repair any defects. In an annual inspection we also check the rock for any abnormalities and loose rock scales. The Salzburg Land geologist accompanied us on the last inspection and gave the climbing area a very good report card. The climbing parks are mostly in a very good state. 95% of the bolts are top-notch and around 100 anchors are currently being reworked to bring them up to the standard as well. The renovation is a long-term process which will continue over many years. However rock climbing is and will remain an outdoor sport – in nature unforeseen events can always happen so we appeal to the climbers’ own responsibility to assess the rock and equipment themselves for dangers before every climb.
Who are the climbing routes suitable for?
Actually there are routes here for all ability levels. Children and families can scramble on easy beginner routes with short approaches. Intermediate climbers will find a real paradise of diverse routes here. And even experienced climbers will have huge grins on their faces after a rewarding day on the wall. For aprés-climbing people meet in the cosy bars in Weißbach to recharge their batteries and exchange climbing stories.
What motivates the helpers to spend their free time on rehabilitating the routes?
The mountain climbers’ village Weißbach has a top reputation as a climbing area. We want to maintain and promote that and for this certain safety standards have to be met. And of course all the locals who help here are themselves passionate climbers and we look forward most of all to climbing a route “in perfect shape” ourselves after the repairs. And this is naturally also part of our work as a final check.