Though I’m not the next Alex Megos by any means, I’ve spent some time living and traveling around the US, Europe and Turkey and seen enough climbing gyms to have a rough idea on what’s good and what’s not. Right now I’m spending time Cologne and had a chance to visit a few climbing gyms, which Cologne has in abundance.
Of course my evaluations are based on my own skill level and might be different for other level climbers. I climb around V5 (gym V5!) and .11d (VIII-) on a good day. I’m also tall (193 cm) so I have a thing for high bouldering walls and against sit-starts. I love dynos and coordination problems.
OK, so you watched the “German Climbing Team” video and awestruck by the gym that they were training in. It was huge, clean and had all those funny boards hanging from the roof.
Stuntwerk is pretty much that but not much more I’m afraid. First the pros:
- The walls are amazing. There are all sorts of amazing angles, corners and roofs.
- Has a huge campus and a system board and gear for basic strength training.
- The place is futuristic. The floor cushion is top-notch, there are no gaps. Routes are easy to find and free of tape clutter.
- Though we never did, you can apparently run into climbing celebrities like Juli Wurm and Jan Hojer.
- It has a parkour course where you can try back flips onto a cushion.
OK, now the reason that we won’t be doing the half-hour bike ride every week:
- The routes are just not that fun. With such an amazing opportunity to create amazing routes, I feel like the route setters could do a better job.
That’s pretty much it. It is a good place for beginners and a place worth visiting every once in a while for intermediate climbers.
Boulder Planet (boulder)
Boulder Planet is pretty much Stuntwerk with better routes. It is spacious, high, and has a better range of wall angles. It is always fun to climb here. The only thing to look out for is some walls are really high and a having spotter might come in handy. It is probably the best bouldering gym among the ones we visited.
This one is our favorite! A little gem that we happen to live very close by. It is small, can get crowded during prime time but you can avoid them if you go a bit later. Here’s what’s so amazing about this place: the routes! It’s a case of creativity in the face of adversity. I guess the only way to make a small gym attractive to climbers was to invest in good route making and it really worked!
The route difficulties are well distributed and they’re all designed in a way to teach you something. It’s not you can do if and only if you’re strong enough. You keep working on the routes and by the end of the you do routes that seem impossible in the beginning.
The route setters change routes on a different section every two weeks so there is always something new to try and work on your projects.
Kletterfabrik is mainly a sport climbing gym and it’s huge! Maybe even a little too huge. I normally really like steep, airy lead routes. The walls here are tall and the steep part is really up high. So when I get to the steep part, I’m usually already pumped and not able to enjoy it that much. I’m sure better climbers would enjoy it much more than I. But easy-level climbers will be restricted to more vertical walls I’m afraid.
Probably also a side product of walls being too high, the routes tend to be just endurance routes. Even the most juggy route on the steep wall is usually at least VII (5.10c). So not many clever routes that teach you new moves.
There is also an upper floor (!) with a shorter wall that even has some crack routes.
Bouldering section is small in comparison and we didn’t spend too much time there. The stand-alone mushroom feature seemed interesting and has top-outs so that was something that you normally don’t get in other gyms.
Walls (Sport): ★★★★☆
Routes (Sport): ★★★☆☆