The gym that never sleeps
We spent a day taking a peek behind the curtain of the climbing gym DAV KLETTER & BOULDERZENTRUM in Munich’s Thalkirchen district, sipping a cup of coffee in the “Bella Vista” Café and enjoying the view, testing the climbing routes, bouldering to the sound of sick beats and chatting with three of their employees.
7 a.m, the gym opens and the staff greets us at the door with a friendly “Guten Morgen”. After taking a quick espresso to get our juices flowing, we take to the routes. The morning shift has already put in almost an hours’ work: firing up the coffee machine and other kitchen equipment, checking the routes, doing last-minute cleaning and opening the outdoor areas.
Around 10 a.m., various suppliers start stepping on each other’s toes to deliver all manner of things. By now, the gym has filled with climbing enthusiasts of all sorts: from parents and children on school outings to university students taking a break from their books and lectures. In the background, staff are servicing the ventilation system, building routes, screwing on boulders and cooking lunch. After lunch, everyone returns to climbing, bouldering and helping customers with anything they need. The “Safety Team” checks routes for wear and loose holds. The first climbing groups arrive around half past two in the afternoon, the bistro fills with climbers and neighbours, young and old, enjoying a piece of cake and a cup of coffee.
By the time 5 o’clock rolls around, there is barely a route in sight that is empty. This peak period of the day is going to last until 11 p.m. And because today is a BBB day (boulders, beats & burgers), the first electronic beats can be heard is-suing from the boulder room. The music energizes us, and we saunter over to the bouldering area, bobbing to the beat. DJ Oli is manning the turntables providing the groove for a mini contest on specially added “problems”.
By 8 o’clock, our strength is gone, replaced instead by hunger. BBB days are burger days in Thalkirchen, so we quickly toss our contest badge into a box, hoping our lot is drawn (Millet and Petzl products are raffled off as prizes), and then chow down on our burgers. After “last orders” around 11 p.m., the gym closes shortly before midnight. The night shift balances the register and, around half past twelve, calls it a day with a last round of beer, which they share with us. At 1 o’clock in the morning, the gym staff can finally go home and let the cleaning team take over. Only five hours later, at 6 a.m., the morning shift will fire up the coffee machine again.
Member of the Board of Managers,
Chief Route Designer
Originally from Swabia, Peter now lives in Munich and has been working at the Kletterzentrum Thalkirchen since 2004. Unsurprisingly, he knows the gym inside out. At university, he studied sports science with a focus on public relations and communication. In his words, his goal has always been to do “something to do with climbing”because, as he says himself, he was never good enough to go pro. “It is hard to earn a living climbing,” says the father of three girls. For him, the Kletterzentrum Thalkirchen is the perfect solution. After graduating from university, Peter spent three months as an intern at his current employer. Immediately after the internship was over, he applied for the position of “Deputy Operations Manager” – and got the job. Later, the keen climber was asked to join the Board of Managers, but his biggest passion is still designing routes and training young climbers. According to Peter, the “Route Design Team” has become a brand that is recognized throughout Germany for excellence in safety and sheer fun. That’s why it is not uncommon to see the top manager high up a wall with ear muffs on and an electric screwdriver in hand. “Whenever I’m building a new route, I’m listening to music; my current favourites being German hip-hop by Kool Savas.”
Deputy Operations Manager
The certified social education worker from Düsseldorf has a last name befitting his occupation: Berg means mountain in German. After relocating to Munich, the self-professed philan-thropist looked for fellow sports enthusiasts: “If you are looking for sporting activities in Munich, you inevitably end up taking up climbing, and that means ending up in Thalkirchen. Climbing is everywhere.” So Jonas ended up in Thalkirchen too, and with a part-time job to boot. He is passionate about food as well as interacting with people, and so his one day helping out at the bistro quickly turnedinto a full-time job. A year and a half later, Jonas switched from supervision to catering full-time. The passionate mountain runner from the Rhineland loves to connect people, young and old, at the world’s largest climbing gym. In his role as Deputy Operations Manager, his main responsibility since August 2015 is supporting kitchen and serving staff. He is also in charge of all personnel matters, he conducts job interviews and oversees on-boarding measures, draws up staff rosters for the 75 employees, but when all is said and done, he still likes it best working behind the counter. He may not always know the names of all the climbing regulars, but he always knows their favourite food and drinks – even if it’s just a peeled lemon slice in a glass of water. Jonas is “always on the move, in the gym or in the mountains.”
Michael (Michi) Schmeidl
Building and Facility Manager,
Born in the shadow of the Zugspitze in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Michi moved to Munich to go to university. As a bouldering fanatic, he ended up in Thalkirchen almost immediately. Being short on cash, like all university students, he was thankful for a part-time job at the climbing counter. He did not stay there for long, however, because “I get bored quickly, so I took an interest in anything that goes on behind the scenes at the gym.” Soon, he got an opportunity to mount some boulders, then routes as well. He learned the trade from the ground up, as he is eager to stress: “From 5 till 8 in the morning, we would take down holds and then spend hours on end in a cellar room cleaning them with a high-pressure cleaner, only to mount them in different places to create new routes.”
Michi loves his job and calls the Thalkirchen team his second family: “It’s like Alice in Wonderland in here: out there the world keeps turning, but inside the climbing gym we are living in our own microcosm.” Thalkirchen quenches his thirst for new things. Designing and buildings routes is the perfect combination of handiwork, sports, creativity and peace. Michi creates routes from his gut, he listens to his body and tries to get into the mindset of a climber who might be at his limit when climbing this particular route. But for that he needs his music: “When working on an easy route, my method is very systematic. So I need music with drive like Metallica. That gets me into the groove, lets me feel the flow.” For more difficult routes, he chooses more mellow tones like Rihanna or Lady Gaga. Only recently, he built an exceptionally harmonious grade 8 route to the sounds of Britney Spears’s Best-of album. Oops, he did it again – just like on any of the other 100 or so days he spent building routes in 2018.
Key figures about Thalkirchen climbing gym
7,800 m2 square meters area size (6500 sq mt for climbing incl. 1200 sq mt for bouldering)
Open 364 days/year
Nearly 270,000 climbers/year.
60,000 climbing holds set.
20,000 holds in stock.
5,000 hours per year dedicated to new routes setting (changed every 4 to 6 weeks)
550 routes available : 270 indoor / 280 oudoor
Climbing walls max height : Indoor 20 mt / Outdoor 25 mt