When I packed for my trip to Europe, I sat two vital items aside on my bed. These weren’t necessary for me to get anywhere, nor did they make sure I was properly adorned. They were strictly for my personal comfort. Climbing harness. Climbing shoes.
I knew there were some pretty epic places to climb along the way and I was ready for the adventure! I ended up climbing in four different countries. The following are the results:
Because London was a home to me, Castle Climbing Centre felt like my home gym. I went there a few times and it quite literally felt like home. I found it because two of my best friends (who I climbed with in San Francisco when I was living there) call it their home gym.
The gym is in an actual castle. I repeat: the gym is in an actual castle.
Every part of the spacious place is dedicated to climbing. There are rooms upon rooms, some hidden past ones you already thought were hidden. It was overwhelming and actually quite gorgeous. As if that weren’t enough, they have large boulders in the yard outside and everywhere else outside is dedicated to growing food! That’s right. They grow their own food for an organic cafe inside the castle. There are places to sit both inside and out. It is literally the best climbing gym you could probably ever think of. If you are in UK and you climb, join the family and visit Castle. It’s worth the visit, I guarantee you.
A few months before my trip, I saw a video for Boulder With A Twist, an incredible marriage of bouldering and twister. I knew I had to try it, but didn’t put much second thought to it because I knew it was in Europe or somewhere far away. Then, while riding through Tuinpark Nut & Genoegen with my friend, we stopped by a restaurant to check it out. And, believe it or not, Boulder With A Twist was there. Just sitting there. The only one in the world sitting there waiting to be climbed. It was silent, with only a few couples sitting around the outdoor tables.
But I didn’t really see anybody else. I drifted to the bouldering box, transfixed.
For the next 45 minutes, we laughed and played as people came and joined us for the fun. It was exquisite. I felt like a child in the best ways, the ways that are more about being a human than being a child. I just wish there was one in North America because it was a massive amount of fun.
When my friend and I searched for a place to climb here, all we found were bouldering gyms. Our hypothesis was that this was because Paris is just an hour from Fontainebleau, the largest developed bouldering area in the world. We almost took the train to “Bleau,” but decided that two-hours of travel time plus bussing to places we’d never been before was imprudent as a last minute decision.
But the gym, called HARDBLOC, was pretty exceptional, as gyms go. There were many walls with varied pitches and a wide range of difficulty-levels. I find bouldering a bit pretentious in gyms, as a rule, because cliques can tend to sit around and talk about how good they are and it can easily feel judgmental to newer climbers. But this place lacked that feeling. It wasn’t as big as I would have liked, but still quite nice.
While searching on Google, we stumbled upon a new climbing center that wasn’t in a gym, but on the side of a World War II flak tower. Those towers, standing 160 feet or more, were used by the Nazi Luftwaffe as stations for anti-aircraft guns and protection for local citizens (the walls were up to 10 feet thick). The towers were too strong (and too dangerous) to tear down. This one, in Vienna, has been repurposed into an aquarium and a climbing wall (on the outside). The climbs are massive, topping out around 130 feet.
It was exhausting, but it was incredibly worth it. Not only was the prize for topping out the pride of climbing a massive route, it also afforded a beautiful view of the city. Completely worth it.