Groningen, Netherlands - The highest free-standing climbing wall in the world, the Excaliber. On a recent trip to Amsterdam, we led our car astray to visit Excaliber, the world's highest free-standing climbing wall. Located in a neighborhood that one can only describe as fun city, amongst mountain biking parks, and any other sports facility imaginable lies [...]
Groningen, Netherlands – The highest free-standing climbing wall in the world, the Excaliber.
On a recent trip to Amsterdam, we led our car astray to visit Excaliber, the world’s highest free-standing climbing wall. Located in a neighborhood that one can only describe as fun city, amongst mountain biking parks, and any other sports facility imaginable lies a monster that can be identified from kilometers away on the highway. This monster, the Excaliber, is garaged in a climbing complex known as Bjoeks, in Groningen, Netherlands. It’s neighbors are Fontainebleau circuit replicas and housed indoors is a legit plastic pulling venue – tufas, crimps, thought provoking routes run aplenty.
Our non-climbing friend was handed a camera and we promptly tied in. The wall boasts three pitches of plastic pulling bliss on its overhung side and two on its opposing slab side, or even better bring a 70m rope and link it all together. On our first go, around the second pitch, it was clear the Excaliber was an endurance training machine.
Meet the Visionary
Catching up with Gert van deer Veen – October 1, 2013
Gert van deer Veen, together with long time friend and climbing partner, Alco Pols, started the climbing center in 1996 in addition to a climbing wall and holds manufacturing company, Polsar Klimelementen. Since then, Gert took over the Bjoeks climbing complex and Alco the climbing manufacturing company. The tower was mainly built as a result of Gert’s growing frustration with the lack of time available to climb outdoors as a result of the time commitment required of a climbing gym business owner. In addition to Gert’s personal motivation to build the wall, he also noticed that climbing for a lot of people was an indoor winter sport instead of something that was done outside, at the mercy of nature requiring one’s commitment to adventure. Gert explains, “We wanted to do something about that, although we severely overestimated the number of climbers that would venture onto a tower like this. On the other hand, we did [correctly estimate the] publicity value of the thing and we have a lot of fun ourselves with, so it was quite worth it.”
The Excalibur was built in 2006; the steel construction including the climbing wall built in eight segments over the course of only a few weeks. The construction took place in the massive parking area next to Bjoeks and once complete, it took two days to bolt the eight segments together. From there, a few final touches were put together and route setting commenced on the 37 meter high climbing wall, the largest in the world. The wall weighs in at a whopping 45 tons, supported by a foundation composed of 500 tons of concrete.
The Excaliber has routes ranging from 4c to 6b on its slabby side and 6b+ to 8b on its overhung side. When it was first established, the routes were changed occasionally; however, the majority of climbers are not members of the Groningen climbing community but rather climbers coming for a single visit from far away (like me) to try their hand on this famous wall. The wall is incredibly exposed to weather causing holds to loosen, so in an effort to make the most attractive and safe routes for visitors, the holds have been glued to the wall.
Fun fact about the Excaliber – You can sleep on top of it. When the wind blows force 12, the top swings 1 meter. It never blows that hard but the wall’s engineers say it would hold.
Quick Reference Guide
Location: Klimcentrum Bjoeks
- Fee – 11 EUR / Adult day pass
- Hours –
Monday / Friday 14:00 to 23:00 pm Saturday and Sunday 11:00 to 23:00 hours