“Everything in life is in a cycle. There is no beginning and no end,” says Stefan Billmeier. His hands are powdered white with magnesium, his sinewy forearms catch the eye when he gesticulates while speaking. The 42-year-old lies on the soft mat and looks at the colorful plastic handles hanging in the horizontal ceiling above his head.
Almost the entire surface is covered with handles of various sizes and shapes: beer handles, hemispheres, organically flowing bulges. The basic idea for the shape of the artificial bouldering block in the Taufkirchen climbing facility came from Billmeier himself.
He was inspired by a model from nature that is on another continent: a huge cave in Thailand with a twenty-meter-long roof. Billmeier spent many months there, developing and documenting routes. He prefers to boulder on rocks. Bouldering is a type of climbing in which the climber does not need a safety device because he does not climb too high. “Everything is in a cycle, many people no longer notice that today. They think that their behavior in nature has no effect,” says Billmeier. Perhaps his considerations influenced the idea for the bouldering block. This is designed as a recumbent figure eight, which theoretically you can climb for an infinite amount of time.
In 2003 Billmeier started climbing on the climbing tower in Taufkirchen. This passion shapes his life to this day and does not let go of him. But a lot has changed since then. For some, climbing means much more than sport: it embodies values. For others, the bouldering hall replaces the fitness studio.
When climbing wasn’t a popular sport and hardly anyone could relate to the term “bouldering”, many walkers were amazed at the strangely structured concrete walls in the middle of Thalkirchen. A few mountain crazy people trained there for the upcoming rock climbing tours. Everyone knew everyone and they all had a love for the mountains and for this exciting sport, which is never boring for a lifetime.
Eventually, more and more people recognized this pleasure. The system in Munich was soon no longer sufficient, more and more interested people came, more and more halls were built and the familiar faded into the background. Today there are numerous climbing and bouldering halls in the state capital and in the surrounding area. Shortly before the second lockdown, the Boulderwelt Süd, another large commercial bouldering hall, opened in Brunnthal.
Eight years after Munich’s first concrete climbing facility was built in Thalkirchen, the municipality of Taufkirchen set up a climbing tower in the municipal sports facility. That was in 1997. The company “T-Wall” built the building. A novelty in Munich at the time: the tower was not made of concrete, but of organically shaped plastic, covered with a rough surface that provides the climbing shoes with friction and support.
It was used for a while, until something finally fell into oblivion. At the beginning of the millennium, life returned to the tower. It attracted a few climbing enthusiasts from the south of Munich, they got to know each other there and then became good friends. Formally, they organized themselves as a climbing group within the Taufkirchen local group of the German Alpine Club (DAV) and began to manage the facility. Tobias Epple from Oberhaching, who leads the climbing group today and takes care of the organizational aspects, also belonged to them.
As Epple remembers, the climbers soon discovered that the tower no longer met current safety standards. He was missing a roof, for example, rainwater washed around the nuts and bolts, and the material was rusting away. The friends also needed a hut to house materials for youth work. And there was no way to train without a rope partner. Even then they realized: A bouldering block would enrich the facility a lot.
“We had many supporters in the local council, in all political groups,” recalls Epple, who was heavily involved in the application for the expansion of the plant. The climbers presented a conclusive financing concept: since everyone who uses the facility pays an annual fee, the required sum can be repaid within 20 years. In 2006 the community agreed to invest.
The result: the tower was raised to eleven meters and covered, a log cabin was built and finally the property was expanded to make space for the bouldering block. Stefan Billmeier made sketches and built a plaster model to illustrate his ideas. The friends worked on the design together and modeled 3D models on the computer. You worked closely with the T-Wall company. This finally realized the block, which stands on two offset foundations, connected by a dynamically curved bridge. The climbers helped themselves when the block was set up, and countless hours of voluntary work flowed into it. Billmeier took a week off and stayed in the hut. That was a very labor-intensive time for everyone involved, says Tobias Epple.
Without the self-initiative of the climbers, the facility would certainly not exist in this form today. “The point here is not to consume, this is not a service like in the commercial halls. We lend a hand, mow the lawn, keep the system in good working order,” says Billmeier. A give and a take, a cycle from which everyone benefits.
But giving does not only refer to the climbing community itself; before the pandemic, courses for children and climbing projects were held together with schools in the area. Once a year there is an open day and a tower festival. Everyone is welcome to hang on to the rope and test their fear of heights.
And to this day, the tower is still used, although it does not offer the commercial pleasure of the large climbing gyms. Less choice of routes and more challenging climbing that requires more creativity: You don’t just climb on the plastic handles, but also on the structure of the wall, which is closer to rock climbing. Nevertheless: Of the 200 keys that are given to the users of the system, only ten are left.
Georg Weidenspointner was taken to the facility by a friend many years ago. And soon he too naturally belonged to the Taufkirchen climbing family. “It’s just great to be able to climb outdoors with friends in the evening or at the weekend,” reports the 52-year-old mountaineer, who originally comes from the Berchtesgadener Land. The familiar atmosphere, which was so natural when local climbing was born, still breathes in Taufkirchen.