Berdorf: Sandstone Sport Climbing

November 30, 2013

volouerdespitsI first heard about the small idyllic sandstone crag of Berdorf in Luxembourg a number of years ago, whilst staying in the Ceuse campground. These Belgians raved about it, and I loved the idea of sport climbing on Sandstone so much that I got them to jot down the details in the back of my guide. Right: Yves Schartz on ‘Voleur de Spits’ (7a+). © Sam Bie. Taken from page 21 of the excellent Berdorf guidebook. Of course, Luxembourg isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you’re planning a European sport climbing holiday, which is probably why it took me so long to make a trip there happen. However last year I finally bit the bullet and dived into the wonderful world of Luxembourg sandstone sport. So why should you check it out? Well, for us Brits, it’s a similar distance to Fontainebleau and has the added bonuses of toll free motorways all the way there and tax-free fuel once in Luxembourg. The main attraction to me was its ideal location; which break ups the arduous drive to most places around central Europe. In fact, if you cross at Dover, Berdorf is a mere ~40mile detour when travelling to many destinations: Frankenjura, Switzerland, Austria, North Italy or South France (via the toll free route). Why have climbers travelled to this neat sandstone crag for years? A short walk through an idyllic woodland leads through to a gully of green moss-covered rock, here your heart may sink! However press on and eventually the crag reveals itself, thoroughly justifying why the Belgians had been raving about their sandstone paradise all these years. The tall clean sandstone features will take your breath away and when you do venture onto the rock, there is no mistaking the quality of the climbing here. In fact, the fine grained sandstone is similar to that of Northumberland’s Kyloe in the Woods... only its 30 metres long! What types of climbing can you expect to find, you may wonder. Well, there are seemingly blank walls containing sinker slots, roofs with satisfying jugs to haul through, horizontal striations scattered with hidden edges, pockets and crimps, long gently overhanging stamina-fests, aesthetic honeycombed enclaves, open handed scallops, striking arêtes and perhaps the defining move of Berdorf; the dyno! So those are the styles you’ll come across but what about length, angles and grades? Again, you can find just about everything to suit. There’s everything from 8m power routes right through 30 metre pump-fests. The grades start as low as 3, with 6’s and 7’s being by far the most abundant grade on offer. For the talented and strong the routes carry through to the low 8’s. Until May 2012, 8b was the hardest grade here, but then German climber Simon Plum completed Berdorf’s long-term open project to leave the impressive 8c that is ‘Nikita’. To get you going, my recommended routes would be: Minimops 6a, the triplet of 6cs on the left hand end of Was not Was sector, Mike 7a, Takla Makan 7a, Yellow Submairne 7a+, Voleur de Spits 7a+, Infernale 7b, Daiwel 7b+, Bobby Brown 7c, Undercover Angel 7c, Ciest Ovest 7c+, Hermann Buhl 8a+, Borderline 8b.

Conditions and Access

Being in dense woodland the sheltered nature means Berdorf stays relatively cool in the summer months, however, this also means it can remain damp/green after prolonged rain. When dry it is possible to climb many of the 7a and above routes during light showers. The main season for most people is from the beginning of March till the end of October. However, during these months it can become crowded on weekends, with queue forming on many classics! For those wanting to try the harder lines, the best conditions are found in late summer early autumn. Unfortunately, with sandstone being a softer rock Berdorf is starting to show signs of wear, with erosion of footholds and handholds making them sandy. So take care, ensure your boots are clean before pulling on and take it easy when brushing holds. Below: Unknown climber enjoying the delights of Berdorf. © Havista. berd-image2 The biggest issue with Berdorf is that you are required to get a permit to climb here. You cannot and must not climb in Berdorf without one of these, as it is a European Natural Protection Zone. Don’t let this put you off! Although it sounds a pain, it is quick, easy and free to gain. You MUST do this if you wish to climb here, wardens do check regularly (they came around twice in the four days I spent there) and will ask you to leave if you can’t provide evidence of a permit and some form of ID to prove you are the same person on the permit slip. The simplest way is to download a form in Word format from this website. Completing it takes about 3 minutes then email it back to this email address permis.escalade@mev.etat.lu. I recommend you tick the box for a year pass as it is free and gives you more flexibility on the dates you head there. You will then receive your permit, on a very posh piece of paper, in the post about a week later. This does mean you will need to apply for the permit at least two weeks before you leave the UK to ensure you get the permit in time. Finally, you will need to update your permit by re-applying each calendar year.

Food and Accommodation

There are 3 campsites in Berdorf itself, the best and easiest one is opposite the football ground (where you park for the climbing). When in Berdorf follow signs for the tourist information as this is located on the campground. This campsite is well equipped with various sized plots for tents and vans, plus you can even hire out a pod (posh garden shed equipped with a bed) all at reasonable prices. They speak English, German and French and you can also pick up a guidebook here if you forget to buy one from rockrun.com. For those not on a budget there are a couple of grand looking hotels in the town centre about 2 minutes drive from the crag parking. A small farm store can be found in the centre of the village selling fresh milk, yoghurt, cheese and pastries, although the opening times are fairly random. Everything else you will need can be found in Echternach, 6km away. Berdorf has a small selection of restaurants covering a range of cuisines along with a small fast food eatery on the campsite itself. Equipment 
Standard European sport gear: 14 quickdraws and a 60m rope will be sufficient to see you up all the routes. The routes are well bolted so clip-sticks are not a necessity. I managed to get some use out of my knee pad here too, so if you’re into that sort of thing you may want to have one packed. The crag has its own guide ‘Berdorf Climbing’ which is clear, easy to use and full of inspiring photos from across the grades (purchase here). Further information along with a detailed list of link ups and new routes can be found at www.climbing.lu. Additionally, insect repellent, some form of ID, your permission slip and a head torch (it gets dark earlier and very quickly in the woods) would also be useful items to keep in your rucksack.

Getting There

  • DFDS sails Dover to Dunkerque and is a two hour crossing. This will cost about £40 -60 return: dfdsseaways.co.uk
  • P&O sails Dover to Calais and is one and a half hour crossing. This will cost about £60-80 return: poferries.com
  • The fastest route is via the Euro tunnel from Folkstone to Calais, it takes only 35 minutes but will cost around £120 return.
  • Flying and hiring a car is another option, possibly slightly more pricey but shorter traveling times: easyjet.com
  • Gatwick-Cologne. Berdorf is 2 hours from the airport.
  • Liverpool-Brussels. Berdorf is a 2 and a half hours drive from the airport.
  • If booked in advance flights can cost under £100 with a 20kg bag.

Purchase the Berdorf Climbing Guidebook




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