The 15 metres high walls in the "Climbing City" in Viennas exhibition centre look like a decorated storefront before Christmas at first glance: Glinting aluminium snap hooks looking like tinsel are dangling everywhere from Eastern Austria's biggest climbing hall: silver, blue, red, violet. In between colourful, strange formations, which look like children's attempts of Advent bakery: brown vanilla crescents, red cinnamon wheels, green marzipan rosettes, burnt gingerbread loops. Some of them even seem to be sprinkled with powdered sugar...
"That's magnesium powder", explains director Michael Hailegger with a laugh. "Climbers use it by rubbing it on there fingers in order not to slip that easily."
Here you find everything to conquer what you can imagine: Level 3 pyramids for beginners or for advanced climbers to losen up. Right next to them are vertical walls reaching straight to the roof of the hall with big easy to grab hand holds (level 3 to 6). Next to these knobs in a different colour, the size of a thumb – for the experienced who climb up to spiraling heights only with their tiptoes and finger tips. And on the far end there are incredible overhangs which make beginners ask whether the kids hanging here like oversized bats have suction cups somewhere fixed to their waists (levels up to 9+).
Peak season in Austria's climbing halls starts with beginning of September and ends around end of May, depending on how long the snow lasts in the mountains.
"In this period even ardent nature-freaks come here." says Michael Hailegger. To his opinion indoor climbing is definitely not a temporary solution for winter season: "You can't compare mountain climbing to indoor climbing at all. These are completely different disciplines. And both are of special attraction."
Beginning is surprisingly easy and the costs of about 7,- Euros to 20,- Euros per afternoon or evening are not higher than going to the movies and a dinner.
Robert Renzler, Innsbruck's speaker of the Austrian Alpine Club and organiser of the latest Climbing World Cup in Vienna's Town Hall: "Climbing shoes and harness can be borrowed in every bigger hall, for example in the new climbing centre next to Innsbruck's Tivoli Stadium. And introductory courses for beginners are offered almost everywhere, especially now in winter or around school holidays. Basics are taught like the correct rope-safety technique."
From the medical point of view the climbing trend is highly recommended. Indoor climbing is much more gentle for your joints than tennis, squash or soccer. All kinds of muscles are trained, from neck to toe. Body control is improved, because you have to move as precisely and therefore as energy-saving as possible.
Many companies also send their employees to climbing courses for conscience training or teamwork-seminars, because the climber not only gets to know his own fears, inhibitions and limits, but also has to learn to trust his partner, who must save him and takes care of his life when he finally ropes down.
Climbing halls and walls can be found all over Austria. Information is given at the Alpine Club (Vienna: 0043/1/513-10-03, Innsbruck: 0043/512/595-47)