>>>The romantics of rock climbing

The romantics of rock climbing

What is now known as Free Climbing was first practised in Saxon Switzerland. On the same peaks so admired by painters, climbers feel themselves alive when their fingers touch the bare rock.
T
he pioneers of free climbing as a sport resorted to a whole variety of ingenious solutions to circumvent the difficult sections of the rocks: hewing out stairs, improvising with ropes or tree trunks, and even performing difficult gymnastic movements. Those climbers are now the stuff of legend and their techniques have been made obsolete by technical advances that have aided climbing and improved safety levels for the climbers. Except in the case of free climbing.
The signed routes for the hikes and climbs must be kept to.

Cyclotourism along the Elbe river

The park can also be enjoyed by bike. The 840-long Elbe route is the most popular in Germany. It starts at Dresden, near the frontier with the Czech Republic, and winds its way through vineyards, marshes, orchards and woods in the vicinity of Hamburg on the North Sea.

Free climbing consists in climbing using only the hands, the feet or the body. Harnesses and ropes are used but only as safety precautions, not to aid the climb. The free climbers use their ingenuity, strength, skill and experience to do the work of the artificial aids. They cling to the holds while they choose the best way to attack the rocks, vertical walls or artificial walls.
The most extreme form of free climbing is called solo climbing or free soloing, because it does away with any form of safety rope. But it isn’t extra thrills that practioners of this sport are looking for. Alex Honnold, one of the best known practioners, describes in his book Alone on the Wall, the sensation of being suspended in the air at times by one finger only: “I don’t like risk. I do it because it’s fun, it’s like a game. It makes me feel alive. Pain disappears with the euphoria of achieving your goal. There’s isn’t a surge of adrenalin, and if there is, it means that something has gone very badly wrong because everything is meant to happen slowly and be under control”.
The views over the river Elbe from the summit of Bastei are spectacular.
The link between free climbing and 19th century German Romantic writers and poets isn’t immediately obvious. But it is Germany  that claims to have invented the sport, and to have done so specifically in the jagged peaks of Saxon Switzerland. The name of this region in south east Germany, near Dresden, was given by two 18th-century Swiss painters, Adrian Zingg and Anton Graff, as it reminded them of their home.
Up to 50,000 people a day visit the bridge and viewing points on Bastei.
The fantasy rock formations in this natural park caught the attention of painters long before they caught the attention of the sporting world. An example of that are the 112 kilometres of views along the route of the Painters Way (Malerweg). Hikers follow it through gorges, chimneys, vertical rock walls and overhanding ledges trying to capture the feelings depicted in the paintings of Turner or Caspar David Friedrich. In Friedrich’s most celebrated painting, The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog a young man, with his back to us, is contemplating a landscape of mist-enveloped rocks with the Bastei in the background. The Bastei is the major landmark of this park of 1,100 peaks and 21,000 climbing sections. The splendour of this landscape crossed by the river Elbe has made it a perfect setting for operas performed in the openings of the forest.
Nature lovers are fully aware of the uniqueness of this landscape. Their concern for its conservation may have been sparked by free climbing. To help guarantee the rocks are not damaged, they prefer ability to modernisation.

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