Climbing and Nature Protection

The Selter Climbing Ban – What happened to the Selter, our local high end climbing area, and what can be done?

The Selter cliffs, for hard core climbing particularly the cliffs of Erzhausen and Freden (Süd), 60 km south of Hannover, up to 30 m high, are the most important rocks for extreme sport climbing in northern Germany. Comparable rocks with a wide range of such difficult climbing routes can nearest be found only in the Frankenjura, about 400 km south.

Due to the poorly structured, very compact and often overhanging rock the development so far culminated in two climbing routes by Ralf Kowalski (1001 Nacht, Wipe out) in the 11th grade (UIAA), which are the only two of this difficulty in the North of Germany. But in the Selter there are some more projects and there ist still potential for some more routes on this or even a harder level. The continued existence of such climbing opportunities is very important for the self-understanding and the further development of sport climbing in Northern Germany.

By April 2009, due to a nature conservation law, climbing was limited only to 3 sections in the Selter. According to a regulation only 20 out of 80 previously climbed rocks were allowed. (In the Selter there are about 150 rocks.) From the former over 320 challenging climbing routes only 120 (37%) were still given free for climbing.

That was the time, some of us younger climbers started to think about our future climbing possibilities here in Northern Germany and some action.

In 2009 Felix Leuoth, my sister Louisa and I (all Alpine Club Hannover) were among 120 other young people invited by Lower Saxony Prime Minister Christian Wulff to his summer party in Hannover. On this occasion we talked to the State Government regarding the 2/3-ban of the Selter, our high end climbing area in North Germany.

The Minister of Sports, Mr Schünemann, was interested in the matter and learned about some arguments in favor of the withdrawal of the closure. We pointed out that climbing and nature protection do not exclude each other; in fact climbers actively engage themselves for the conservation of nature. We referred to the successful examples in the past few decades – otherwise we wouldn’t have the biotopes on the climbing rocks which are supposed to be protected now by withdrawl of the climbers. We told the Minister why the Selter cliffs are necessary for the development of excellence in climbing. Especially the young climbers in Northern Germany are deprived by the closure of the opportunity to further develop climbing locally.

Minister Schünemann promised to advocate the cause. We handed over a letter to him. He said that he will read the information and then will talk to the Lower Saxony Minister of Environment.

Selter_Letter to Minister Schünemann (in German)

Short article about the Prime Minister’s summer party and some local reactions (in German)

The outcome of the talk to the Minister of Environment was negative. But it got even worse.

In the regulation they mentioned a standardized labeling of the rocks that still were permitted for climbing. But the authorities didn’t implement the labeling. So, in fact, up to now, there is a complete ban for climbing, because it’s forbidden to climb on unlabeled rock.

Against this administrative behavior a judicial review was tabled and decided in November 2010. Precisely this lack of modality for marking procedure was cited as the critical shortage of the regulation. Therefore the correspondent paragraph was declared invalid. Thus a paradoxical situation has arisen. The legislature intended to allow climbing on certain rocks, but by insufficient regulation there is still currently a total climbing ban.

In 2002 there was a unanimous resolution of Parliament for the climbing conception in Lower Saxony. Therefore the climbers are demanding now that, in the sense of continuity of government activity and the protection of confidence, climbing is still adequately recognized as a valuable sport and therefore accommodated in the Selter. For extreme sport climbing in Lower Saxony the Selter is exceptionally important and irreplaceable. It is not evident that not at least a solution is enacted which has been defined as environmentally sensitive by the authorities in a long process over many years. The shortcomings of the regulation, which are without climbers’ fault, must now be cured in an amendment.

Dr. Richard Goedeke has written a comprehensive text (in German) that describes fully the evolution of the conflict up to the current level in the Selter. He has also written a basic statement (in German) about the conflict of climbing and nature protection, which we consider very worth reading.

Annika Müller informed us about an article by Pete O’Donovan which deals with similar conflicts and problems in one of our favorite climbing places, i.e. Catalonia.

Perhaps it is a good idea to link up on such issues and to share.