© Klaus Fengler

The birth place of free climbing

How everything started

Climbing has a long history in Saxon Switzerland. There is written evidence dating back to about 150 years ago. Many consider an event in March 1864 as the hour of birth of the Saxon climbing sport when five Schandau gymnasts conquered Falkenstein Mountain with the help of tree trunks and ladders. In 1874 two mountaineers from Pirna succeeded in climbing up to the top of Mönch Rock without any aids.

In 1910, the “Saxon Climbing Regulations” where recorded in writing for the first time. Since then these rules have hardly changed and include as an important element a prohibition on artificial aids to overcome gravity. This idea spread over the whole world. It is known today as free climbing and is practiced in the United States, in France, Spain, Thailand and other countries of the world.

Stages of Development

The early development of mountaineering in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains took place in the period between 1777 and 1890, which was characterized by climbs supported by artificial aids. In the years between 1890 and 1910 the main mountaineering development of the area followed. At this time, face and crack climbing added to simple chimneying. With these additions, many new routes to previously inaccessible summits were developed. It was the great time for legendary climbers such as Oscar Schuster, Friedrich Meurer, Albert Kunze, Rudolf Fehrmann, Fritz Wiessner or Oliver Perry-Smith.

After 1912 and before World War II, even more dangerous face and crack climbing was practised and not only were new summits conquered but also more difficult climbing routes were developed. Considerably improved climbing techniques and belaying methods enabled mountaineers finally to access the last remaining climbable summits; this last stage of development is also called the completion of classical Saxon mountaineering.

From that time on, climbers developed more and more extremely difficult routes of Grade VIII and IX. Bernd Arnold, Manfred Vogel, Jürgen Höfer and Klaus Schäfer are representatives of this period. Among the younger extreme mountaineers of the 1990s are Sven Scholz, Uwe Richter or Gunter Gaebel.

Dreamlike Scenery

© Klaus Fengler

Climbing in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains is an incredible experience. In the homeland of free climbing you have the choice between 1134 freestanding sandstone rocks surrounded by an overwhelming natural backdrop – a climbers’ paradise!

Besides the exclusive chance of climbing in the midst of the National Park, its own climbing regulations and grading system make the summit experience so special for each climber. Anyone who has made it to a summit here once can no longer escape the magic of this climbing area.

The rich variety of sandstone provides unique nature experiences and makes free climbing possible in all its facets. Except for a few restrictions for reasons of nature protection there are around 27,000 climbing routes in all grades of difficulty of the Saxon grading system ranging from I to XII.

Saxon Climbing Regulations

© Peggy Nestler

The Saxon Climbing Regulations are challenging – and essential as they protect the soft vulnerable sandstone and important natural habitats in the National Park region. Metal protection gear such as cams and friends are not allowed, permanent ring bolts are relatively rare and slings are the only protection gear allowed. Any modification of the rock surface is not allowed, except the placing of protection ring bolts during first ascents. Using chemical aids such as magnesia is not allowed. In addition, climbing on wet or fragile rock is forbidden.

The rope is used only for protection and for abseiling. Therefore, protection placing requires more special skills in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains compared to other climbing areas.

Particularities and Climbing Regulations

Saxon difficulty Grade System

Seasonally closed Climbing Summits


Learning from the Pros


Climbing accidents happen almost exclusively due to ignorance, carelessness or improvidence. Local professional climbing coaches teach the full range of skills to cope with the Elbe sandstone. All local mountaineering specialists teach climbing on the basis of a standard training guideline.


Kletterschule Lilienstein – (Lilienstein Climbing School)

AktivZentrum Bad Schandau – (Bad Schandau Activity Centre)

Kletterschule Ottendorfer Hütte – (Ottendorfer Cabin Climbing School)

Bergführer Elbsandsteinklettern.de – (Mountain Guide Elbe Sandstone Climbing)



Climbing Areas

© Klaus Fengler

Saxon Switzerland is divided into several climbing areas differing in their rock constitution or climbing style. The common climbing guides follow this classification and are thus helpful for orientation.


Overview of Climbing Areas

Summits and Routes Data Base

Publishing House Bergverlag Rölke



Indoor Climbing

© Peggy Nestler

If you just want to get a taste of climbing or go in for intensive training, there are two halls available for “rope climbing acrobats” in Saxon Switzerland. There you can either climb on your own or with an experienced coach. The YoYo Hall also has an ample boulder area.


YoYo Kletterhalle (Indoor Climbing Wall) Heidenau

SoliVital Sebnitz


High Rope Courses

© Annett Röllke

Two high rope courses wait as a special treat for activity tourists eager for some athletic exercise. Directly next to Königstein Fortress is “Kletterwald Königstein” Treetop Climbing Park which consists of 8 courses of a total length of 1000 m including 80 climbing elements.

“Kanu Aktiv Tours” activity specialist provides an 18 element indoor course as well as two 8 m high climbing towers and a climbing wall for climbing fans to let off steam.

Kletterwald Königstein – (KönigsteinTreetop Climbing Park)

Kanu Aktiv Tours



First Aid outdoors

Self-help boxes and emergency calls

Notruf Standort Wegweiser© Yvonne Brückner

Self-help boxes are placed in climbing areas but also at frequently used hiking trails. They contain a first-aid kit and means of transport (foldable stretcher and disposable blanket) to be used as needed. The stretcher is expected to be returned. If this is not possible please inform the DRK Kreisverband Sebnitz (Sebnitz German Red Cross district association) by calling +49 35971 7470.

To call the mountain rescue service for help dial the emergency number 112. If you are not familiar with the area you can find out your location at the nearest sign-post. On the reverse side of each sign-post is a yellow location number (see picture) to be told to the rescue service when calling it in case of emergency.

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