Imagine the flattest possible landscape with nothing but farmland as far as the eye can see. Then imagine being a climber living in this horizontality and having to deal with the extreme lack of vertical terrain. That’s pretty much Skåne, Sweden’s southernmost county. It’s as flat as a pancake, but with one very striking exception: the rocky peninsula of Kullaberg. This narrow stretch of land rising straight from the ocean in the northwestern tip of the county is the salvation for all local climbers who want to leave the plastic behind for a bit.
But this climber’s haven is at risk: possible new regulations that threaten climbing access could leave local Swedish climbers—and many Danes that hop across the border to climb at Kullaberg—devoid of any real rock destinations .
The climbing on Kullaberg takes place on the dramatic cliffs that surround the entire peninsula, making the sea an ever-present companion and welcome remedy on warm summer days. Kullaberg as a whole contains around 1,000 routes—mostly trad, some sport—on over 50 crags, with everything from clean cracks to techy slabs to enduro routes on overhanging walls. It’s not only a great climbing area, it’s an important climbing area for the local climbing community and companies in the region that work with climbing-related services.
In the suggested new regulations of the Kullaberg Nature Reserve, sent out by the local authorities this past summer, there was one point in particular that really stood out. In short, it stated that climbing in trees and on rocks would be completely forbidden, with the exception of certain areas specified by the authorities. In practice, this could mean that climbing will be allowed only at a fraction, or none, of all the crags at Kullaberg, which in turn would deprive the local climbers of most of the climbing at one of their most important and historic climbing areas.
And climbers were not the only ones affected: trail runners, mountain bikers and paragliders who recreate in the Kullaberg also face sport-specific limitations in new regulations. A petition was started soon after the suggestion for the new regulations was published, and it quickly reached over 4,000 signatures, a sizable amount considering the number of local climbers
Local climbers were not only shocked and worried about what would happen to the climbing at Kullaberg, but they were also asking: Why? What was the logic behind a total ban on climbing? What problem would it solve?
When confronted with the question at a meeting between representatives from Nature Reserve and local climbing clubs, the Kullaberg authorities claimed that this was a way for them to more easily direct visitors to Kullaberg to whatever part of the nature reserve is more suitable at the moment. They also claimed that it probably wouldn’t be so bad for us as climbers. In a recent Facebook post, they reiterated this idea: “Something that has raised concern is that the new regulations contain a general ban, meaning that it will be the work council’s/manager’s primary task to decide what can happen and where. Our thought is that this won’t lead to any dramatic changes as compared to today.” (Quote translated from Swedish).
But the problem lies in the precedent of the ban itself. If it goes into effect, the authorities would have the right to close any, or even all, of the crags in the future without having to explain why? No guarantees can be made about this and it would leave the local climbing community powerless, and perhaps even without access to their most valuable climbing area.
Climbing bans are a global problem, with world-famous areas such as the Grampians dealing with their own similar issues. For a vertically underprivileged area like Skåne, a total ban on climbing would be a major loss for the local community, not to mention for every Danish climber who already has to cross an international border to get on the rock. And for what? No one really knows. This is unacceptable.
So, what can we as a community do to prevent these things from happening? How can we make our sport a welcome and accepted part of nature? Following rules about seasonal closures and adhering to leave-no-trace ethics are critical. But making sure that the people and authorities in charge understand just how significant many climbing areas are to the local communities—culturally and frequently economically—is just as important.
Kullaberg might not be the center of the climbing universe to the rest of the world, but to the locals it very much is.