Review of Blockwerk Mainz
today I wanted to delight you with a (not anymore all that ) short review of Blockwerk Mainz. I have spent a whole 12-entries pass (and a few more sessions), so I feel qualified to give a helpful review. It’s not going to be just as long as other reviews, though. I will talk about the style of boulders, about pricing and the implementation of Corona regulations.
Style of boulders
At Blockwerk, tags at the starting holds will indicate the difficulty level of boulders. A wide variety of holds are used, however, as I’m told, most boulders are set by one guy (named Gregor) which affects the style very much. First of all, the guy is apparently pretty tall so most boulders have a little bit too long distances for me. This can make easy boulders much more difficult for you if you’re just lacking those 10cm in height. The style of boulders doesn’t accomodate small people, i.e. also very much doesn’t accommodate many womxn in particular (sorry for the feminist side note here…).
The style is also very heavy on compression boulders, slab and volumes. There is a lot of balancing around which is good for me because that’s my weakness. I have improved much on this for sure since balancing on scary volumes is super common here, even in really easy boulders (which you wouldn’t get in Graz at all in easy levels). Interestingly, I often found the blue level (4th difficulty) easier than lower levels on pocket style holds because their style was more familiar to me: They have a nice assortment of overhangs with pocket-style holds where you just need a little strength and dynamic climbing – then they are relatively easy. Compared to all the balancing shit required on easier levels which was really new to me on those easy level boulders.
Other gyms have traversing and balancing stuff too but I’ve never seen it done to this degree in easy boulders. That’s why it took me two weeks straight of training until I felt more or less at home at this gym. Be prepared to feel like a loser the first time you come here unless you’re really used to Mainz-style boulders. I also felt that especially the easier level boulders were graded in a way that they were relatively hard for their level overall.
I know that some gyms do that. Graz’s Blochouse does too. Still doesn’t mean I have to like or condone it.
(Mis-)Labeling of difficulties
Many people are complaining why all boulders are set by the same guy and why 90% of boulers are labeled with the first three difficultes (red, red-blue and blue), thus meaning they span a huge variety of difficulty levels. Since I am a more direct person, I would go so far to say that many boulders are mislabeled. Or they are ok labeled if you’re a man but totally mislabeled for females. Which – since you all know I am a proud feminist killjoy – offends me very much indeed.
Some womxn say they like it because it pushes them to find other solutions and small person betas. I personally find it very demotivating like I always do with mislabeled routes. Maybe I am the problem. But also, can’t you make more of an effort? After all, a 10€ entry fee is pretty expensive. When I’m giving you all this money, I can expect the service to be really good, in my honest opinion, and I am entitled to be critical about it.
Also, what’s the point of a review if you don’t criticize anything? That way, nobody can learn any honest info about a place. And these circumstances described above are just very integral to the experience of bouldering at Blockwerk Mainz. Everybody talked about it almost every time I talked to people at this gym. And it could be remedied very easily. So that’s a big minus point for labeling from me.
At Boulderclub in Graz, they always have at least three people present when setting the boulder and the next day, when there isn’t much going on, they have at least three people trying them out, discussing the grading and modifying things. Of course, one of the people present is always a womxn. So it’s not like it can’t be done. Altough, quality and customer service at Boulderclub Graz is really supreme, in my opinion, and most other places don’t live up to that. They do know how to make amateurs and newbies really happy there and they also seem to care (unlike at Blockwerk – which is their choice, I guess).
Route setting getting paid not per time but per routes set will just result in sub-par work – from what I’ve seen. Route-setting in teams isn’t all that difficult to organize because many of the more proficient people are motivated to help out, on a free-willing basis or if you give them a free entry or reduction on their entry pass. I think there really aren’t any good excuses for not making an effort in such an expensive sport. Even though I’m told the route setter guy has already improved a lot and is using more diverse types of holds and styles of boulder routes now. But really, if you’re going to make the effort to label difficulties at all, you might as well do it better. Otherwise, just don’t?
Oh, and also, you might find it interesting that many new boulders, at least in the first room (I think the rooms actually have names, one of which being Ponyhof), get a number instead of a label for the first week. That way, you can try them out and suggest a label. Then, they get labeled officially after the first week (I think). Since everybody wants to try them out, they are usually pretty overcrowded in said first week. But that’s common with new routes pretty much anywhere. Unlike in other gyms, here not complete areas are re-set on Mondays (I think?) but rather, single old routes are taken down and new ones set all over the bouldering gym.
Secret rule: You can’t use the red volumes
Oh and also, Blockwerk Mainz has secret rules: You can always use all of the volumes but never the red ones because they are routes of their own. This is an unwritten rule that people will tell you about or, apparently, at some point route setting guy Gregor will make an epiphany and explain it to you. Which frankly, I find pretty unprofessional. If it’s a rule, fucking write it down. Otherwise it isn’t a rule. I mean where the fuck are we anyway, the Freemasons?
Covid regulations: non-optimal implementation
Regarding the Covid regulations, a slight letdown is the fact that you always need to book a spot in advance, so you can’t go spontaneously. This spot is also only two hours long, so not very long given the fact that you pay the same rate you would have otherwise paid for the whole day (!!! this is bad !!! especially as they aren’t very liberal with giving student discounts; I’m apparently too old. But also, I of course get that they don’t want to go bankrupt during Covid either so maybe that’s their only choice). Having to book in advance also doesn’t go so well with my working habits because I need some variability regarding when I go. If I’m in the middle of something, I need to finish that before leaving for 3h after which all my ideas might be lost.
Ergo, I can say the covid regulations are implemented better in other places I’ve been to. Also, they have established a parkours system (you can only go in one direction) which – as one might imagine – doesn’t really work anyway but it causes people to pile up in the first of the three rooms. Also, I think most people don’t really stick to it. I can assure you that I certainly don’t.
Also, on really hot days during the summer, the holds of easier boulders were so sweaty that you could hardly use them at all, especially when you’re not so used to the style how boulders are set at Blockwerk and don’t like to use tons of chalk. I think this was exacerbated by the fact that this parkours system (not meaning the sport but the circulation!).
Btw, I have also discussed some of the downsides of the(se) corona regulations passively in this post.
Pricing and the lack of monthly passes
Like always, bouldering is fucking expensive (I will repeat it every time) and no gym I’ve ever been to (except the Braunschweig ones, Aloha and Fliegerhalle) have monthly tickets which are affordable. Blockwerk would have a really great monthly rate if you get a subscription pass. But, here comes the bummer, you can only get a one year pass.
But I am not in Mainz for a year? Are you fucking kidding me? There isn’t even a 6 months pass which – this time at least – would have actually suited my needs. Why is this so backwards in almost all bouldering gyms? People, can you please accept the reality of life that lots of young professionals nowadays have to move a lot and mabye won’t be in one place for very long?
I will take this personally at every single place where this happens – just so you know. And I will write a bad review about it every single time, dear owners of boulder gyms (I’m looking at you!). Until this shit gets better.
Conclusion and future work 😉
That’s basically all I have to say for now. I might try Wiesbaden’s Nordwand (offering rope climbing as well as bouldering, with a smaller selection for bouldering apparently), or a gym at Frankfurt or Mannheim. But with Covid and all, I might also not have the time or possibility to go. It was also recommended to me that I should go to the Pfungstadt bouldering gym (near Darmstadt), called Studiobloc. It’s apparently really good.