Climbing in Freyr: Belgium’s Premier Forge of Fingers

Most climbers won’t have considered Belgium as a destination for climbing, and many of those who have a vague idea of Belgian climbing won’t appreciate how good it actually is. There are many crags in southern Belgium and Freyr is the crown jewel, with several impressive walls close to the river and overlooking a chateau. Those who do know of Freyr will also know of the crags fierce reputation, nothing here comes easy. If you can climb a certain grade in Freyr, then you can climb it anywhere and although the routes are hard the rock is superb. Belgium is also famous for good beer, chocolate, waffles and fries, which is really a winning combination for us!

Limestone fins protruding out form the slow moving river. On the other side following the river is a road with green fields and forest.
The beautiful Freyr, seen from the top of ‘La Jeunesse’ sector

Guidebook

There are several editions of the Freyr guidebook, the latest of which was published in 2020 and can be found on Climb-Europe. The guidebook is good quality, and is the best way to get a feel for the area and the different sectors. It is also possible to use 27Crags for Freyr, which has topos on the premium feature and is a good option for a short visit to the area.

Weather and Climbing Season

Like many areas in Northern Europe, Belgium can have very variable weather that fluctuates year by year, it could feel like the arctic or like a frying pan depending on your luck. The majority of crags in Freyr are south facing which really dictates the sort of conditions you want to climb in. The locals all seemed to agree a clear sunny day in winter, with a light breeze, gives you the ultimate conditions for sticking those little crimps! As such, summer is really not the time to go if you want to enjoy the best routes here, even though there are some shaded crags and the river for a swim. We visited Freyr for around a week in late September, and bar one day of rain we had great conditions.

Limestone wall above a calm river. On the other side of the river is a chateau with maze like hedges and immaculate gardens
A climber lost in rock on the superb ‘Hazewee A Laeken’ 7a+ viewed from the top of Al’Legne

The Climbing

As climbing areas go, Freyr is very underrated, and has a lot to offer anyone. The limestone is great quality, very compact and in beautiful colours of grey and white. The style of climbing is typically on vertical walls, with lots of crimps and pockets, and some technical footwork. That being said, you can also find steep overhangs with jugs and blank looking slabs.

Freyr has a really nice layout, with several different sectors spread across the hillside. The crags come out of the hill like fins, and some of them even have routes up the arête and ridge of the fin. The fact there are so many sectors means it is always possible to find a quiet route and it is part of the fun to visit the different sectors – which often have different styles of climbing to each other. There are around 640 routes in Freyr, spread from 3 to 8c+. The crags are up to around 120 meters in height and there are lots of classic multipitches to do in Freyr. The crag also excels for long single pitches and an 80 meter rope is very useful.

Climber on a limestone wall looking for the next move.
One of our Belgian friends trying hard on ‘Hercule Poivrot’ 7a+

Freyr has a reputation for stiff grades, run out bolting and polish. As always, the notoriety is partly true. You certainly won’t climb anything at Freyr and declare it soft for the grade! The polish is not really an issue, some of the very popular 5s are polished but the majority of the routes just have the normal levels of wear you expect on limestone. The bolting is probably the most variable, with routes like ‘Welcome to the Machine’ 7a being very well bolted. Comparatively, you might get on a route only to discover the bolts are 4 meters apart at the top section and you need as much mental strength as physical!

The good news is that after climbing in Freyr, anywhere else you visit will feel easy.

Climber on smooth grey limestone wall with blue skies
Unknown local climbing smoothly at Tête du Lion

Before we went, we read comments online like ‘it isn’t worth going unless you climb hard’ and ‘the easy routes are all too polished and bad’. This is completely untrue, and is probably written by people who are a bit salty they got slapped by Freyr grading. In reality, there are loads of 5s and 6s that have great climbing and are no more polished than anywhere else in Europe. Even well known classics like ‘Cap’taine Coeur De Miel’ are in perfect climbing condition, and on really nice rock. Some particular routes are polished, but you have 640 to choose from so just pick another!

The location of Freyr is really awesome, and such a great asset for Belgian climbing. The Club Alpin Belge own the carpark at the top of the crag, which has two huts and a bivouac area. It is a really cool place as it is designated for climbers to use and has a thriving climbing scene from strong and dedicated people from all over Belgium. You can read the details and rules of the facilities on the clubs website. The place comes alive with climbers at the weekend, people who are psyched to see their friends, have a beer and climb hard.

Limestone wall sitting by the river edge. Lost in the wall is a climber. Behind the grey limestone wall is another limestone buttress.
Unknown climber on the classic ‘Heroine’ 7a+

A very short walk from the parking area there are a couple of restaurants, with Le Colébi being the favourite among climbers. Here is the place to go if you want some fries, a beer and to meet people. It really feels like the complete package, there are loads of routes, somewhere to sleep, eat and meet other climbers all within a few minutes walk of the parking. Freyr has all the selling points of more popular climbing areas in Europe, but isn’t well known to many climbers outside of Belgium and the Netherlands. It definitely deserves more recognition as a climbing area, compared to Berdorf – which is more popular and widely known, Freyr has more than 4 times the amount of routes, many of which are equally good to those in Berdorf. That isn’t to say Berdorf isn’t great, more that Freyr is under appreciated as climbing area in relation to other comparable places.

Rest Day Activities

Freyr is in a really beautiful part of Belgium, and there are lots of great things to do nearby. The lovely small city of Dinant is around 6km away and has lots of nice cafes, restaurants and chocolate shops, as well as the impressive Citadel and Notre Dame de Dinant. The superb Brasserie Caracole is around 2.5km from Freyr. At Caracole they brew beer over a wood fire using only traditional techniques. They have a cosy bar where you can enjoy the delicious beers and it is also possible to take a tour of the brewery. The beers are strong (some are over 10%!!) so take it easy if you want to climb well the next day. They also have a shop so you can take home some souvenirs, Belgian style! The Château de Walzin is a stunning clifftop castle by a river, less than 4km from Freyr. There are lots of pleasant walking trails, and the area is popular with non climbers who come to enjoy scenic walks. So don’t worry if your fingers need a rest from climbing, there are loads of things to enjoy close by.

Colourful buildings  in Dinant on the river edge. Behind the building is a limestone cliff (not for climbing) and a large ornate church.
The gorgeous Dinant

Summary

We had a really fun time climbing in Freyr, we did lots of really high quality routes as well as enjoying the general area and meeting local climbers. We met up with some Belgian friends who have been visiting Freyr for years, and enjoying the place with people that know it intimately made the experience even better. Before we went, we really didn’t expect much from the area and assumed it would be a small crag with a handful of average routes, how wrong we were. Its fair to say we were really impressed when we saw it! In terms of quality, quantity and size it completely exceeded our expectations. Of course, we aren’t suggesting it’s the best crag in the world, but that Freyr really holds its own when compared to many similarly sized areas in Northern Europe. Go and enjoy it – that is the climbing as well as the beer & fries!

If you have a few weeks in the Freyr area then Berdorf in Luxembourg would be a great place to include. Berdorf is a wonderful sandstone sport climbing area around 150km south east of Freyr. Combined with other small climbing areas in southern Belgium there is a wealth of great quality and under appreciated climbing to enjoy.

Relevant Links and Information

Guidebooks

https://climb-europe.com/rockclimbingshop/freyr-sport-climbing-guidebook.html

https://27crags.com/crags

Access information for climbing in Freyr

https://www.clubalpin.be/location/freyr

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