Living in Berlin, I’m always dying to get out of the city and, even more so, out to the mountains. Having fallen in love with Innsbruck, I was trying to convince my climbing partner from Stuttgart, Pjotr, to meet me there to go climbing. To save time and money on transportation, he suggested the Fränkische Schweitz (Franconian Switzerland) in the Frankenjura instead (the northern region of the Jura Mountains in Bavaria). So one Saturday in May, I took a train from Berlin (at the ungodly hour of 4am) and met Pjotr in Forchheim.
First stop was a supermarket to stock up on some food for the weekend and to check out the guide book he loaned out from the Stuttgarter DAV (DAV – Deutscher Alpenverein…if you’re outdoorsy and live in Germany, you should be a member! You’re insured for mountain accidents and can loan out guide books and gear from your local section. There’s also an Austrian section).
Having selected a crag, we set out to find it. Attempting to orient ourselves using the maps from the book and GPS was a little difficult but we managed to drive there and find the parking. Then we had to find the rocks. The instructions were more detailed and the crag was closer than we anticipated, so we actually walked right past the wall we wanted twice trying to find it. This area had the advantage of being really long with several walls of decent height (15-20m, or 50-65ft). A disadvantage was it was completely in the shade, which might sound nice for climbing in May, but it was actually pretty chilly. Apparently the shade had discouraged everyone else, because we were the only people there (another plus!).
Pjotr led the first two and I followed and cleaned them (for non-climbers, this means he set up the route, and I climbed it afterwards and retrieved the gear). Then we selected a route a little above our leading capabilities but set up a top rope which allowed us to try two more routes on a taller wall. We were so concentrated on climbing, we didn’t even take any pictures that day.
With the sun getting lower, we packed up the gear and headed to our campsite at Campingplatz Bärenschlucht just outside of Pottenstein. We cooked a “gourmet” dinner of rice with tomato soup (I was totally psyched to use my JetBoil for the first time! Thanks to my brother, Mike!!) before calling it a day.
In the morning, we had a big breakfast of oatmeal and müsli by the lake with fruit and tea. Ready to go, we found our way to another crag which was a sunnier climbing area with a lot of routes in our range. I guess those were requirements for everyone else in the Frankenjura that weekend because this crag was crowded! There were a lot of routes, but we had to wait our turn to climb just about every time.
We started off on an easier route in the corner before moving on to two more challenging but shorter routes. Then we waited around to climb something I could lead. I think we did one more after that and then it was already getting late again (next time I’ll try to pay more attention to crag and route names for the blog, but this time I was just so stoked to finally be climbing outside again).
Back at camp we met some guys from Bavaria while cooking rice and lentils for dinner. They shared their campfire with us, which was great because it was COLD! After a while they had noticed and commented that I had gotten quiet – it was about equal part tiredness and part lack of understanding their dialect!! (German has many different dialects, but to me they’re all like different languages. Even Germans sometimes can’t understand one another because the dialects vary so greatly).
Although I needed to also take the train back to Berlin, we managed to pack a lot into our final day. After breakfast and breaking camp, we drove to the Teufelshöhle (devil’s cave) in Pottenstein. The tour was guided, but loosely enough so that there was a lot of time to wander through the cave on your own. The tour was given in German, but there is a recording that plays after each section of the cave in English. The formations inside the cave are impressive and the best ones are highlighted with various colored lights.
Next we decided to go to a crag close by so we could spend the rest of the afternoon checking out the neat rock formations in Tüchersfeld. Because I’m just so famous, we found a wall near there called “Chrsitinenwand” where we climbed 2-3 routes. I finally led a climb completely, which I was happy about considering I had barely climbed in a year.
To end the trip, we hiked up to the top of some unique formations we had driven past all weekend each time we went through Tüchersfeld. After a few wrong turns we finally went through the cool rock tunnel to get to the top for a nice view of the town.
Trips like these are always too short. There is soooo much climbing in the Frankenjura, I will definitely be back some time to check out more!!