Frankenjura - Limestone in the Limelightby Sarah Burmester Jan/2013
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The German limestone area of the Frankenjura is home to some landmark routes of sport climbing history. But it's not all about pulling hard. You'll find thousands of sport routes of all grades smattered across countless crags of perfect white and grey limestone, some steep, some long, some both. And if you tire of the many finger pockets, then small family-owned breweries with world class beers, pubs with local speciality food and shops with great cakes will replenish your energy and add another element to your holiday.
The Frankenjura or "Fränkische Schweiz" is a rural area located in northern Bavaria, between the cities of Bamberg, Bayreuth and Nuremberg. Climbing options are extensive: Nowadays most guidebooks consist of two volumes which cover more than 7000 routes on approximately 1000 crags. There is some bouldering, but that's not what you come here for - trust me and bring your rope.
The routes are mainly single pitch. All are bolted, but bring a small rack for the easier routes (up to UIAA 6) - as some, especially the older ones, might feel a bit adventurous without adding a piece of gear every now and then. From UIAA 7 upwards the routes are generally well protected with frequent bolts. The grades can also differ between older routes (from the early days of sport climbing development) that can be graded quite harshly and newer ones that feature a slightly softer grading.
The crags are spread out over a fairly large area, but the recommended camp sites (see information at the base of the article) will offer a good starting point for the central valleys. Those who are keen to explore the Frankenjura in all of its grandeur can expect to do some driving around - though in a beautiful landscape in between picturesque villages.
The limestone crags of the Frankenjura are spread out. While this can seem like a disadvantage, it's not: the many different massifs bring an astonishing variety to the area. You will be able to find a crag for almost every weather and difficulty. On a hot and humid day, north facing walls like the shady "Kalte Wand" ("Cold Wall") or faces hidden in the woods offer inspiring climbing in what feels like untouched places. However if the sun is still weak, you will find climbs on free standing or south facing walls like the ever classic "Bärenschlucht" ("Bear's Gorge") that allow climbing in winter. Even in torrential rain you can find crags that allow climbing: steep crags like the "Weissenstein" and the "Schlossbergwand" stay dry for a long time.
Grades: The grades used in the Frankenjura are the UIAA scale. You can see a rough comparison on the Rockfax grade table on the right. As a quick guide - UIAA VI = F5+, UIAA VII = F6b and UIAA VIII = F7a.
Some Recommended Routes:
Some Recommended Crags:
Action Directe was first climbed by the late Wolfgang Güllich, a climber who is credited with inventing the 'campus board', the runged training board seen in the start of the video below. Wolfgang was one of the World's top climbers, he pushed World climbing standards and became a legendary figure and a climbing icon. He was part of the first ascent team of Eternal Flame on Trango Tower and put up hard routes the world over. Wolfgang was sadly killed in a car accident when he was still at the pinnacle of his climbing career. Action Directe is his hardest route and still ranks as one of the hardest in the Frankenjura, if not the World.
When do I go?
Early summer and autumn are ideal, but because there are lots of north facing walls mid-summer is also a good time. At other times of the year, your choice of crags might be limited. In winter it might be possible to climb (if it is not too wet), but I wouldn't recommend it for a visit.
Fly to Frankfurt, hire a car and drive via Würzburg towards the Frankenjura. Alternatively, fly directly to Nuremberg or to Munich and then drive North. Or just drive all the way!
A car is necessary to get to the crags, public transport might cover your major travel there and back, but it won't get you to the crags. For all driving around, a local map is needed. I like the hiking map pictured below (it shows all the little roads and most of the crags): "Naturpark Fränkische Schweiz - Veldensteiner Forst - Hersbrucker Alb 'Blatt Süd'; Fritsch", 1:50 000
Many of the usual suspects make regular flights to Frankfurt, you could try:
Where do I stay?
The Frankenjura is a touristy place, its untouched beauty and pretty landscapes bring not only climbers but also hikers and families. So there are many camp-sites, guest-houses and hotels. Famous among climbers are:
What's eating out like?
In nearly every village you can find pubs ("Gasthof" or "Gasthaus") that serve a selection of local food and - more importantly - local beers.
The beers in the Frankenjura count among the best in the world, and don't let yourself get confused when you read "Becks" on a menu. Just ask for "Kellerbier" and you will be served a local brew. All of them adhere to the German Reinheitsgebot ("Law of purity" for beer) and most of them are excellent.
Food wise, the local speciality to try is the "Schäuferla" (pronounced 'Shoiferla'), that is pork shoulder, or "Forelle" (trout).
Where can I shop for food?
Supermarkets can be found in larger towns such as Pottenstein, Waischenfeld or Gößweinstein.
Where can I buy gear and guidebooks?
You can order guidebooks online at the Panico Verlag.
What else is there apart from the climbing?
Hiking and kayaking are the obvious things to do. If it is hot, try the summer bob run or rock swimming pool in Pottenstein, if it rains, have a look at the towns of Nuremberg or Bamberg, which both have lovely historic centres. Also hiring a bike might be a good idea on a rest day.
Anything else I should know?
There are many ticks out there, which can carry both TBE and Lyme disease.
If it has rained for several days, in some crags the water will seep days later, even if everything else has dried off. This can lead to strange conditions, see: Schlossbergwand, which is mostly dry when it rains and rather wet when it's dry!
Only very few of the pubs offer vegetarian foods.
In mid-summer at some crags the mosquitoes can be fierce.
The shops in Germany shut on Sundays. Larger petrol stations will be open, but that is it. Go shopping on Saturday!
http://www.climb.frankenjura.com/deutsch/index.php3 (English, topos, route database, bird bans, further useful information)
Extra thanks go to the contributing photographers Jiri Sika and Jörg Zeidelhack.