Frankenjura: Hardcore German climbing worth training for

Indoor climbing in Germany is really hard work, and now I know why. The last time I went to a bouldering gym in Germany – Boulder Habitat in Bonn – I was in pain for days. It felt like I had never climbed before, despite training three times a week for over a year. But after climbing in Frankenjura, in northern Bavaria, I now realise why…If that is what they have to train for, no wonder all the indoor routes are overhanging and pumpy!

 

Walking to a crag
Walking to a crag

Frankenjura sits between Nuremberg, Bamberg and Bayreuth in Bavaria. Nuremberg is probably the closest airport to fly to, but Munich also works. Nuremberg is served by Ryanair flights from London, while Easyjet flies to Munich, so travel can be pretty cheap.

Accommodation options are plenty, ranging from self-catered flats to camping spots, and are also not too pricey. We stayed in a small village called Morschreuth, a 50 min drive from Nuremberg airport and a stone’s throw away from a wide selection of crags.

I booked this place originally, which would have been €14/night for a room in a dorm with no bedding, but then we ended up staying in the self-catering apartment with my brother, as they had extra space and only wanted €15/night each (this is the place where we ended up staying). If you have a tent you can easily find a camping spot for around €7/night. It is worth booking in advance though, as it does get busy in the summer.

Climbing in Frankenjura

Climbing in Frankenjura is famous for its overhanging limestone and hardcore routes. It is not quite a beginner’s haven, so probably was not the best choice for my first ever outdoor lead climb, but if you are looking to jump in at the deep end –  this is it!

Frankenjura 5

Anything above a French 6a feels pretty hard  because of the overhanging rock and fingery handholds, while the easy 5’s and 5+’s are often really sparsely bolted. It is like the German Alpine Club (Deutscher Alpenverein) decided there was no point bolting something as easy as a 5+, so they put up some token bolts just to show where the route goes. If you are starting easy, expect to be climbing for a good few metres between bolts!

That said, it is great training for the mind, especially if you are transitioning from a gym and a little fearful of falling, like me. I would suggest training indoors beforehand by missing bolts when lead climbing, and doing lots of fall practice, just to get a sense of what you will face on the rock.

I will admit, I did have  a few moments of slight panic. One was on an easy French 5, where I found myself standing on a ledge wondering if I really want to make the next move, just in case I might fall. The last clip was a couple of metres below my feet, and I could not see the next one. From the ledge, I had to squeeze my body into a crack and bridge all the way up it, until I could see the bolt. It turned out to be an easy climb, but a slip off it would have sent me straight onto the ledge. Not the nicest thought!

Most of the climbing in Frankenjura is sport, though some routes require extra protection. It is also worth keeping in mind that the grading in Germany is the same as the UIAA system, not the French system we are used to in the UK (so a 7 is around French 6b).

You can find a full table of conversions here.

You can find some 7,000 routes scattered across 1,000 crags in Frankenjura – pretty damn huge! most climbing books consist of two volumes just to cover it all.

You can find the English language guidebook here.

If you speak German this is your best option.

The location

Forest approach
Forest approach

Many crags for climbing in Frankenjura are hidden inside the thick Bavarian forests, and therefore often difficult to find or approach, with steep scrambles leading up to just-as-steep belay stances. In one spot, the belaying was so steep the only way to stay upright was to lean on a helpfully positioned tree.

The other thing to watch out for in these forests are the ticks, which are known to carry Lyme disease. These damn little things nearly ruined my holiday! I swear I found a tick on my leg on the second day of climbing, which prompted me to panic for a little while and assume there were ticks everywhere. On the plus side, it took my mind off my fear of falling.

The weather is quite mild, but it can get really wet. We went in July and on our last day the skies erupted. Think an endless wall of rain, not just a bit of a drizzle. Although we still tried to go climbing that day, and even though it was far too wet, we had an adventure looking for a hidden crag in a secluded forest, while all around us the rain pounded its relentless beat. It was every bit as cool as being caught in a tropical monsoon in South East Asia!

Après-climbing

But of course, when it rains it is time for the après-climbing. And one thing Bavaria knows how to do is beer! Bavarian beer is one of the best in the world – just ask for Kellerbier to get the local stuff on tap. And if it is a prolonged rainy period, I have found this post about beer breweries in Frankenjura – worth a visit, right?

Bratwurst!!
Bratwurst!!

If you are a meat eater, you will find a variety of sausages (Bratwurst) with loads of fried potatoes, as well as a pork shoulder dish called Schäuferla. For the pescetarians there is Forelle – trout, but Germany is not great for vegetarians, unfortunately. There are usually festivals around the regions where you can eat and drink with the locals.

German bakeries are also a must – one of the few shops open even on a Sunday, when most shops in Germany are shut. Kuchen, Strudel, Torte – some of my favourite German words, and you can find it all here. It is worth exhausting yourself in those badass climbing gyms and fighting your way up the overhanging rock just to stuff your face with all the bready goodness southern Germany has to offer!

Check out what my climbing partner Valentina has to say about her experience in Frankenjura on her blog. She writes in Italian and English, for all those Italian climbers out there!

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