Climbing in Frankenjura. The Mouse and the Swiss Cheese

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Believe it or not, there are places in this world that can exceed all expectations and beat even the craziest imagination. At times, this is because our own personality and mood greatly influences the world around us. It is within our powers to make it beautiful, but we can also make it seem dark. This is why so very often, when we look back at it, we can hardly realize what it was that made us form a certain opinion about a place. What is sure is that, most of the time, not even our imagination can compete with the reality we are faced with, which will eventually prove magnificent.

And the question is: how does a mouse feel inside a big chunk of Schweitzer? It tastes delicious, but it feels confusing at the same time due to all its labyrinthine holes. Sounds a bit like Frankenjura. How to take advantage of this rare opportunity? Let yourself get lost and enjoy every bite.

Historical heritage

The oddly shaped limestone formations at Frankenjura have seen their share of history as it was being written. Home to Action Directe, the world’s first 9a route ever to be climbed, the labyrinthine forests at Frankenjura have served as a playground for Germany’s top climbers. The world’s free climbing pioneers saw these forests as the perfect place to test their limits, which is why Frankenjura is the birthplace of the redpoint.

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Wolfgang Gullich, the first climber in history to climb a 9a route, Action Directe, back in 1990, roamed these woods far and wide. Story has it he invented the campus board as a training method for the overhanging and pockety lines here, which required a specific strength and finger training regime. So you can only imagine how challenging the climbs really are. At the same time, Frankenjura was Kurt Albert‘s homeland, the father of free climbing in Germany, and the one who invented the term we still use today to describe this type of ascent: the redpoint. Rotpunkt in German, the name comes after the red dot Albert painted at the base of each route he managed to successfully free climb.

Getting there

Take Nuremberg as a landmark. Frankenjura is a huge climbing area spreading across an extensive geographical area. On a map, Frankenjura looks like a large upside-down triangle with its edges marked by Nuremberg to the south, Bamberg to the northwest, and Beyreuth to the northeast. It is a thick forest laid above gentle hills, intertwined by streams and valleys, some wider, some quite narrow, dominated by these mushroom-shaped limestone figures scattered all around. So, a GPS is life-saving here. If not, you might get lost in Frankenjura like we did. Most crags are in the immediate vicinity of small villages and are relatively easy and fast to access, that is if you can read the topo and maps correctly.

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Difficulty

Anything you might be looking for, you will find it in Frankenjura. Bare in mind that the UIAA quotation is used here and in the topos. So whether your field of expertise is 3 or UIAA 9 (7c), you have plenty to choose from. Or maybe you wish to try the area’s hardest route, Corona, graded UIAA 11+ (9a+). You’re more than welcome to try them all. The average length is between 12 and 15 meters, mostly overhanging, so expect some powerful and interesting moves from all routes. And if I still haven’t convinced you, here are a few mind-blowing facts about the area: there are at least 12,000 routes, spread over 1,000 crags, and new ones are being bolted as we speak.

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Time of year

Frankenjura is definitely not a winter location. Summer is the best season, but thanks to its large number of crags characterized by different sun exposure, the area welcomes climbers from March until October, with sunny crags for cloudy or chilly days, and shady crags for those hot summer days.

Also known as Frankische Schweiz, meaning Franconian Switzerland, Frankenjura is one of the best sport climbing areas in Europe. For some reason, it is not as popular among foreigners as it deserves to be. Nevertheless, it is Germany’s number one climbing destination, and we all know it is an incredibly big country with some really high standards. How to describe it in just a few words? Well, I would pick Schweitzer-like limestones, pockets, forests, castles, beer, and cake. Which one is the best about it? I cannot imagine one without the other.

 

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