Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Austrian Road Trip - Klettersteig!

So apparently Frankenjura isn't the only place we're supposed to go on holiday. The weather is warming and it was time to take the van further afield. Having taken the van to so many cool places in Germany last year, we settled on a trip to check out Austria, and in particular their modern take on Via Ferrata.... or Klettersteig in German.

It basically works like this. Routes are graded A-G, where in reality A is a path with a rope, E is "extreme" which basically means up to French 6a but this can be in an Alpine situation or a 1000m face, where a fall could be very serious indeed. As for G... well we didn't get that far, and there is nothing harder than E/F in Austria.

The Klettersteig Guidance!
We started our trip with a night stopover in the Franken forest. While we didn't get a chance to climb it was a great start to the holidays!

Waking up to sunshine

It was then quickly on the road down to the far south east of Germany, to Konigssee, for our first Klettersteig experience and a lovely hour long boat ride to Obersee. Where you get to see a guy dressed in Lederhosen play a mini trumpet to the mountain... and the mountain plays back Yes Germany!

The first klettersteig, graded "E", was a non alpine but pretty long route (something like 500m up) and Jen's first Via Ferrata. Needless to say she was pretty excited!

Grunstein Klettersteig

Jen not containing her smile!

Getting started on the first hard stuff.... still having a blast!
Exposure creeping up

Yes, as fun as it looks...
After walking back down via an full Umpah band and biergarten at the top of the mountain we headed for a well deserved boat ride.


Frish Milch!

Obersee, Jen's take on the classic boat house shot

Leaving Konigssee

Austria was calling, so after some confusion with the toll system, (YES you need to pay tolls in Austria and NO there isn't any booths or much warning, you just need to know and get a sticker for 9eur a week), we head down to Hallstatt.

Hallstatt - thanks wikipedia!
Hallstatt is really nice, so much so that the Chinese have made a replica and it's basically an Asian pilgrimage to see the original... yep, really. However it's kept it's Austrian feel, and is surrounded by beautiful alpine mountains including the Dachstein range.

Echernwand in the background

Having driven down during the day, we made a speedy afternoon of the short but steep Echernwand. This was super fun, other than the "Panorama leiter".. which is basically a ladder overhanging over the edge of the cliff. Jen loved it. I shat myself.

Starting up the Echernwand (or should that be Urchin Wand?)

Jen definitely not taking Via Ferrata seriously.....

Can you see the whites of my knuckles? This I did not like.

Amazing views of the Hallstatt and Dachstein range in the background

Happier to be back on Rock (and Iron)

After a crazy night of red wine and cards (plus a couple of spectacular thunderstorms), we were ready for a bigger challenge....

Who needs Berlin Clubbing?

 Keen to attempt something more Alpine we head over to Krippenstein Nordwand, which is 2100m, and in May still very much covered in snow.

Oscar and Jen with the Krippenstein in the far background

The only way up this time of year is by cable car. It was getting pretty obvious that it was too early in the year to be trying this.... but someone was too excited!

Snow Fields below Krippenstien, and Jen's first Gondala ride!
Wondering if the Blizzard, and Snow Fields can be navigated through...
We took a walk out to the Five Fingers viewing point to take a look anyway, and instantly hit a problem. The way in to the Klettersteig was a 3m cornice and cliff edge, no sign of the cable hidden deep in the snow. Just about to give up and Jen convinced me on a slightly crazy idea, "let's downclimb the "hard" route, traverse along the bottom, then climb up the "extreme"..... Convinced we were going to hit a snow field half way round, but safe in the knowledge we could simply reverse it.... I humored her....

Left - way in totally covered in snow, so we downclimbed the hard route...
As it turned out the way down was totally snow free. But there were some serious snow fields still left on the face. We gave it a go.

The long and exposed traverse across the bottom of the north face
Here's where it goes up... can you spot the ladder? 400m of gently overhanging north face klettersteig
As it turns out most of the North Face was also free of snow, with the exception of one small field really close to the top, where clearly at least one other party had been mad enough to try it and dug the cable out for us...

Half way up the Krippenstein

Enjoying the Metal Pokey Rods. Not too hard but stamina needed!
So, we got there! and as it turns out the route was absolutely awesome. I definitely want to come back here later in the season and do some of the higher ones.

Back on the tourist route!
Proud, we treated ourselves to a visit to the Eishöhle - really impressive ice cave!

The Eishöhle
Next up was a visit to somewhere more rural. So we hopped in the van again and headed round to the other side of the Dachstein.... here it quickly changed. No American or Asian tourists in sight, just some local German and Austrian walking and Via Ferrata groups, and some really nice rural camping.

Away from the tourists, south of the Dachstein
Here, there is a lovely gorge called the Silberklamm. It has 3 klettersteigs. Apparently you are supposed to do one each day, and make half a week of it. Clearly not, we did all 3 in an afternoon, including a quick stop for a Cola in the refuge!

Jen showing her moves in the Silberklamm

Still not quite adhering to the Official Austrian Guidance for Safe Klettersteig
After the alpine day before, the routes were almost a bit tame, despite climbing the infamous "Rosina" which is basically a 400m vertical ladder. Very easy if you can hang on for that long, one handed moving over all the cables, and I am sure very tiring if you can't!

The awesome Vertical Ladder pitch of Rosina

The third of three Klettersteigs, hidden at the top of the Gorge
I loved the Silberklamm gorge.... even just to walk around the place is soooo peaceful!

After some debate as to what to do next, we eventually settled on a rest day. It was windy and a storm was brewing after all.... A visit to the local Therme and wander around some of the local sport crags, debating whether trying an 8 pitch 6- with 1x30m rope, 1xBelay device, and some quickdraws, while absolutely knackered... was a sensible idea or not.... nah.

The day after, it was back to Hallstatt for a 4 hour epic tour of the Salt Mine. No photos unfortunately but just to say it was super cool. We did the non-tourist extended tour...

And with the final weekend coming up I couldn't resist.... 2 days in the Franken! As it turned out it was the Marmot Kletterfestival. So after crushing some 8-'s at Verte Dimension, we head over to join the Freibad, Fun, and DWS Competition....

Nice weekend for the Kletterfest!
Jen hoping to catch a glimpse of Alex Megos' abs (who unsuprisingly won the competition)
Finally, a Sunday visit to the Norisbrettel, to do the mega no star classic 8 "Meglomania". Perhaps I got a bit power crazy on the onsight... falling off the last hard move and then spending another 6 attempts to get it. Jen flashed it and got straight on an 8a project.... schooled....

So after another amazing week in the Van, reality felt like a vague blur. It was time to come home, feed the bunnies, and sleep in a normal bed again....


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Smashing Frankenjura!

So, finally Germany has warmed up! After some strange weather including a full-on blizzard, it was time to head away for my 30th Birthday. Where else than Frankenjura? ;-)

Finally! A week out of the city
Starting our trip over a Bank Holiday weekend, this means camping in the wild and avoiding the tourists in the Southern area of Frankenjura. This ain't no concrete parking however, it's luxury wild-vanning!

Your own personal meadow hidden deep in the forest....

With the weather still a little brisk, we started our trip down in Steinberg. Here we were all alone deep in the forest, getting back in to the spirit of things.


With Jen's shoulder injured we kept it pretty chill, although I did manage to fall off a horizontal roof problem which gets a whopping 7- (Fr6a+). Classic start to the week! I made up for it however with a quick send of Geisterfanger 8- / Fr6c+.

We then popped over for an evening look at Ankatallwand to try the supermega classic Computerspiele 8 / Fr7a. I found it really polished, and my total anti-style, crimps and selective high feet. Jen loves the place however, so I am sure we are going back.

Image result for ankatalwand computerspieleImage result for ankatalwand computerspiele
Computerspiele and some harder stuff at Ankatallwand - nicked off the internet

After a night in the forest we headed over to Plecher Klippen, and old-skool and a little neglected crag where we mostly fell off 8s and 8+s in the sun. At least we ticked Wurzelsepp 6+.

Time for a break and over to our favorite animal park. 2.50EUR and you can hand feed the deer, what's not to love!

Some of the locals

Native Goats
And to top off a long day, a couple of burns on Top Tour 8/Fr7a at Foehrenstien. After a morning getting smashed at Plecher Klippen I was too tired to send it. But an early morning visit soon sorted that out. Jug climbing hidden in the forest!

We then continued to avoid the bank holiday tourists with a visit to Affentheater (Monkey Theater). to try the aptly named Hypersupermegatgaturbottittenaffengeil. (Stick that in Google Translate!) Unfortunately my redpoint was cut short by some extremely pushy Polish who had clearly got their heart set on the route, got lost on the way up, and couldn't quite handle someone else already being there. After a disagreement with them taking my quickdraws out so they could top rope it I had enough and we left. It was a bit of a reminder that while I'm feeling a lot more open to European culture, I still can't fully appreciate the way some Eastern Europeans come across, was it something lost in translation or simply rudeness? who knows. maybe both.

Lesson learned, don't leave Jen alone with the camera whilst climbing

We chilled out by a very steep walk through Kathedral, which reminded me a bit of Cathedral Caves in the Lake District, to a beautiful crag hidden deep in the hillside called Jonny Cash Wand. It was super dry and we sent a couple of 6a+/6b's in the evening sun.

Tuesday it rained. Hard. Something like 30mm. So we escaped to one of the Bayreuth classics: Obermain Therme

Hot Tubs and Whirl pools, a good escape from the rain
The day after the clouds departed leaving some very wet rock. We took a chilled out morning exploring some new crags, and the Rodelbahn! Jen took a phone interview for a job - from the Van! in the afternoon.

Escaping the rain with a game of cards and local brew
Rodelbahn Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnn!

Later that afternoon the rock dried up and we got straight back to it.With a visit to Amerikanische Botschaft. I love this crag. It's perfect 15m height, gets full sun, loads of feet, loads of hands, technical interesting moves and packed full of 8's Fr 7a / 7a+'s.

The Botschaft - it's a bit cheddary!

After an evening send of Desert Storm (8), we came back the next day to send some more. As well as me getting a 1st RP of Burger King 8+ / Fr7a+, Jen was also fully back on form including an onsight of Agent Orange 8-.

Warming up at the Botschaft - with some harder routes on the right wall

Then it was my Birthday! Whoop! Jen took my to Burg Rabenstien, probably the best place you can stay in the Frankenjura. It isn't cheap, but it is a real castle, and you get wined and dined in front of an open birchwood fire. Plus they have Falcons. It's awesome.

Image result for burg rabenstein
Cheesy 80's advert for "The Berg"
Not a bad living room

After being fully fed we head out to Zwergenschloss to get some awesome bday sends, including an 8+ called Berti Vogts Ged Weg . A great crag including a massive cave full of steep and juggy 8's to 9's (Fr7c) hidden in the back of the cave and requiring a head torch. It was a little like Gollums Cave on rope, and 10x the size!

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The Zwergenschloss - The Dwarves Castle! - nicked from online

That afternoon we head back down South to set up camp for the arrival of Bill, Pei, Sasha, Patrick, Jan, Tom, and Gabrielle. It was super awesome to see and climb with these guys on my 30th, in particular the weather finally broke and it turned out to be a beautifully warm weekend.

Working hard to set up camp.... van life is easy.
With Saturday upon us, we headed over to Stienberger Gemsenwand, a somewhat traditional crag, full 30m height and with the 6- being more like HVS with some massive run outs.

Stienberger Gemsenwand has an almost Alpine feel...
Jen, Tom and I head over to Sorangerwand for a play on some steeper stuff in the Sun, while the rest of the guys checked out some other local pinnacles. Kudos to Pei for his first climb!

Soranger Wand
Pei on his first outdoor climb - Jan's photo
Getting in to the holiday spirit - Bill's Photo
Sasha and Patrick enjoying hot weather  - Bill's photo
Finally we topped off the trip with a visit to Wiesse Wand. It turned out to be further from the motorway than we thought. But it was awesome. Properly rural and properly great climbing in the mid grade. One of my fave Franken crags.

Perfect top-out views from Weisse Wand, not a concrete road in sight!!
Thoroughly smashed we left for Berlin. An amazing 9 days in the Frankenjura.

Route Listing

Fr 5/5+
5- Daniel (Wiesse Wand)
5 Unknown (Stienberg)
6- / HVS Weisse Verschneidung Stienberger Gemsenwand
6 Bauchtanz (Wiesse Wand)
6 Flucht nach Oben  (Zwergenschloss)

6+ Am Rauschenden Bach (Stienberg)
6+ Wulst (Wiesse Wand)
6+ Himalaua Muller (Jonny Cash Wand)
6+ First Lady (Amerikanische Botschaft)
6+ Wurzelsepp (Plecher Klippen)
7- Fairplay (Wiesse Wand)
7- Hards Weckla (Wiesse Wand)
7- Ronald McDonald (Amerikanische Botschaft)
7- (RP!) L'Allpinist (Stienberg)
7- Louobba (Affentheatre)
7- Rotkappchen.... (Zwergenschloss)

7 Kasper Brigitte (Jonny Cash Wand)
7(/7+/8-) Paranoid  (Soranger Wand)
7 Verfassungsbechwerde (Wiesse Wand)
7 Lady Domina (Wiesse Wand)

7+ (Jen) Big Mac (Amerikanische Botschaft)
7+ (Jen) Im 27 Jahr des Zwerges  (Zwergenschloss)
8- (Jen) Agent Orange (Amerikanische Botschaft)
8- (RP) Geisterfanger (Stienberg)

8 Top Tour (Foehrenstien)
8 Desert Storm  (Amerikanische Botschaft)
8+ Burger King (Amerikanische Botschaft)
8+ Berti Vogts Ged Weg (Zwergenschloss)