Berdorf, Luxembourg

After a recommendation from a friend, we discovered a great little climbing area in Luxembourg called Berdorf. The climbing area is perfectly positioned to break up the drive to the alps. It's possible to reach Berdorf in a 4hr drive from Calais.

The climbing is in a forest on soft well-bolted sandstone. The climbing area is quite small, just one line of crags so probably a few days climbing here would be enough. However, I really enjoyed the couple of half days we spent climbing here, once on the drive out and one on the return journey.

Useful Info



Nice van spot

Sandstone

Clima Ovest 7c+


Voleur de Spits 7a+


Easy flip-flop 5min walk-in 

After climbing in Luxembourg a 4hr drive got us to Gravelines near Calais ready for a tunnel crossing. Enjoying final morning in the van after a month of van living :-) 


Frankenjura: Kaffee + Kuchen

After a short stop off in Konstanz for a friend's birthday party we headed north through Germany to an area known as Frankenjura (Franconian) located in Bavaria NE of Nurenberg. 

I had heard so much about Frankenjura climbing with rich history: the origin of the 'redpoint' and home to legendary routes such as Action Direct the world's first 9a graded climb. This UKC article and DMM video give a good intro of the area.  

What was not apparent before we arrived in Frankenjura was the distributed nature of the climbing. There are lots and lots of crags (over 1000 apparently with over 10,000 routes) but all crags are quite small; often with only a handful of worthwhile routes per crag. It took us a while to realise to get the best out of the climbing in Frankenjura you need to move around, lots! Most days we visited at least two different crags, often three! The crags are often very close together with short (10min max) walk-ins so this is not a big problem; it's actually a good thing since it gives time to rest in between routes and have some Kaffee and Kuchen! However, there is a fair amount of logistics and decision making trying to decide which crags to visit depending on the weather conditions each day. 

Frankenjura is known for short and powerful routes on finger pockets, a style epitomised by Action Direct. While this is generally true there are actually long routes in Frankenjura, there a quite a few crags with routes over 30m long. However, there are no slabs in Frankenjura, all the crags are verticle to overhanging. 

We were a bit unlucky with illness, injury, van breakdown and weather in Frankenjura: First Amy was ill, then I tweaked my finger, then the van broke :-(.  To start it was almost too hot to climb then it was too wet, it rained for three days non-stop! In between all this we did manage to do some climbing and some biking. However, since there was only the two of us and the climbing was all single pitch I don't have any climbing photos, only crag shots:

Weissenstein

Weissenstein

Krottenseer Turm


Rabenfels



Amazing steps up to Obere Schlossbergwände


Any discussion about Frankenjura should also include mention of Kaffee & Kuchen (coffee and cake) .....and beer! The area is famous for a culture of great homemade cake made with local fruit. The area also has the highest density of local traditional breweries in Bavaria, a high accolade indeed!


Kaffee

While in Frankenjura my exhaust dropped off my van. I managed to find a local garage which I reckon was the most picturesque garage I've ever seen! The garage like most buildings in Germany was totally plastered in solar PV... very inspiring. The garage welded my exhaust back together for 20 euros :-D

Picturesque garage in Frankenjura (Richard Grüner in Obertrubach)

Van making strange noise....ah that would be why! DMM cam and crabs to the rescue...

20 Euro german welding job....back on the road :-D

Useful Things 

  • Rock Store in Betzenstein is a well-stocked climbing shop with fast free WiFi, cheap good beer, a climbing wall, friendly staff who speak English and happy to recommend crags. 
  • All shops close all day on Sundays and most restaurants and cafes are also shut on Monday
  • It's possible to get drinking water to refill my van 25L bottle from the public toilets in Neuhaus, pliers are needed to turn on the tap. 
  • We hired bikes from Pension Mühle in Egloffstein

Appenzell, Switzerland

Appenzell

Next on my mini van tour I picked up Amy in Konstanz, Germany and headed back to Switzerland (1hr 30min drive) to an area called Appenzell in the NE which is mostly known for its cheese!

This area is not well known for it's climbing but the guidebook (Plaisir Extrem Ost) indicated some high mountain cragging and short multipitches (2-4 pitches) in a nice looking setting. Amy was keen not to miss out on cows with bells and mountain air.



The Appenzell mountains were super beautiful, a fantastic area for walking and with lots of undeveloped rock, there was literally limestone crags everywhere! We climbed on the line of cliffs called Ascher below Ebenalp peak. The climbing was actually quite good, 1-3 pitch routes with good bolts on compact solid limestone. The walk-in was about 1hr 30min of steep uphill, or a 20 euro each way lift option. We got the lift up the first day, stashed gear up at the crag then walked up the other days.

Ebenalp






Being an area popular with walkers had the advantages of some pretty amazing alpine huts for a post climbing beer. However, it's best not to get too carried away before the 1hr descent in the dark! 

Switzerland Alpine Cragging

After climbing Deep Blue Sea on the Eiger we felt pretty pleased, but we still had almost two weeks of Swiss alpine cragging exploration left of our trip! Armed with the Plasier Extrem guidebooks and some recommendations from Sophie Whyte this what we got up to:

Friendly noisy cows!

Getting the coffee on for another alpine start

Hintisberg


We actually climbed here before getting on the Eiger. Spectacularly positioned above Grindelwald the four pitch routes allowed us to practise our tag-line bag hauling and abseil system and remind us not to forget a GriGri!

Hintisberg cragging


We climbed the route Todi a fully bolted (6a+,7a,6b,7a), the first 7a pitch had one particularly hard move. Even though the crag is at 2000m it was still baking hot in the afternoon. It's possible to drive up very close to the crag on an amazing private route (10 CHF), the ascent up to 1600m on tight switchbacks was tough for my poor van (2nd gear for 30min!) and the descent down the next day was tough on the brakes; we had to stop a couple of times to let the pads cool down after total brake fade! However, it was worth the drive for the amazing van bivi spot overlooking the Eiger. That evening after climbing on Hintisberg we sat outside the van sipping red wine and watching the legendary Eiger North face turn golden red in the evening alpine glow as we made plans to get on Deep Blue Sea as soon as we had a half-decent weather forecast. See my Deep Blue Sea post.



Teufelstalwand


After getting down from the Eiger we where keen to climb some granite. As recommended by Sophie we headed over to Andermatt and climbed Alpentraum (6a,6c,6b,6a,7a,6c+,5c,6c,5a) 10 pitches of very well bolted granite cracks. This route was fantastic, a super fun day out. The route is relatively easily to access; a casual 20min filp-flop down a trail from the parking then three abseils got us at the bottom of the route which starts in a gorge. After topping out a few fixed lines and a trail can be followed for about 20min back to the parking.


Granite cracks!

More granite




Salbit


From Teufelstalwand you can’t help but notice the amazing looking granite spires high on the skyline, these high spires and ridges make up the Salbit range, a legendary Swiss granite climbing area. After enjoying the granite climbing in Teufelstalwand we were keen for more of the same. The next day we walked up to the Salbit hut where we had reserved a two-night stay, a mini break from our holiday! The Salbit hut was amazing, small, cosy and welcoming.

Salbit Hut

Cosy beds


After a steep and sweaty 3 hr walk up a cold beer on a sunny granite terrace went down a treat! The next day we climbed GKB 7 pitches (6a,6b,6a,6a+,7a,5c+,6a+) of granite slabs and layback faces, but mainly slabs...run out slabs! While runout slabs are maybe not my favourite climbing style the quality of the rock and the amazing position made for an enjoyable outing. We took some extra cams and nuts which occasionally came in useful to try and take the edge off  the run outs! The route topped out onto an amazing ridge.


Amazing suspension bridge saving us from an even longer walkin!

Jon 'styling' on the final pitch of GKB

Summit ridge of GKB





The next day with a variable weather forecast we climbed Leviathan (5c+,6a,6b+,6b,5c) before the long walk down and drive over to Voralpsee.

Granite crack on Leviathan 6b+



Voralpsee


I had first heard of Voralpsee as part of the James Pearson and Gaz Parry ‘climb an 8a a day’ in a different European country road trip. Voralpsee was the chosen crag in Switzerland where they climbed the Alaskan Kid 8a. The video footage of the crag looked incredible, a smooth, steep and slightly overhanging white limestone wall. The video of Jonathan Siegrist climbing Speed Intégrale 9a on the crag shows how much of an ultimate test of power ensure this crag is! The crag did not disappoint, unfortunately with only one afternoon’s climbing I came very close but did not quite manage to tick Alaskan Kid. However, the red-point process of memorising so many technical moves in a row was highly enjoyable. One the come back to!


Stunning Voralpsee wall


Deep Blue Sea 7b+ Eiger North Face


I hunkered face down onto the smooth glacial rock where we were biviing at 2700m on the West Flank of the Eiger, I tried my best to make the breathing hole in my bivi bag as small as possible around my mouth to stop the rain coming in. Luckily, after a while the rain eased, I peeled back the layers of down sleeping bag and gore-tex to see stars directly above us but dark clouds and lightning flashes all around us. The mountains looked amazing illuminated in a silver flash every few seconds. I shut my eyes and tried to get some sleep, but it was difficult to block out the constant strobe lighting; it was like trying to sleep in a silent disco!


First glimpse of the Eiger
Our riverside van spot in Grinderwald

Racking up for the Eiger in Grinderwald



Getting the train up Kleine Scheidegg, Eigher N.face in the background


Heavy bags walking up with West Ridge to our bivi
Stormy sky sunset from the bivi
The alarm went off at 4:30am; it was dark, but the sky was clear and the rock around us was surprisingly dry. It's on! Excitedly we brewed coffee, ate breakfast and geared up.

Gearing up 4:30am, leaving the Bivi




Jon and I were 'in position' to climb Deep Blue Sea a 9 pitch route (6b+,6b+,7a,7b+,7a+,7a+,7a,7b+,4c) on the Eiger North Face. The route was put up in 2001 by Rathmaier Ruhstaller and 'free-base' soloed in 2008 by Dean Potter. Some of Dean's chalk ‘tick-marks’ (we presume, since you can see them in his solo video) marking some holds are still present on the route, a sad reminder of a man who lived a full life, but also very helpful in helping us find the best holds! The route is bolted but 'sportingly' so; we had heard accounts of 15m run-outs and no-fall sections! We supplemented our rack of 15 quick-draws with a few small cams (up to gold DMM dragon) and a few small nuts.




After a scramble up the West ridge from our bivi we reached a notch where a flat rock platform is used by wingsuit flyers as a take-off point. Close to here was an absail anchor to allow us to access the north face. At 6:30am we started the first (of three) abseils down the face. The absails dropped us onto an exposed and choosy ledge system, traversing this was one of the more gripping parts of the day. The exposure on the north face was immense. It felt amazing and quite intimidating to be on this iconic face, the scene of many adventures! Due to climate change and global warming the classic mixed route up the north face is no longer climbable in summer, there was hardly any snow at all on the face, only a feeble little patch at the base. Looking up to our left we could see the ‘porthole’ a little door into the train tunnel which goes through the mountain.

Jon seconding P3





Our route Deep Blue Sea ascends a pillar of limestone on the right-hand side of the North face. Unlike the reputation of the Eiger north face, the rock on this pillar is steep and solid limestone which is not affected by rock fall.


7. Deep Blue Sea 7b+

Deep Blue Sea Topo

Jon strapped it on for the first pitch, clipping the 5 bolts in 45m of climbing! As with most of the pitches during the run-out sections there are not many options to place gear. Although we did manage to place a few solid(ish) cams on occasion to steady the nerves.


Seconding P5, thin 7a+


The first couple of pitches, while not bad were certainly not the highlight of the route, there were a few bits of loose rock in places. On P3 (7a) the rock changed, becoming more compact and perfectly formed (just as good as any limestone single pitch crag!). The route also steepened to overhanging giving dizzying/fantastic exposure straight down to Kleine Scheidegg. The route was chosen by Dean Potter as a suitable free-base solo due to its steepness and air beneath, a fall from any point above P2 would result in free-fall into space!


Leading P4, first 7b+ crux pitch


Celebrating with a Pocket Coffee (dark chocolate + espresso shot = epic energy), after the crux pitches :-) 


I lead the crux 7b+ pitches, the first was pumpy and fingery while the second was reachy and insecure. Both crux pitches were quite well bolted on the hard sections. The 7a and 7a+ pitches were surprisingly tough. Jon put in an amazing effort pulling through with tired arms on the final very runout 45m 7a pitch.

Jon leading P7, run-out 7a
Final few moves of the hard climbing P6 7b+!
Topout!

Descent to Kleine Scheidegg


We topped out onto the West ridge at 3000m at 3:30pm after 9hrs on the route (first absail to top-out). Our early alpine start paid off since no sooner had we walked down to Kleine Scheidegg and cracked open a victory beer the cloud rolled in and the rain started.


Victory beers in Kleine Scheidegg :-)

We opted for climbing on a single 70m rope with a 60m 6mm tag line. This system worked great to allow us to easily haul our bag using the tag line via a Petzl MicroTraction. We used GriGri’s to belay and absail which gave some extra security and allowed for (semi) hands-off belaying to enable snacking and bodily functions (although not recommended at the same time!). We bag hauled simultaneously as belaying the second so no time was wasted. Seconding the overhanging 7b+ crux pitches with a bag would have been totally desperate! On absails longer than 35m we used the tag line to haul down our leadline enabling us to do up to 60m retrievable abseils.