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Climbing in Frankenjura

posted Aug 19, 2012, 2:56 PM by Italo Balestra   [ updated Jan 4, 2013, 11:06 AM by Italo Balestra ]
The northern Frankenjura, also known as “die Fränkische Schweiz” (or among german climbers simply “die Fränkische”), is the largest and most famous climbing area in Germany. Its name comes from the "Franken", the ancient German tribes that in the fifth century conquered Gaul establishing the kingdom of France, and Jura, from the Jurassic, the epoch of formation of the rocks in this area. In the nineteenth century the first German tourists visiting this area thought that it looked so similar to Switzerland (!!?? probably after smoking some heavy drugs of that period!), that they started calling it "Fränkische Schweiz" (the Franconian Switzerland).

Most of the crags are located in the triangle formed by the cities of Nürnberg, Bamberg, and Bayreuth. This is a huge area, where more than 10000 climbing routes have been established on more than 1000 walls and towers, and where new crags are still being discovered today!

Very well known among climbers, probably because it is home of the first 9a in world, the mythic “Action Directe” climbed in 1991 by Wolfgang Güllich, and because here the modern style of climbing, the “Rot Punkt” (Red Point) was born thanks to Kurt Albert, who in 1975 started marking all the routes he free climbed with a red dot at the start.

When to go
Frankenjura certainly doesn't have a sunny and warm mediterranean kind of climate, but you can climb here throughout the year. It may rain or snow very often and most of the crags are buried deep into the forest, so they won't dry very quickly, especially if it's cold. In winter, most of the time everything is covered in snow and it's freezing cold, with only very few walls getting some sun. In spring there are many climbing restrictions (see below), while autumn may be the best season to climb, since the temperatures are milder and as soon as the trees loose their leaves, you'll have a larger choice of sunny crags. In summer it may get very hot. However, most of the climbing walls are in the shade, days are longer, and if you are lucky with the weather, there is at least more chance that the constantly wet crags will dry. 

Climbing bans and restrictions

Be aware that climbing is banned on almost all of the best climbing crags in Frankenjura from the 1st of February to the 31st of July every year, because of nesting falcons and other protected birds. For the most updated information on prohibitions on specific walls, check this link: http://www.klettern.frankenjura.com/php3/sperrungen_ganz.php3
Please, respect the bans and even on those crags where climbing is still allowed, if you find a bird nest on a route, don't climb it. 
Sometimes you may also find a lace on the first bolt of a route. This means that the route is still an open project. Avoid also climbing on those, if you don't want to upset somebody. 

In Frankenjura, as in most of Germany, the UIAA grading system is used. However, be advised that if you follow a "standard" grading conversion table, you will probably find that the grades here are harder than elsewhere. This is particularly true for grades below 8, that is below 7a french. Grade 6 and 7 in particular are all over the place and may range from 6a to 7a french!


Frankenjura is the reign of pockets, so you better prepare your tendons before you plan a trip here, cause you are going to be pulling lots of nasty one- and two-finger pockets. The rock is a very cool limestone dotted with thousands of pockets of all shapes and sizes. You'll find basically every possible style of climbing: technical slabs, cracks, chimneys and roofs, but mostly bouldery sequences of finger pockets on bulges. Most routes are short and bouldery, the average length is 10-15m. Walls taller than 30m are rare.

For some unknown reasons, the style used to bolt routes in Frankenjura is often criminal. Typically, especially on the easiest routes (meaning grades below 7b), you'll find yourself soloing the first 6-8 m, where most of the time the crux is. The average distance between protections is 5 m and runouts on crux are almost ubiquitous. The worst insults to the bolters can be constantly heard in Frankenjura in all the possible languages! Accidents happen quite often. It's definitely, not a bad idea to bring some extra gear for protection, a clip-stick, and maybe even a crash pad.

Where to stay
There are several campgrounds scattered around the area. Unfortunately, most of them are close to a main road, in the shade, or in humid and cold locations. A still quite cheap alternative (typically 20 eur per night) is to stay at one of the hundreds of Gasthofs (Gesthouses) and Ferienwohnungen (vacation apartments) scattered everywhere.

How to get there
Public transport plus bike might get you everywhere, however (unfortunately) the easiest way to get there and to move from one crag to the other is by car.

Where to drink and eat
Frankenjura is full of good breweries and nice Biergarten ("beergardens"). Pretty much everywhere you'll be able to find nice places where you can relax and drink a good beer. But if you want to try the best food in Frankenjura just go to the Forsterstube in Haselbrunn, close to Pottenstein. This is a very original and cosy place run by a really nice family, who always welcomes you with friendly smiles, great beer and great food.

A selection of the best crags in Frankenjura

Guide books
Probably the best climbing guide book of Frankejura, including only a selection of the best crags, is the following:
[English] Frankejura Extreme – Sebastian Schwertner – Panico Alpinverlag 
Otherwise, if you really want to have the whole lot of crags, including many, many choss piles, go for the two-volumes guide book:
[German] Kletterführer Frankenjura Band 1 and Band 2 – Sebastian Schwertner – Panico Alpinverlag
 You can also find an online climbing guide on this nice website, partially translated in english:

Fränkische 2012