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The FichtelGebirge: Granite Cragging in North Bavaria


by Jim Dockery

December 29, 2001

The Frankenjura, a limestone climbing region just north of Nuremberg, has become justifiably famous for some of the best craging in Germany. A number of Europe's hardest climbs are found on the small cliffs which dot the lush green rolling hills of the Bavarian countryside. As such this area has become a must on many rock climber's Euro. hit list. Few visitors realize however, that some of the best (and only) granite craging in central Europe lies an hours drive east.

The FichtelGebirge shares many characteristics with the Frankenjura. The climbs tend to be short and well protected by massive "Bhuler" bolts. The crags are widely scattered through the forest, making a car and guidebook (or local friend) a must. Topofuhrer FichtelGebirge und Steinwald by Bernhard Thum has reasonable maps (which must be supplemented with a regional highway map).

There are no official campgrounds that I know of in the area, but it is possible to just camp next to the dirt roads that Iead to most of the crags. It is also easy to ask a local farmer for permission to use his field. A more comfortable option would be to stay in one of the gausthouses that have a "zimmer frei" (room free) sign posted. The prices are very reasonable, and include breakfast. The food in these restaurants is fantastic, and reasonalbly priced, but tends to be rather heavy. The soups, bread, and salad plates are very good though, and should satisfy the weight and health concious. Don't miss out on the beer! My favorite is the local specialty found only north Bavaria, dunkle weissen (dark wheat beer). It is served in an extra tall glass with a wide top to accommodate the thick head of foam. Germans consider beer to be food, and so don't tax it like other alcoholic beverages. The price of a beer is the same as a soda! You can expect to pay more for fruit juice. Buying your own food in the stores found in the many small towns dotting the area shouldn't be a problem.

Access problems, which have become common in the states, also plague this area of Germany. A number of the best bouldering areas in the FichtelGebirge have been closed. There is talk of closing the entire Frankenjura. It's not land owners who are pushing these closures, but environmentalists who say that the climbers, with their rapidly increasing numbers, noise, bolts, and chalk, disturb the natural atmosphere, and environment (esp. nesting birds). Germans love to walk in the woods. It is quite common to see families, and older couples stopping by the crags to watch the climbing action. It always seemed to me that they enjoyed the show. The environmentalists argue that climbers destroy the natural experience for them. I don't see how the climbers do this any more than the hikers themselves, esp. if they avoid crags where nesting takes place durring that season. Even the German Alpine Club (a rather conservative organization), has said that sport climbers cause some such problems. In their feeble attempts to speak up for climbers, they claim that their members (traditionally alpinists) are not the problem.

One of my climbing partners, who is also a member of the environmental group pushing for these closures, feels that this has become a symbolic victory for them. He says that they have so little power to effect real change (limiting speed limits on the autobahn an example) that they have finally found an area where they can point to concrete "progress" and climbers are the scapegoats.

I can only hope that these crags are still open when readers of this article visit. If the crags are closed I don't know how they intend to police them. It may be possible to just climb, and see what happens.

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