Frankenjura is a well known climbing destination, although perhaps it is less popular now than areas like Kalymnos or El Chorro. The routes are old school, often being sportingly graded and sportingly bolted. Needless to say any route you climb near your limit, you will feel you’ve earned. Don’t be discouraged by this, endless amounts of quality rock make Frankenjura a really special place.
The area is beautiful, seemingly endless forests with thousands of crags and small quaint villages with excellent beer and cake. Bliss. Naturally there are no photos of the cakes or beer we enjoyed, nothing survived long enough to be photographed.
It is almost impossible to give specific recommendations for crags or routes. It is heavily dependent on the grade you climb, the season and the style of route you are looking for. The rock is what makes the area extra special. It is incredibly varied throughout the area, with some spectacular moves to be found on immaculate rock.
Sometimes the crags are small, with only a handful of routes. Maybe this seems discouraging at first, but the good news is there is always somewhere with good conditions.
At Weißenstein, one of the most well known crags in Frankenjura, I made an amusing mistake. I set off on an onsight attempt of Dampfhammer, a classic 7a. Unknown to me I was actually on Krampfhammer, the 7c next route along. I battled my way up with many falls and swear words. All the while thinking about what a vicious sandbag the route was. I was relieved to find out my mistake and also embarrassed as the route names are written at the bottom! I had mixed the names up and sandbagged myself.
Transport will be an invaluable asset to anyone climbing in Frankenjura. A car will give you the most flexibility, although an e-bike could also work. With the crags being so spread out walking wouldn’t be practical. It is worth visiting several different crags to take advantage of the varying styles as well as following the best conditions.
Training some power endurance before your trip will be time well spent. The routes are often not that long and can involve continuous hard climbing. If you’re more accustomed to a holiday diet of 35-40 meter long Spanish limestone routes you will receive a kicking on the shorter, more powerful Frankenjura routes.
Frankenjura is known for hard cranking on pockets, and there are definitely lots of them. Unlike Margalef, Frankenjura is limestone and not conglomerate, so it has a more varied selection of holds and you will encounter more than just pockets. However, if you’re not used to pockets at all it would be worth putting some hours in before your trip. That could be at a local crag, the climbing wall or on a fingerboard. It isn’t essential by any means, but it could give you a small advantage and maybe help avoid injury.
Single bolt lower offs are standard here. If you’re used to two bolts and a chain this can be a bit unnerving at first. Of course a single bolt is more than strong enough, but the lack of redundancy may feel odd to some. What was good, is that every bolt and lower off we used in Frankenjura was in good condition, we never encountered anything old or excessively worn.
Bring a clipstick. The bolting varies from ‘standard fare’ to ‘safe but exciting ride’ or ‘better not fall here’. We almost always preclipped the first bolt as sometimes the initial moves can be hard and nobody wants to bust their ankle – especially on holiday!
Enjoy the local area during your trip. There are numerous great pubs and breweries, cafes with great cake and impressive castles to see. Pottenstein has a nice outdoor swimming pool for after climbing or on hot days. The city of Bayreuth is really nice and is home to a Unesco listed opera house. There is plenty to do on rest days and the climbing is spread out over a huge area. Exploring even a small part of Frankenjura would take some time. It is easy to stay in the same areas as they are so good, but visiting different crags and towns will make your trip even better.
This article was never intended to be a destination guide to Frankenjura, or even to explain where to go and when. Hopefully what we have done is given a few useful nuggets of information that will give you an idea of what to expect. We also wanted to show that Frankenjura is a worthy rival to any European sport climbing area. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and would definitely go back again. Climbing destinations in Mediterranean are surely the most popular and not unjustifiably, they are fantastic. However, the enchanting forests of Frankenjura are something different, almost like the Fontainbleau of sport climbing? It is a special place, one to savour and enjoy.