Carnival 2005: my hometown, Mainz, is about to explode in its annual foolishness. My girlfriend will be in Stockholm over the weekend working as program manager for the go-live of a software project. What am I supposed to do?
Friday, Feb 4th
All day long the sun is shining. In the afternoon I look out of my office window in Frankfurt and see crispy clear skies over forested hills. Scanning through the What’s New Page of Summitpost my longing for some real mountains increases. I briefly speculate about driving all the way to the German Alps for the weekend. The driving time would be ok – 4h, but there will be thousands of fellow carnival victims trying to escape on the autobahn. 4h easily turn into 8h. Nothing I would like to do.
At night, after a lone dinner I log onto SP once more. I want to have a look at several new pages and there is a discussion on the general board about a collapsed tower somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. The picture looks intriguing – I listlessly click to view the page, Martin Cash’s Peshastin Pinnacles Page. Great photos of an interesting area draw my attention. I start to read: “The Peshastin Pinnacles are a group of sandstone spires up to 200 feet high…” and quite suddenly my weekend problem is solved. Sandstone towers – we have them right here in my home state, a region where I have been before but that was long ago, 90 minutes away by car…
I vote and brabble something quite incoherent about leaving for sandstone – I have had a couple of glasses of wine before. Hopefully Martin doesn’t mind. Then I grab a map and hunt for my destination. The town of Dahn it will be, right at the centre of the Felsenland (Rock Country) region.
Saturday, Feb 5th
Waking up early I try to figure out what has to be done before leaving. Groan! Since I’m alone at home I’ll have to do the laundry and try to get some groceries. But at 10 a.m. I’m on the road. The weather is picture perfect and I start to sing along with my iPod plugged in my ears. At 11:30 I’m at Dahn. They have a spa hotel there with the corresponding gardens. And a large parking lot. So here I’m going to start.
The goal is quite ambitious. No girlfriend to slow me down, I plan to do an 18 mile loop. The area is hilly with lots of ups and downs but I figure that this won’t keep me from rushing through it. Only the sun will set early. It’s still winter.
The first destination: Jungfernsprung, a sandstone cliff towering over the main road of Dahn. There is a “Pensioner’s Trail” but I opt for the more “difficult” back way. The rock has some difficult routes (up to UIAA 7+) directly above the road. Nobody is climbing today and in fact the location is empty. I enjoy the vertical views and turn around to hike along the “massif”, the ridge leading from Jungfernsprung into the forest.
Among the sparse pines the sun shines on some bizarre boulders and I just can’t help myself – I have to climb every other one of them. I have these big expedition style boots with which I usually hike, not the best equipment for bouldering and I certainly do only the easiest routes. The southern sides are reasonably dry and the sandstone offers very good grips. It simply is fun to scramble around. After 1 1/2h I’m still on the Jungfernsprung Massif. I’ll never do this 18 mile loop!
After leaving Dahn to the east and having had a short (30min) bouldering action on Kuckucksfels I head through the forest in direction of a rock that my map indicates to be called Römerfels. You don’t see anything in this forest, until you are directly in front of it. And sureenough, here is Römerfels, sprung out on me from behind some pines. A looming vertical rock with caves and with a size of 30m (100ft). On the northern side there is a steel ladder – a ferrata in Felsenland! I wouldn’t have believed it! Anyway, it appears to be better suited to my footwear…
Up I climb but the view is somewhat disappointing. I can see the three castles of Dahn, which are located on a sandstone ridge like the one I’m standing on. But in that direction the weather is far too hazy. Indeed it seems to be getting worse. After climbing down I head through the forest once more and start thinking about this page one could set up for this region. Would it be an interesting addition? What can be said about the area?
But musing about future SP projects I lose my way – impossible in Germany – there always is a trail or road somewhere! But no, the only path I see is the one I have come. And I don’t want to return. So I head down a slope and finally find myself on a broad ridge. Actually it looks like this could be a path. And yes, there is an empty pack of Marlboros and I feel confident once more. At least I’m not the first one to get lost here.
I follow the ridge which gets slowly narrower. And – you have guessed it – ends in a sandstone cliff. An unnamed one hidden among the trees. From its top I can see Rappenfels ahead, one of the crags I had been to in earlier years. This was supposed to be one of the destinations of the loop! So I have to scramble down and manage to do so without slipping and falling more than once. The bouldering action turns into a real climb in some spaces and yes, I’m alone with absolutely no equipment. And oh, these boots!
When I leave the forest I happen to be at the eastern end of Erfweiler, a small but very beautiful village still very close to Dahn. The loop is forgotten and I just decide to sneak a peek at Rappenfels and then return to Dahn via the three castles. On Rappenfels there are two climbers whom I observe for a couple of minutes. They seem to have to fight with their choice of overgrown route and are hidden much of the time by trees growing out of the sides of this vertical rock.
I walk through Erfweiler, heading for the castles when I see a disturbing sight to my left: the crag of Heegerturm looming directly above the houses of the village, ready to be climbed from somebody’s backyard. What if it would collapse like the one of the Peshastin Pinnacles? I have not much time anymore so I hurry towards the castles. The weather has turned for the better again and I can enjoy some great views from and of the castles. At this time of the year (and day) there are only few tourons but I’m sure in summer you will have to wade through them.
But even here I have to hurry. I want to reach my last destination, Hochstein, which I had seen from Römerstein from afar. And there seemed to be an interesting tower. I want to take a shot of it. But – I get lost once again. Instead of following the road I use a trail and this ends on top of the Hochstein Ridge. This time I am quite glad about it since I once more have the opportunity to climb several boulders. I do so hoping to get good shots, but most of the times the trees are in the way. I’m getting used to my boots now – no worries anymore. When I leave, however, it is already quite dark in the forest and only at the western end, where I hope to find the tower, there seems to be enough light.
But I am mistaken. After getting out of the forest once more I see that the sun is still reasonably high up in the sky. And Hochstein and the Hochstein needle are still bathed in sunlight. There is a climbing team on the needle and I take my time to watch them negotiate the upper part of the climb. I can take a rest and fool around with my cameras. After 30min (and no visible progress on the part of the climbers) I get up and leave for my car in Dahn.
Since the sun is still high enough in the sky I plan to drive by Teufelstisch (Devil’s Table) a spectacular formation a little to the north of Dahn. I plan to wait until the sun sets on this rock and this is what I do. I must say I’m happy that I did. This is the result:
All in all I must say that this carnival weekend, which promised to be so depressing, turned out to be perfect. I returned to the area the next day but it was foggy and I barely could see any of the crags. But that one Saturday sure did it for me! Thanks for reminding me, Martin!