Nikolausfels - or if you want to translate it, St. Nicholas Rock - is a small, but spectacularly located crag in the Rhein Main region of Germany. It stands out a little north of the confluence of the Nahe and Rhein Rivers and thus is part of the Hunsrück mountain range, one of the hill-like, tree covered ranges of central Germany. While most of the ranges - Hunsrück to the west of the Rhein River, Taunus to the east of it - are made up from schist formations every now and then you will come across single ridges made up from quartz blocks, standing out from their surroundings. And you can be sure to find climbers and boulderers along all of their faces almost any time of the year and any time of the day.
Nikolausfels seems to be a little different, thanks to the fact that the most popular climbing destination of our region, Morgenbachtal Valley, is located only a couple of miles to the north of it. There you find technical rock climbs of equal character and difficulty but the greater abundance of climbable rocks makes it the main destination around here. Nikolausfels is not even known to many of the local climbers and thus you can manage to have the crag for yourself.
Nikolausfels actually is a combination of two ridges, one short upper one and a long lower one located roughly to the south-east of the former. The upper ridge is mainly interesting for the scrambles among us (for instance myself) since you can easily get to its western end and then do an exposed ridge climb to the east side, never losing sight of the many perfect stands. For climbing purposes it is a bit too short thus only offering short routes for beginners.
The south-eastern long ridge stands out beautifully from the surroundings, which drop steeply into the Rhine River Valley. It is made up of quartz blocks which offer some really nice crack climbs. While even here some of the routes are facilitated by an abundance of good standpoints several others are very tough, thanks to the super smooth quartz rock. Difficulties range from 2 to 7+ (A1). One of the more popular (and easy) routes is the ridge traverse from east to west, finally reaching the Nonne Tower at the eastern end.
Several years ago the crag was only clean-climbed - thanks to the many cracks and other possibilities to put up pro. However, in recent years almost all routes have been bolted - even the ones on the upper ridge. Bolts have been placed about 1m (3ft) from each other, even directly bellow the summits of the Nonne, Aiguille Blanche and Torre Caputti Towers. While this naturally offers a lot of protection it appears to be a bit ridiculous for this kind of crag. The bolts are ultra-solid, probably withstanding a nuclear war - if the crack would survive.
The info in this section is taken from the book "Kletterführer Rhein Main Gebiet", which you can find in the Maps & Books section below. The upper short ridge is generally not considered to be worthwhile for climbing, being much too short and generally too easy. The following table gives an overview, though not all routes have been named. Lengths of the routes are between 10 and 40m.
|Torre Caputti – W edge||4|
|Torre Caputti – S face||5|
|Aiguille Blanche SE face||7- (VI, A1)|
|Abfalleimer||7- (a1, V+)|
|Nonne – SE face||6+|
|Nonne – E ridge||7+ (a1, VI-)|
|Rotwand||7-/7 (a2, V+)|
The central Rhein River Valley - Mittelrhein
The "route development" on Nikolausfels is made up for by the great location of the crag. It is located high above the Rhine River Valley, a bit North of the Nahe River confluence, to the west of the town of Bingen. Here ends the long and wide Rhine River Plain, a long tectonic fault, and the mighty river starts to wind through a narrow valley bounded by the Hunsrück and Taunus mountain ranges. This is the place tenths (or hundreds) of thousands of tourists visit each year, many of them taking the river boat cruises from Mainz, Wiesbaden or Bingen. A couple of years ago (2002?) the Mittelrhein stretch of the Rhine River and its surroundings was declared UNESCO world heritage site.
Rhine River Castles
Castles abound by the river, three of which are directly visible from Nikolausfels. Directly beneath the crag you can find Mäuseturm, Bingen's landmark, which together with Ehrenfels on the other bank of the river used to be a customs or toll point throughout the times starting from the middle ages. Heavy chains were dragged across the river to stop any oncoming boat and tolls were evicted off the merchant captains. You have to take into account that until the advent of the 21st century the Rhine River Valley was one of the most important traffic routes of Europe and thanks to the strong currents of the river especially at this point, vessels were not very manageable. Often pilots had to come aboard which made evicting tolls even easier.
Today the castle of Ehrenfels is but a ruin, while Mäuseturm is still intact. A bit downriver you find the castle of Rheinfels, which was rebuilt in the 19th century by the German emperor Wilhelm II, all of them perfectly visible from the Nikolausfels crag. Bingen has its own castle, Burg Klopp, and in Rüdesheim you find Brömserburg. Downriver there is a castle every other mile most of which however were ruined during the reign of the French king Louis XIV, in which for the first time artillery was used to end the sieges of enemy fortresses and castles. These were not built for warfare of this kind and had to surrender eventually.
The most important castles on the Rhine River are Marksburg near Braubach in the north of the Mittelrhein section, which is very popular thanks to its perfectly conserved condition. Rheinfels near St. Goar in the middle of Mittelrhein is a huge (some would say gigantic) fortress which today lies in ruins. Nevertheless it is a perfect object to demonstrate medivial castle architechture, since the fortress contains every single aspect of medivial castles. The castle is built in three layers: above ground you find the visible buildings - Palas, Bergfried, stables etc, in a second layer you find the sentry and lookout posts with their half hidden passageways hile in the third layer, firmly beneath the gound you find the mines, a means of hidden communication between the several castle buildings as well as the location of all the provisions. The third of the famous castles - like Mäuseturm (which is the fourth) is Pfalzgrafenstein, a toll station (like Mäuseturm) located in the middle of the Rhein River. The small castle is located at Kaub a bit north of Bingen and south of St. Goar and is formed like a boat, trying to negotiate the shallows of the notoriously dangerous (in that area) Rhine River.
No description of Mittelrhein would be complete without mentioning Loreley Rock. Right in the middle between Bingen and Koblenz, the principal towns of Mittelrhein, a bit south of the village of St. Goar the river winds, almost meanders through its valley, a breakthrough through the mountainous region on each side of its shores. The Rhine River being a mighty stream this valley is still 300m (900ft) wide but on both sides near vertical rocks bound the river.
The most impressive of these rocks is the Loreley Rock, a 132m high schist formation, around which the Rhine River flows in an almost 180° bend. There is a legend about the rock like there is about almost anything in the valley:
"Lorelei" Encyclopedia Mythica. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/lorelei.html
The legend is based on the fact that the river contained lots of shallows which were very hard to navigate with any vessel. The Rhine River is flowing very rapidly in the region and pilots had to be employed to negotiate the stretch between St. Goar and Bingen. This practise was kept up until the 1960s when most of the underwater rocks were exploded away to make the shpping lane more secure. However this resulted in flooding danger for the downriver cities of Bonn and Cologne since now the spring floodwaves of the Rhine tributaries hit the cities almost simultaneously.
Today, Loreley Rock is one of the main attractions along the river. All riverboats blast out the song based on Heinrich Heine's poem "Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten". On top of the rock there is a concert arena and one of the most interesting hiking trails of Germany, the Rheinsteig, runs across the summit of it.
Hildegard von Bingen
Moreover, this is the home of Hildegard von Bingen, a medevial theologician and visionary, author and composer of religious music. Beautified by the Roman Catholic Church she has so far not sanctified but still two convents are dedicated to her works and memory, a hospice in Bingen and a monastery in Rüdesheim.
By public transport
Bingen can be reached quite easily from almost anywhere. The easiest way is to use the train, since the main station of Bingen is located directly beneath the Nikolausfels Crag, perhaps 1km as the crow flies. Train schedules can be found at www.bahn.de.
By car you have to take A3 to intersection Mönchhof Dreieck. There turn onto A67 south until you reach the intersection Rüsselsheimer Dreieck where you turn onto A60 west. It takes you to exit Bingen Ost (30 min. drive) where you get off and turn onto B9 which circles around Bingen. At Bingerbrück turn off onto K41 (direction Stromberg) - it is probably the most horrible intersection which exists all over the world. After 700m, after the vinery "Schlößchen" turn into a small residential road, called Heilig-Kreuz Weg. This will take you directly to Nikolausfels.
Heilig-Kreuz-Weg, the residential road, which leads to Nikolausfels, is open for general traffic only during weekdays. On weekends and holidays you have to take a 2km access trail into account. No climbing restrictions.
Quite naturally the town of Bingen is not most famous for the climbing crags north of it. Take a look at the following site to find information about the town and its surroundings.
Bingen Tourist Information
To the other side of the Rhine, connected by car ferry with Bingen, you can find the town of Rüdesheim, which is probably much better known. The following link directs to their tourist information.
Rüdesheim Tourist Information
Weather ConditionsTake a look at the following links:
Maps & Books
You can get the official 50k and 25k maps as software CDs, to be found on the web page of Landesvermessungsamt Rheinland Pfalz.
- CD-ROM 1:50 000 Rheinland- Pfalz/Saarland 4.0
- CD-ROM 1:25 000 Nr. 3 Mittelrhein Taunus Rheinhessen
Also by Landesvermessungsamt Rheinland Pfalz you can get topographic maps of all scales:
- Kletterführer Rhein Main Gebiet
Panico Alpinverlag, 2002