Generally the name Trifels is associated with Trifels Castle located on Trifels Rock. The castle which became notorious in 1193 when King Richard Lionheart of England was incarcerated there when returning from a crusade. Meanwhile his brother Prince John ruled the British Isles and we all know that part of history from the Robin Hood tales. The castle was even more significant than that and if you want you can look-up the History section below.
Trifels Castle and Rock are situated on a three peaked ridge in the Südpfalz climbing region in south-western Germany. It is a hill-like ridge with underlying couloured sandstone cliffs. In several parts of the ridge the earth has eroded away to leave the bare backs of the cliffs sticking out of the ground like huge dinosaur skeletons. Due to the forest coverage of the surrounding hills most of the cliffs are barely visible from afar. But once you hike near you will be surprised by the sudden appearance of a huge bulk of red rock right in front of you.
Actually the cliffs are sometimes very hard to find as the forest is dense and they virtually hide beneath the trees. The best indication that you close in on one of them is a certain amount of human chatter: all cliffs are very popular among the local (and not so local) climbers. On a fine weekend Jungturm, Anebos or Trifels can become quite crowded but given the sheer number of good routes you won't have trouble finding a good spot for yourself.
The Trifels Ridge (if I may call it that way) runs in north-southerly direction. It contains eight climbing cliffs, which are aligned neatly on the ridge. Only Trifels itself is located a bit to the east. From north to south you find:
- Bindersbacher Turm
The quality of the climbs varies a lot as you turn from one side of the ridge to the other. While the western faces all show neatly structured sandstone with difficulties varying between grades III and V, the eastern faces are often overhung and it is here that you find the most difficult routes. Moreover the eastern faces don't see much light and often are quite moist, which on sandstone can lead to a somewhat soapy quality. The northern and southern faces often offer the easiest access, sometimes even suited for a regular hiker.
Out of the many crags on the Trifels Ridge, Trifels stands out uniquely. The rock is open to three sides, a quality you rarely find in the Südpfalz Region. Moreover its base is a huge smooth slab-like pedestal for an overhanging sandstone crag. You find numerous routes and variations on Trifels, rated between 3 and 9+. Look at the route overview section for a table overview over the routes.
The popularity of the castle ensures that climbers get a lot of tourist exposure. The regular access road to the castle (closed for traffic) leads around the crag with overweight tourons puffing up to the castle museum. From the castle a path leads across a little bridge to the top of the crag which was a sentinel outpost in medieval times.
Last but not least let me say that Trifels is not the only castle on the Trifels Ridge. To the south you can find the ruins of Anebos and Scharfenberg. The former was built around one of the sandstone cliffs which still shows signs of its former use as Castle Tower. Of the latter (and southmost) castle only the tower is left standing with several ground works indicating the former size of the buildings.
A Tiny Bit of History
As said above the Trifels Ridge contains three castles, the most important of which is Trifels itself
- Trifels Castle
First documented in 1081Trifels was used by the German Emperors in the 12th and 13th centuries to keep the imperial insignia (crown, sword, cross, sceptre). Holding and owning the insignia was as important as being elected emperor and so the saying went: “who owns Trifels owns the Empire”.
As said in the overview Richard Lionheart of England was kept prisoner on Trifels for a year when he returned from his ill fated crusade in 1193. The castle was destroyed by lightning in 1602. Today most of the castle dates back to the restauration which took place in 1938 – 1947.
- Anebos Castle
Anebos Castle was built in the 12th century by the Knights of Anebos but already abandoned in 1264. Today nothing but some ground works tell of the castle history. Anebos Rock, which was used as Castle Tower, still shows signs of staircases and roofs as well as marks of buildings which leaned onto it.
- Scharfenberg Castle
Scharfenberg Castle was build in the 11th century and was minting place of Annweiler, which had minting rights (very rare in the empire). Threfore Scharfenberg is also known bei the name "Münz" telling of that old minting history. Today only the castle tower is left standing. Some of the basements and a couple of staircases can still be seen. The castle was destroyed in the "Bauernkriege" in 1525 which preceded the 30 years war.
Climbing Overview Trifels Ridge
The ridge between Trifels and Scharfeneck is one of the most important climbing areas of the whole Südpfalz region. Especially Jungturm and Münzfels offer a multitude of routes. Trifels itself offers some of the best slab climbing of the area, though you need good nerves because of the tourists who visit the castle.
The following information is linked from the site of the Vereinigung Pfälzer Kletterer I link to their routes database directly with some summary info. Here is the link to the complete database.
For more information see the book by U. Daigger and H.-J. Cron (see below)
|Trifels||Trifels||29 routes with variations ranging from 3 - 9-|
|Anebos||Anebos||12 routes with variations ranging from 2 - 9/|
|Kiefernfels||Kiefernfels||8 routes ranging from 1 - 8-|
|Brockel||Brockel||3 routes ranging from 1 - 4-/|
|Fensterfels||Fensterfels||8 routes ranging from 1 - 8/|
|Bindersbacher Turm||Bindersbacher Turm||7 routes ranging from 2 - 7+/|
|Jungturm||Jungturm||18 routes with variations ranging from 4+ - 10-/|
|Münzfels||Münzfels||23 routes with variations ranging from 4- - 10-/|
Getting ThereThe nearest international airports are Frankfurt/Main and Stuttgart. You can reach Trifels as follows:
- From Frankfurt
Take motorway A5 southward in direction Karlsruhe. At Darmstadt switch to A65 (also southward). At the intersection"Viernheimer Dreieck" switch to A6 west. At the intersection "Kreuz Frankenthal" switch to A61 southward, which you have to leave two intersections later ("Kreuz Mutterstadt") onto A65 south. At the exit Landau-Nord leave the motorway and take B10 westwards. The access road to Trifels is signed; leave B10 southward right after the two road tunnels at Annweiler.
- From Stuttgart
Take motorway A8 to Karlsruhe. Here take motorway A5 northward for one exit and leave for A65, direction Landau. At the exit Landau-Nord leave onto B10 west.
Red TapeYes, there is red tape and lots of it. The sandstone of Südpfalz forms lots of caves and overhangs. Though this makes it most interesting for climbers, two species of birds of prey compete for this habitat: the peregrine falcons and the eagle owls. Both are endangered and wherever there is a eagle owl pair found nesting in the sandstone the crag will immediately be closed. Generally this closure lasts from the beginning of each year through Aug. 1st. If breeding is not successful the closures will be cancelled even before that date. For a list of closures see the Closure List of PK.
The use of magnesia is not allowed in the whole Südpfalz region. This is rather a directive or an arrangement than an outright law. Thus you probably will get away with using it but do so only when absolutely necessary. Magnesia closes the pores which you find in the sandstone and together they form a smooth surface which will get very slippery or soapy in wet conditions. The rule of thumb is to use magnesia in the highest difficulty sections and only extremely sparingly.
There is a parking lot at the base of Trifels which costs € 1.50. Access to the castle - if you want to do the tourist thing - is at € 2.60 for adults.
When To ClimbThe crags can be climbed all year. In winter the east faces might be too wet with very slippery conditions. In summer they are just perfect. A climb in the shade on a hot summer day....
Of course the closure restrictions noted in the Red Tape Section apply.
AccommodationRather than repeating everything that has been said already on the Südpfalz page let me direct you directly to the "Accommodation, Food and Wine" Section.
Weather ConditionsLookup the weather conditions for the nearest cities, Pirmasens and Landau:
Maps 'n' BooksMaps
As for maps there is a good overview map (1:50000) by Kompass Verlag but the best ones are the official topographic maps by the state government of Rheinland Pfalz, scaled 1:50000, 1:25000 and 1:5000. All official maps can be found on the web page of Landesvermessungsamt Rheinland Pfalz
- Naturpark Pfälzer Wald
Kompass Map WK766
- Annweiler am Trifels
LVA RLP Map L6712
- Annweiler am Trifels
LVA RLP Map 6713
The Climbing books are very hard to get at. You'll get them only at assorted bookshops in the area.
B. & J.-Th. Titz
- Klettern im Buntsandstein
U. Daigger, H.-J. Cron
Westpfälzische Verlagsanstalt St. Ingbert
- Pfalz ++, Klettern im Buntsandstein
R. Burkard, P. Weinrich
- Klettern im Naturpark Pfälzerwald
- Klettern im Buntsandstein