Intention of this pageThe area of Südpfalz (Southern Palatinate) is one of the most important climbing areas of Germany. However, if you are looking for guidebooks you will stay empty handed: though there are a small number of excellent guidebooks they all have been printed privately and are available only at book- and climbing shops of the region itself. Moreover, the most important guidebooks are out of print now and you'll have to hunt high and low to obtain one of the rare copies. If you are talking about web pages, there are a couple of excellent sites, the best being the site of the Association of Palatinate Climbers (Vereinigung der Pfälzer Kletterer). Here you can find huge lists of all major regions, crags and boulders. The info on routes, however, remains very short. Also, the site is in German and since many US soldiers are located in Kaiserslautern, some 30km to the north, it is worthwhile to have a page in English.
When hiking in the heart of the area, at the town of Dahn, I "conceived" this project: similarly to what Moni has done with the Sächsische Schweiz Page I want to start an area guide on Summitpost. My hope obviously is that the many climbers out there will start posting their route beta about the routes they have done in the area. I am aware that this task can become Herculean: there are 120 towers and 200 "massifs" in the Südpfalz region. If all ran well, we could expect up to 500+ routes on this page (In which case a subdivision into smaller areas surely would be opportune). But for the time being there is a white spot on the SP landscape which now will be filled.
And this area is huge. To the north the boundary can be assumed being B10, the road between Pirmasens in the west and Landau in the east. To the south the boundary is the French - German border. All in all this adds up to an area of 500 square km. There are roughly 120 towers, 200 massifs (think of them as sandstone ridges) and uncountable numbers of boulders. They all are distributed over the whole area so that finding them is certainly a major logistical problem. Moreover, many of the crags are hidden in pine and beech forests or can be seen only from one specific direction. I therefore plan to include the exact topo coordinates for the various crags and additionally (very) short getting there descriptions. I'm not sure how to handle the boulders, though, since they are not shown on any map.
The most impressive and best known rocks, however, don't fall in this category. This is particularly true about Teufelstisch (the Devil's Table, see signature picture) which looms high above the village of Hinterweidental and can be even seen from B10, the main access road. Some other crags crop out of the forest directly above the villages. Jungfernsprung in Dahn, Kreuzfels in Hauenstein and Herrenstein in Erfweiler are a few examples. Moreover there are quite a number of castles in the area, all located on one of the sandstone ridges and offering great views and good hiking and climbing possibilities.
The sandstone is what we call "Buntsandstein" in German, a colourful (mostly red) variation. The character of the rock is quite similar to the on of Sächsische Schweiz in Saxony, but shows more difference in quality. "Solid as a rock" on one hand, "sand heaps and rubble" on the other. Almost all of the crags and boulders are overgrown with vegetation. You will barely find a rock which doesn't sport a little tree on its shoulder; all the north faces are covered with moss and lichen. Though the rock "has good grip", be careful on wet surfaces. Though generally as "grippy" as the dry rock, you'll often encounter spots where lichen has started to grow - and these spots can be astonishingly slippery! You will encounter the same problem, wherever magnesia has been used. It closes the pores in the sandstone and forms smeary surfaces when wet. For the restrictions on the use of magnesia see the Red Tape Section.
And for all the climbing you shouldn't forget the hiking possibilities of the area. A well kept net of hiking trails connects the villages with each other as well as with the rock outcroppings. You'll never know what you encounter on your hike - suddenly - seemingly out of nowhere there will be a huge boulder or two or even a large cliff barely visible through the trees. In sunny weather the play of shadow and light among the pine trees causes great effects, which unfortunately cannot be caught in pictures very well. The bright red sandstone contrasts beautifully with the blue sky, the light sandy underground and the red (also) bark of the pines. If you come across one of these hidden treasures by all means try to climb them - the "back way" (from the ridge / slope in the back) usually is manageable for everybody who can take exposure. Head along the ridge of the sandstone cliff - and suddenly everything else drops back. Especially during sunset this can become magical.
Climbing HistoryThe history of climbing in the Südpfalz Region dates byck to the beginning of the 20th century. There had been ascents before but they had been using ladders, planks and whole tree trunks. In 1903 the first "free" ascent of Rödelstein was recorded by Karl and Oscar Mugler. Shortly afterwards a veritable climbing boom broke loose and most of the crags had been ascended by 1910 - 1920.
From then on the hunt for ever more difficult routes started, culminating in a XI- Route, Gambaxplosion on Retschenfels. Over the years there have been quite heated discussions about climbing ethics in the area, which by now have been settled by Climbing Guidelines, which have been generally accepted. The web page of the Pfalz Climbers Association lists them (in German) on this page. I will post a short transcript in the future in the Red Tape section.
Speaking of the Pfalz Climbers Association or "Vereinigung der Pfälzer-Kletterer" as it is known in German (also PK by its abbreviation), it has been founded in October 1919. After several disputes in the 1980s it now again is the generally accepted representative for all climbing related activities and all contacts with authorities and nature conservation agencies.
Its address is
Vereinigung der Pfälzer-Kletterer
History, the Castles of the area
Already mentioned in the overview section, there are a lot of castles in the area. By some accounts in the greater Pfalz region there were more than 500 of them. Most nowadays are ruins, often hidden in the forests and here, in the climbing area of Südpfalz they always have been built on sandstone rocks. In may cases they follow the ridgeline of the sandstone massifs all the way, which can be seen in the case of the three castles of Dahn in the picture above. Most of the castles were built between the 12th and 14th centuries, many got destroyed during the 30 Years War or the preceeding Peasant Uprising. Those which were left standing later got destroyed by French troops, an interesting example how an old technique (fortified castles) could not withstand progress (artillery).
As with the climbing rocks the castles don't stop at the French - German border. Landscape and culture still are very similar. The French Alsace as well as the German Pfalz have a chequered history, always having been at the centre of wars between the two countries. Still (or luckily) nowadays cross-border relations are very friendly.
The Cliffs, Südpfalz on SP
There are so many sandstone cliffs in the Wasgau area that a subdivision into regions is necessary. I follow the subdivision as given by the PK on their web site. I also follow their principal listings of crags though - for copyright reasons - won't give the specifics of the routes. Just go to their web site for this information. You will, however only get (very) short route characteristics. For more information see the book by U. Daiger and H.-J. Cron (see last section), where the PK data are coming from.
For me the main problem is to identify the crags, how to get there and what to expect in the vicinity. I therefore have studied the maps and made extensive hikes in the area. Together with the aforementioned book I could identify about 99% of the crags. These are listed in the tables below for each region together with a map, which shows the approximate location of the identified cliffs.
For identification I used the maps and topo CDs I have listed in the Maps & Books Section below. I always used elevations as stated on the maps. In case the cliffs didn't have an elevation label attached to them I used the 1:50000 CD for approximate data. Topo coordinates are accurate within 20m except for a few cases in which I had to do "intelligent guesses". The coordinates are given in WGS84 format and thus can be used together with Google Maps.
The regions are listed west to east. According to the schematic map above you'll find the following regions:
- Eppenbrunn and Surroundings
- Region Leimen / Merzalben
- Hinterweidenthal Area
- Region Schönau / Fischbach
- Bruchweiler / Budenthal Region
- Dahner Felsenland
- Bärenbrunner Tal
- Busenberg and Surroundings
- Erfweiler Area
- Hauenstein Region
- Region Rinnthal / Wilgartswiesen
- Lug and Surrounding Area
- Vorderweidenthal and Surrounding Area
- The Annweiler Region
1 - Eppenbrunn and Surroundings
The area around Eppenbrunn is the south-westernmost part of the Südpfalz climbing region. It touches the French-German border as well as the border between the German states Rheinland Pfalz and Saarland. The area is compact with few climbing destinations, all close to each other. It sports a Teufelstisch, not quite as impressive as the one near Hinterweidenthal, which you can admire in the sig pic.
2 - Region Leimen / Merzalben
The north-westernmost part of the Südfalz Climbing area is the region around the villages of Merzalben and Leimen. The crags are distributed evenly but many are very close to the villages. Zigeunerfels and Bruderfels are very close to the city of Pirmasens.
3 - Hinterweidenthal Area
Famous for the Teufelstisch (Devil’s Table) between Kaltenbach and Hinterweidenthal this region offers more than one of these bizarre formations. Near Salzwoog there is a second Devil’s Table and there are a number of impressive cliffs directly in Hinterweidenthal. Most of the other crags are hidden in the forests, however.
4 - Region Schönau / Fischbach
The region around the villages of Fischbach an Schönau extends across the border onto French soil (Alsace). Some of the more interesting rocks are located across the border underneath the castles (or ruins) Löwenstein, Hohenburg and Wegelnburg.
5 - Bruchweiler / Budenthal Region
The village of Bruchweiler – Bärenbach is the centre for the climbing activities in the Südpfalz Region. This are is rather small but consists of quite a number of crags, located very close to each other. All can be reached from the village in no more than a 30min hike. Also, the Dahn and Erfweiler Regions with their fascinating towers are close by so you have the choice among a lot of sandstone crags.
6 - Dahner Felsenland
Dahn is the “capital of the Südpfalz climbing region. Located in its middle, Dahn is surrounded by the most beautiful cliffs you can find. The distances to Erfweiler and Hinterweidenthal are short and you have the choice of so many climbing routes. Moreover with Jungfernsprung in the north, Hochstein in the south and the three impressive castle ruins of Altendahn the town is a tourist hotspot. There are also the fourth castle Neu Dahn and the twin towers of Braut und Bräutigam (Bride and Bridegroom) which add to the fascination of the place.
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