Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 48.60851°N / 10.17591°E
Activities Activities: Hiking, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Bouldering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Elevation: 1870 ft / 570 m
Sign the Climber's Log

1. Overview

Mittlere Wand and Wilder HundMittlere Wand and Wilder Hund in Elselsburger Tal

In the south of Germany, yet in the north of the Alps, you find a large Jurassic range of midsized mountains, the Schwäbische Alb. It is made up from three types of Jurassic rock, black, brown and white Jura (Lias, Dogger and Malm by their geological names). The most impressive parts of the range are those made up by the white Malm, pure calcite or limestone which can be found almost everywhere. Over the eons erosion has formed a huge karst region with all the typical characteristics typical for such areas. There are lots of caves and water tends to disappear underground. Whole rivers drain away like the Danube does near Immendingen. On the other hand there are multiple karst sources where whole rivers appear over the stretch of a few hundred metres.

One of these rivers is the Brenz River, which has its source near the village of Königsbronn in the easternmost part of Schwäbische Alb, the so-called Ostalb. A creek soon turns into a river and some 15 km later it lazily flows to west of the town of Herbrechtingen and reaches a picturesque little valley, Eselsburger Tal. There it performs a 180° loop to head back into Herbrechtingen, now running through the town centre. In this loop the river has washed out cliffs of solid limestone which nowadays form one of the most important sports climbing destinations of the Ostalb region.

There are nine climbing crags, seven of which are climbed regularly. Most of them are located east of the eastern branch of the Brenz River, only two can be found near the western one. There are more cliffs in the valley but since Eselsburger Tal was declared Nature Preserve back in 1983 climbing is only allowed on the designated rocks. Moreover, the remaining rocks often are very overgrown and often quite brittle so that climbing them doesn’t amount to much fun anyway.

At the mouth of the valley two of these restricted rocks guard the valley: the Steinerne Jungfrauen (Rocky Maidens). They are 10m high needles set some 15m apart and a legend has been spun around them (see next section). Today the needles are held together by a lot of metalware, otherwise most likely they would have collapsed years ago. Right next to them the most important – or most popular – of the climbing cliffs rise above the little road, which connects Herbrechtingen with the little village of Eselsburg at the turning far end of the Brenz River Loop. You will find a table with short descriptions of the climbing crags below.

Apart from climbing, Eselsburger Tal is also popular for other outdoor activities: hiking and biking are obvious but you can also canoe up or down on the Brenz River. Since the overall difference of elevation between source and mouth is a mere 76m the river flows so lazily that it is perfect for any kind of boating trip. There are many landing stages all around offering the opportunity to combine boating with climbing.

2. The Legend of the Steinerne Jungfrauen (Rocky Maidens)

Steinerne JungfrauenWestern Maiden
Steinerne JungfrauenEastern Maiden

Many centuries ago above the village of Eselsburg, high on the rock which today is called Burgfels, Eselsburg Castle was built. The masters of the castle where the Knights “Esel von Eselsburg”, the last of whom had only one child as offspring, a damsel. She was beautiful but tough and proud. None of the visiting knights who courted her were good enough and the obvious happened: the damsel got older and the courters started to lack. She started to hate all men with such hatred that she forbade the two maidens who served at the castle to ever talk to a man.

The two girls had to descent into the valley each night to fetch water out of the Brenz River. For a long time they abided by the ban since they feared the punishment of their mistress. After a long and cold winter on the first warm day of spring the two maiden were looking forward for the evening. Fetching the water was one of their main pleasures as afterwards they were free.

They set forth and after only half of the way they heard gentle music. A young fisherman was singing on the banks of the river. How they longed to hear! Hastily they scooped the water and hurried back towards the castle. Their mistress waited for them impatiently. From day to day the music appeared to be gentler and the maidens listened to it longer and longer and finally forgot the ban that their mistress had imposed on them.

Often they chatted with the young fisherman, sang and even entered his boat until the sun set. The Mistress became suspicious and also went down to the river to look for the girls. She looked dark and her thoughts were evil. Her hatred became so fierce that – when she caught sight of the maidens – she snarled the curse - May you turn to stone as punishment for your disobedience! The girls froze as they turned away to flee and since then the two rocks have been standing next to the bank of the Brenz River. The damsel was struck by lightning the following day as she haughtily looked out from the castle tower. The castle burned down and only its rocky foundations can be seen today.

3. Climbing Crags

Overview Map of Eselsburger Tal linked from

3.1 Jungfrauenwand

While the Steinerne Jungfrauen may not be climbed, right next to and towering above them, there is the first of the climbing crags of the valley, Jungfrauenwand (also Jungfrauenfels). Its height is not impressive and so usually it is only used as an alternative to nearby Mittlewand and Wilder Hund, if these crags are too crowded. Two faces are climbed – the NW and SE faces, both with solid routes of difficulties up to 7. Descent is either via rappelling or by scrambling down the hillwards slope.

3.2 Mittlere Wand

Mittlere WandMittlere Wand
Mittlere Wand (also Mittlewand, Mittelfels) ist he central of the three climbing crags at the entrance to Eselsburger Tal. It is also the most popular one with whole climbing courses climbing up the easier routes of the SE face. Like neighbouring Jungfrauenwand, which is separated from Mittelfels by a small, tree covered slope, Mittelwand offers the more difficult routes on its NW face. Overall difficulties range from 3 on the SE face to a solid 8 on both NW and SE faces.

3.3 Wilder Hund

Wilder HundWilder Hund
Wilder Hund is set a little apart from Jungfrauenwand and Mittelfels and is much smaller than the former two. Also, the rock is turned a little more northwards offering real North and south face climbs, together with a west ridge climb. On the north face you find slab-like routes, all very difficult, between 5 and 8+. Two of the routes haven’t been freed yet and go at 5 A1 and 6 A2 respectively.

3.4 Bachfels

The next set of three climbing rocks is located some kilometre southwards from Jungfrauenwand, Mittelwand and Wilder Hund. Of these, the first (northernmost) one is Bachfels. Its base is located at the lever of the Brenz River above which it rises for 25m. You find many crack and slab routes on the cliff, difficulties range from 3- through 9-.

3.5 GG-Pfeiler

If you leave the road at the base of Bachfels and climb across the slope to its north you’ll reach a pair of overhanging towers: GG-Pfeiler and Sonntagsfels. The former – being the smaller one – has only few routes, rated 6+ through 7+. All three run across the slab-like south face to the left of the small overhang. They are mostly used as warm-ups for neighbouring Sonntagsfels.

3.6 Sonntagsfels

The most visible feature of Sonntagsfels is a rectangular cave opening two thirds above the base. To its side a bulky overhang looms above the valley. Both features are part of some of the routes on Sonntagsfels’ south face but most lines run across the slab like right-hand part of the face. There are no easy routes onto the rock (if you don’t count the hike from the back side), difficulties range from 6+ to 9+.

3.7 Burgfels

Burgfels above EselsburgBurgfels
Burgfels is located directly above the village of Eselsburg and ist he location, where Eselsburg Castle used to be. You can access it through the village. Unlike the other crags, Burgfels shows a wide fron, home to about two dozen routes. The rock is brittle and thus less popular than most of the other crags. There are no easy routes, difficulties range between 5+ and 9-.

3.8 Falkenstein

Falkenstein is located on the far side of the western branch of the Brenz River Loop right underneath an old farm builing which stands where the old Falkenstein Castle used to be. Falkenstein Rock can be accessed from the farm across a narrow overgrown path which leads to a lookout platform on top of the rock. Unlike any other of the Eselsburg rocks, Falkenstein is very brittle and therefore difficult ant dangerous. Route difficulties range from 4- through 8+. The rock is closed to climbing in the bird nesting season from Jan 1st through July 31st.

3.9 Bindstein

Bindstein is located on the eastern bank of the western branch of the Brenz River. Thus it is far away from the other crags, yet as easily accessible. Right at its feet you find Bindsteinhütte, a hut where you can obtain food and drink on Saturdays and Sundays. Bindstein is a standalone rock, the highest of the lot. It offers a variety of slab climbs between 5+ and 9-. Also around the base of the rock several difficult bouldering problems await their solution. Bindstein is arguably the most beautiful of the towers in Eselsburger Tal.

4. Getting There

Jungfernwand, Mittelwand and Wilder HundJungfernwand, Mittelwand and Wilder Hund above the Brenz River

The Ostalb, the eastern part of Schwäbische Alb, is located far away from the next large town or city. Thus, the closest airports are several hundred kilometres away.
  • From Stuttgart
    • Take motorway A8 eastward in direction Munich
    • At Intersection “Kreuz Ulm-Elchingen” switch to A7 north.
    • At the exit “Giengen / Herbrechtingen” leave onto B19 direction Herbrechtingen.
    • In the town you’ll find signs leading to Eselsburger Tal.
  • From Munich
    • Take motorway A8 westward in direction Stuttgart
    • At Intersection “Kreuz Ulm-Elchingen” switch to A7 north.
    • At the exit “Giengen / Herbrechtingen” leave onto B19 direction Herbrechtingen.
    • In the town you’ll find signs leading to Eselsburger Tal.
  • From Nürnberg
    • Take motorway A6 westward in direction Mannheim
    • At Intersection “Kreuz Feuchtwangen / Crailsheim” switch to A7 south.
    • At the exit “Giengen / Herbrechtingen” leave onto B19 direction Herbrechtingen.
    • In the town you’ll find signs leading to Eselsburger Tal.
  • From Frankfurt
    • Take motorway A5 southward in direction Basel
    • At Intersection “Walldorfer Kreuz” switch to A6 east.
    • At Intersection “Kreuz Feuchtwangen / Crailsheim” switch to A7 south.
    • At the exit “Giengen / Herbrechtingen” leave onto B19 direction Herbrechtingen.
    • In the town you’ll find signs leading to Eselsburger Tal.

5. Red Tape

Araschnia levanaAraschnia levana
1983 the whole valley, 318 hectares in all have been declared nature preserve. 80 kinds of birds build their nests inside the valley and someone counted 640 different kinds of plants. Also, bats hibernate in the caves of Schwäbische Alb and since they are endangered a strict ban will be declared wherever bats will be found. Along the lazily flowing Brenz River you’ll find many water birds and the meadows around the eastern crags sport a multitude of wild flowers which in turn attract a multitude of insects.
Gonepteryx rhamniGonepteryx rhamni
Adscita staticesAdscita statices
Melanargia galatheaMelanargia galathea
Climbing is allowed only on the 9 designated crags, some of which (Bindstein, GG-Pfeiler, Burgfels) have a 20m zone in which climbing bouldering and scrambling are allowed. Falkenstein is closed every year from Jan 1st through July 31st apart from the hiking trail which leads to the platform on its top.

6. Accommodation

EselsburgThe village of Eselsburg above the Brenz River
You will find all kinds of accommodation on the following links. The most complete one is the one for Heidenheim, where there are links to the youth hostel and the campgrounds in the wider area.

7. Weather Conditions

8. Maps & Books

8.1 Maps

In Germany, the best maps you can get are usually the topographic ones by the state topographic agencies (Landesvermessungsamt). For Baden Würtemberg you can purchase the maps at their web shop. There are two sets of reasonable maps, one at 1:25000, one at 1:50000. The whole state is mapped so you actually only need to find the maps for your preferred region.

In the case of Eselsburger Tal you most likely will be forced to get more than one map since the map boundaries occur right in the middle of the valley. Maps are from 2005 and thus quite accurate.
1: 50000
  • Heidenheim an der Brenz / 2005
    Map No: L7326-G
    ISBN: 978-3-89021-662-1
  • Günzburg / 2005
    Map No: L7526-G
    ISBN: 978-3-89021-670-6

  • Heidenheim an der Brenz / 2005
    Map No: 7326-G
    ISBN: 978-3-89021-137-4
  • Giengen an der Brenz / 2005
    7327-G 978-3-89021-138-1
  • Sontheim an der Brenz / 2005
    Map No: 7427-G
    ISBN: 978-3-89021-154-1

8.2 Books

  • Kletterführer Schwäbische Alb: Ostalb: Bd 4
    Achim Pasold, Andreas Bogenschütz, Lauric Weber
    Panico Alpinverlag
    6th edition 2007
    ISBN: 978-3926807526

  • Schwäbische Alb, Ost
    Herbert Mayr
    Bergverlag Rother
    3rd edition 2003
    ISBN: 978-3763341177

9. External Links

The best information you can find about Eselsburger Tal on the web is