Drachenfels Castle main tower. No climbing but lots of protected hiking
The Südpfalz Region
might be best known for its roughly 400 sandstone formations, especially among the climbers in the area, but there are other aspect which similarly draw your attention. Here in the southern Wasgau Area
there are an unrivalled number of medieval castles - or what remains of them. Altendahn, Neudahn, Berwartstein - Lindelbrunn, Wegelnburg, Fleckenstein - Trifels, Anebos, Scharfenberg - the list could go on and on. Quite often, castles and climbing go together and already many a castle has made its way up on SP. There are castles dating back to Roman times like Heidelsburg
or celtic retreat castles like Burghaldefels
but most date back to the 13th or 14th centuries. One of these castles, one of the best known ones, is Drachenfels
, about 1km to the south of Busenberg
- Dragon's Rock: the legend has it that the castle was named after the carving of a dragon, which still can be seen today where once was the main hall. However, the story might also be reversed with the carving being provoked by the name. Anyway: in the 13th century a knight of Drachenfels is mentioned and archeologists confirm that the castle appears to have been built during that era. The existing sandstone towers were used as a base for the buildings which then were erected around and on top of them. The Drachenfels family, however, lost the ownership of the castle early on, which then changed hands again and again during its 250 year existance. In 1522 it was besieged by troops of the German Empire and finally handed over without a fight. The siege troops looted the castle and burnt it to the ground. The local population did the rest, using it as a quarry for the local church so that today only few signs remain.
Artistic rendering of Drachenfels Castle (click for the original site)
The aforementioned dragon is one of them. Also, there are staircases, hewn into the rock and rectangular holes were the ceiling beams used to be. Apart from that the rock is almost back to its original state. "Almost" is a reative expression and the main tower, formally the main part of the castle, has been equipped with ladders, staircases and railings for the tourists to explore the formation. Thus, you can easily get to the top, which locals affectionately call "Backenzahn" - "The Molar". A quick look and you can see why.
Separated from the main tower by a deep ditch, the former moat, to the west of it you can find a standalone tower, Schulerturm
. This tower, during the 200 year history of the castle, was also surrounded by buildings. These buildings were burned down as well but nobody took the effort of equipping it with ferrata-like iron ladders. It is in its original state and with its north and west faces it towers above the valleys underneath. Here some very interesting lines have been established. While there is an early route of difficulty IV+ all of the other lines ar VI- and higher. Even the norla route is graded VI+ already. Climbing Schulerturm is a step back in time. While there are quite regular pitches, sometimes the beam-holes or parts of ancient staircases are built into the line. One of the easier routes follows a battlement around the tower.
The south face with its honeycomb structures and one of the Südpfalz Regions most important roof routes (Fingerrißdach VIII-) in particular is one of the most popular climbing locations. On the honeycomb wall you can also find a number of serious bolder problems. You have to be aware that tourists will follow your every move, which on the longer north face climbs will not happen. However, as often is the case on the Südpfalz crags, the north and west faces are often covered with moss or lichen. Access can be troublesome because of the blackbery brambles which form veritable thickts towards the end of summer. But once on top you can enjoy the views which reach far to the south across the German-French border.
Climbing Routes on Schulerturm
Schulerturm's south face, the Honeycomb Wall
The following table has a link to the tour database of the PK, where you can find the grades for the free routes plus additional information. Here
is the link to the complete route database.
The size of this table stands in stark contrast to the importance of the tower. The number of documented routes speaks a different language. There are 84 routes, which are described in the climbing guidebook and no doubt many more, especially variations have been established without the knowledge of the authors.
While the main summit of Drachenfels has been equipped with ladders, staircases and guardrails, the western Schulerturm is reserved for climbers. It is one of the most difficult towers in the Südpfalz area - it's normal route is already graded VI+! A few routes have been established early on - along the south-eastern edge of the formation a small tree facilitated the first ascent in 1927. A few routes were established in the mid 1950s and mid 1960s but the bulk came up only in the last two decades of the last century. The usual collection of Südpfalz pioneers can be found on the FA-lists: Hans Laub, Thomas Nöltner, Robert Jung or Jens Richter. The latter probably established the most routes on the tower, together with different partners.
|Schulertutm||Schulerturm||24 routes with variations ranging from 4+ - 9-|
Schulerturm south face
The Drachenfels Castle Ruin
is located on a hill to the south of Busenberg. To the east of the castle there is the PWV-Hütte Drachenfels
, a kind of rustic restaurant / picnic area. There is ample parking space around the hut.
There are two possible routes which both take equally long
- Via Ludwigshafen
- From Frankfurt take motorway A5 southward to Darmstadt.
- There change to A67 south.
- At Viernheimer Dreieck turn onto A6 west.
- e it at Frankenthaler Kreuz for A61 south.
- At Mutterstädter Kreuz take A65 south until you reach Landau.
- At Landau turn on B10 west.
- At Hinterweidental turn onto B427 south which will take you through Dahn to Busenberg
- Via Kaiserslautern
- From Frankfurt take motorway A3 west
- At Mönchhofdreieck turn onto A67 south
- At Rüsselsheimer Dreieck take A60 west
- At Kreuz Mainz Süd take A63 south
- At Kreuz Kaiserslautern turn onto A6 west
- At Kreuz Landstuhl turn onto A62 south
- At Pirmasens turn onto B10 east
- At Hinterweidental take B427 south to Busenberg
- Take motorway A8 to Karlsruhe
- At Karlsruher Dreieck turn north onto A5
- Tke the next exit to head for A65
- At Kandel you can leave onto B427 which will lead you directly to Busenberg.
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 canceled 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 in wet conditions. The rule of thumb is to use magnesia in the highest difficulty sections and only extremely sparingly.
A list of guidelines can be found here
In Busenberg you can find pensions, apartments and restaurants. Have a look at the official site
for more info. There is a campground at Neudahner Weiher
, north of Dahn
, a second one west of Dahn. Both are about 10 km to the north-west of Busenberg
. A third campground can be found at Bruchweiler-Bärenbach
, about 7km to the south-west.
Maps & Books
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
- Pirmasens Süd
LVA RLP Map L6910
LVA RLP Map 6812
There are a number of climbing guidebooks on the region of Südpfalz. The best ones, however, have been published privately and are sold only in selected bookshops of the region.
B. & J.-Th. Titz
- Klettern im Buntsandstein
U. Daigger, H.-J. Cron
Westpfälzische Verlagsdruckerei St. Ingbert
- Pfalz - Klettern im Buntsandstein des Pfälzer Felsenlands
J. Richter, S. Tittel
- Pfalz ++, Klettern im Buntsandstein
R. Burkard, P. Weinrich
- Klettern im Naturpark Pfälzerwald
- Pfalz & Nordvogesen en bloc
A. Wenner, Y. Corby, I. Bald