Castles, rocks, outdoor pools and climbing tours of every difficulty: Franconian Switzerland is a Dorado for active families. Astrid Därr and her little son Nelion visited and “climbed” some spots
Climbing with Kids in Franconian Switzerland
Tobi dangles in the hammock, Nelion collects stones. Kilian hangs on the wall, Grandpa Herwig secures him. Labrador Zwolle sleeps contentedly on the picnic blanket between climbing rope, express slings and backpacks. Rays of sunlight fall on the rocks through the sparse crowns of the tall beeches.
At the foot of the wall in the forest it is pleasantly cool and shady. Kilian confidently climbs the “Dragon's Edge” in the upper fifth difficulty level. The approximately 20-metre-high rock tower offers so many great holds that Herwig Sedlmayer does not have to give his grandson any assistance.
Eleven-year-old Kilian has already mastered routes in the ninth degree and takes part in competitions. His grandfather, in his mid-seventies, enjoys “supervised climbing”, as he calls it. Kilian hooks up the tours, Herwig then climbs leisurely afterwards.
Birdie, Hare or Eagle Owl?
The climbing area Reibertsbergwände near the village of Kleingesee between Hiltpoltstein and Gößweinstein offers something for everyone. In the “Kinderkessel” in the Hintere Reibertsbergwand sector, the little ones will find a large selection of well-secured, short and very easy routes with names such as “Piepmatz” (birdie), “Maus” (mouse), “Frosch” (frog), “Schnecke” (snail), “Hase” (hare) and “Uhu” (eagle owl). Parents can work off their energy in the Left Reibertsbergwand sector with seventh and eighth degree hole climbs.
From the car at the edge of the forest it is only a few minutes’ walk to the rocks. The short access routes of no more than 15 minutes to most areas in Franconian Switzerland are appreciated by both the older and the youngest members of the family. On the flat paths, it is even easy to transport a buggy for a nap.
Unlike many alpine climbing areas, there is no danger of falling anywhere here. The children can run around in the forest, build camps out of branches, carve sticks, dig holes, knock stones. And there are always two suitable trees for a hammock.
“Franconian Switzerland is an ideal terrain for families,” knows Herwig Sedlmayer. He came here regularly as a young alpinist 55 years ago to train and knows almost every corner. “In the past, most of the routes were not so well secured, but now there are quite a few very well secured children’s crags where you can let the kids go ahead with a clear conscience,” he says, letting Kilian down on the rope.
Dozens of Castles and 12,000 Routes
With 12,000 routes on 800 individual crags, the Northern Franconian Jura between Bamberg, Bayreuth, Nuremberg and Amberg is considered Germany’s best-known climbing area and one of the best-developed areas in Europe.
Climbing legends such as Kurt Albert (1954-2010), the inventor of redpoint climbing, and Wolfgang Güllich (1960-1992), who opened the first routes in the eleventh degree of difficulty, were pioneers in the development of climbing in the region.
Northern Franconian Jura: 800 crags and 12,000 routes
The genesis of the Franconian Jura rocks dates back 160 to 140 million years, when the region was covered by the “primeval Mediterranean” Tethys. The rocks were formed from solidified marine sediments, remains of sponge reefs, mussels and other organisms – the holey limestone is characteristic of the climbing paradise of Franconian Switzerland.
In addition to first-class climbing, the area offers a special landscape experience: winding roads lead through lovely river valleys with imposing rock formations and gloomy stalactite caves, across green Alpine plains and through pretty villages with half-timbered houses and castle ruins. With more than 170 castles, ruins and castle stables, Franconian Switzerland is one of the most important castle landscapes in Central Europe.
Three Generations of Climbing
“In addition to the wonderful landscape, there are good inns here, cheap accommodation, plenty of campsites and after climbing you can go for a wonderful swim in one of the outdoor pools,” enthuses Herwig Sedlmayer, while Kilian climbs the next wall.
Herwig passed on his enthusiasm for climbing to his daughter Katrin Gründler, who already overtook him with her achievements as a teenager. At the age of twelve, she climbed her first tour at the eighth degree of difficulty during a climbing course in the “Franconian”. In 2000, she won the European title in sport climbing as a student. After her studies, she decided to move from Munich to her favourite climbing area in Franconia.
The days of competitive sports are over, but the teacher and mother of two still uses every free minute for climbing. Her sons Kilian and Tobi were already involved as babies. Today they all climb together. “Around most of the climbing rocks, everything is so flat, you can even put up tents or cots,” says Katrin. In the meantime, eight-year-old Tobi is already climbing tours in the eighth degree and hangs the tours for grandpa Herwig.
“The children always find something to do while the parents climb. Tobi and Kilian were out and about in the forest, sawing off branches and piling up piles of leaves. In the worst case, they open a quarry and sit hammering and digging in some hole,” Katrin says with a laugh.
Rock Hopping in the Trubach Valley
From the Reibertsberg walls it is only a stone’s throw to the climbing rocks between Bärnfels, Obertrubach and Egloffstein. Rock hopping from spot to spot, families can easily let off steam for a few days in the Upper Trubach Valley without having to travel long distances.
Families can easily let off steam for a few days in the Upper Trubach Valley
The sleepy village of Bärnfels may not be a hive of activity, but a late-medieval castle ruin towers over the village on a spur and there are two child-friendly climbing areas to discover. The twelve-metre high “Wolfstein” above the village in a sunny location is one of the most beautiful children’s rocks in the Franconian Jura, including a fantastic view.
“Tobi and Kilian were already climbing around on the Wolfstein when they were two years old,” says Katrin. “You can find very easy tours there with huge holds and footholds. At the base of the wall there is a lot of space on the meadow, and there are also small caves to crawl through,” she adds. The easy routes have names that every child can remember: “Rübezahl”, “Frau Holle”, “Hänsel und Gretel”, “Max” and “Moritz”.
Schda Schdum and Schäufele
The climbing area “Schda Schdum” (Franconian for “stone room”) is hidden in the shady beech forest on the outskirts of Bärnfels and stands for a whole area of rock needles, towers and walls. In the Schda Schdum, routes called “Asterix”, “Obelix” and “Getafix” were obviously the Gauls at work. From overhanging walls for ambitious climbers to well-secured, short tours for children, the six to twenty metre high rocks offer everything.
The climbing day ends at the “Schlehenmühle” inn, five kilometres north of Egloffstein. Two-year-old Nelion jumps on the house’s bobby car and dashes to the playground, Tobi and Kilian go fossil-knocking at the apple stream. The adults order beer and Franconian specialities. “Schäufele” (pork shoulder) and a “Seidla” (light half pint) complete the pleasure climbing in Franconian Switzerland and make the day the perfect overall package.