Pfalz… A beautiful trad climbing site, located in South-West Germany, close to the French border, between Karlsruhe and Saarbrucken. The sandstone pillars and crags look a bit similar to Berdorf rock in Luxembourg, but they are more spread in a larger hilly area, with way much less climbers. And it is possible to enjoy your after-climb in traditional villages, with good German biers and inexpensive full meal featuring pork filet (Schweine medaillons), roasted beef (Sauerbraten) or Flammkuechen as favorite picks. An ideal destination for a 2 or 3 days week end, who could say no?
I tried this place 2 times in 2016. Although I am a regular medium level sport climber (6a-b on lead) and absolutely fond of long mountain routes in the Alps (including hiking approach), I had never heard before about single pitch trad climbing routes. So even if I wasn't able to push so hard the climbing level (5b max on trad), I thought this was a good opportunity to practice trad climbing and gain more confidence in putting protections on the rock.
Overall, the philosophy of the climbing is quite different from regular sport climbing places. Indeed, they put you into an alpinist perspective: you climb your route and you abseil down on a different side of the tower, so barely no toprope is possible for most of the routes. This also means that your second must be able to climb the same route as you, belayed from the top (unless you lift him up with the rescue pulley) and abseil with you. Therefore, if you come with a group of people, every rope set must be independent from each other. The German topo Pfalz Kletterfuhrer has 574 pages, offering a huge variety of routes covering a circle of 50 km diameter. Even if we explored barely 1 % of it, we managed to find enough routes for a whole week end. Understanding German helps, although the sketching of the routes is quite intuitive.
A good starting point to explore the area is a city called Dahn. From there, we went to Hochstein (9.2 sector) for a day and did a few routes: PK Kante, Frühlingsweg, Herbstwand, Blockwand. This doesn’t sound like a lot but you should keep in mind that trad climbing takes also more time than sport climbing, especially for putting protection on (and off if your second is not so used to it). Another day we headed to Lammerfelsen (Bockturm and Theoturm, 9.11 sector), close to Dahn as well. We did Bockverschneidung, Normalwege (Bockturm and Theorturm respectively), Neue Nordwand, Nordwandach, Schiefer Nordriss, and topropped Erendira (only one time in the whole week end). The normal routes (easiest way to reach the tower top) are chimney style climbing, whereas harder routes follows the rifts in the rocks, making the protection positioning quite safe. A lots of small overhangs also, quite energy consuming... Towers are also quite high, some of the routes range at almost 40 m height, which increases also the time spent per route.
Last but not least, you shouldn’t miss the iconic pillar of Pfalz called Teufelstisch, literally translated as table of the evil. Indeed, the name comes from the table-shaped rock formation which is quite a unique geological feature of the area. Although the easiest route is rated 6+ (equivalent of 6a) in the topo, the climbing is quite cumbersome with a technical move under the roof. As a reward, you get a lot of attention from the families hiking around. Special thanks to Laurie for leading that.
Wrapping up in a few words, those sandstone pillars of Pfalz are beautiful, the climbing is awesome, even if you don't push yourself to your maximum sport level, and it's a good place for putting safely trad gear protections. So it's definitely worth to give a try, starting in the easiest routes for warming up. And if at the worst case scenario you don't get into it at all, there is the northern Vosges not so far away on the French side, which offer fully bolted sport climbing routes in a similar rock style.
Other trips reports from Ambers
Topos & rating
I have used the first one (574 pages): Pfalz Kletterfuhrer. Understanding German helps, although the sketching of the routes is quite intuitive.
German crags have the UIAA rating system, which is easily converted into the French/Dutch/Belgium one, with a bit more stretch in the 6's range :
Another useful information is the exposure scale:
I tried 2 of this 3 campsites, they were oke but not outstanding, see comments below. Any other suggestions for my next trips are therefore welcome.
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