Paul Heesch / translated by D. LanghoffBen van Skyhawk

Granite gems

Bouldering is extreme rock climbing—just above the ground. Odenwald with its bizarre rock formations is a real challenge for any climber and a great experience for nature lovers. The new edition of a guide presents the most rewarding destinations.

 

Those two giants have really made a mess in Odenwald. They used to live here long time ago—one of them on the Felsberg mountain, the other on the Hohenstein boulder. Legend has it that they threw huge rocks at each other in an argument, leaving behind chaos in the shape of massive granite blocks: the Felsenmeer (sea of rocks) close to the village Reichenbach in the municipality of Lautertal.

The rock sea just above Lautertal-Reichenbach in the western Vorderer Odenwald region.

 

Sascha Jung knows the old legend through which people in Merians days in the 17thcentury apparently tried to understand the gigantic pile of rocks in the middle of the forest. Today, like most of the visitors to the Felsenmeer near Lautertal-Reichenbach, he knows that it arose from the collision of two continents causing rock deep in the ground to melt and ascend as magma to the surface where it congealed as ‘melaquartz-diorite’ some 340 million years ago. Through erosion and over the course of millions of years again, the dark grey boulders of the rock sea where formed—the stuff that today’s boulderers’ dreams are made of.

Author and climber Sascha Jung.

 

In pursuit of happiness Sascha has roamed the Odenwald for many years. And he has found it—in the shape of cliffs and rocks that provide the opportunity for extreme climbing right on his doorstep and far away from the Alps. Climbers love the characteristics of the Odenwald cliff formations: rough, easy to grip and so tough. Sascha presents several hundred rocks in the most recent edition of his guide “Bouldern Odenwald” (bouldering in the Odenwald) and recommends the most rewarding destinations here. Here, you are spoilt for choice: Large, ‘classic’ granite areas are located in the northern part and the Riesenstein (giant stone) formation with its up to 10-metre red sandstone walls lures in the southern, Baden part of the Odenwald, just above the Old Town of Heidelberg. This is where you can go for a climb tracking the famous Heidelberg mountaineer Reinhard Karl, who was the first German to stand on Everest and who redefined alpinism with his photos, books and tours. The most challenging ascent at the Riesenstein is currently the extreme tour “Mensch und Maschine” (man and machine) at an 8b degree of difficulty which corresponds to the ridiculous 11thgrade in alpine mountain-climbing and can only be conquered by few, extraordinarily fit and experienced people.

 

Most boulderers climb at moderate difficulty degrees that nonetheless demand intense practice. A boulder is regarded as conquered when all parts of the body are away from the ground and the climber stands on it. The ascents are short but technically usually so demanding that they would be almost ‘unclimbable’ on a big wall in the Alps.

“Bouldering is a very environment-friendly activity, because we don’t hammer safety hooks in the rocks and we are very careful not to leave anything on the boulders,” Sascha says. However, many rocks are prohibited for climbers for reasons of nature conservation. This is why his book does not even list the ‘sensitive’ nature reserves and several times calls upon climbers “to boulder discreetly,” thoughtfully and sportsmanlike. As far as the rock sea boulders are concerned, the guide reads this way: “Harte Züge an scharfen Griffen (firm pulls on sharp grips)” at the Amboss-Block rock, “schmerzhafter Fingerklemmer (painful finger clamp)” at the Bulldozer rock, “schöne Mischung aus Dampf und Feeling (nice mixture of steam and feel)” at the Gedächtnisblock rock and “unstürzbare Highball-Linie (unfallable highball line)” at the Teufelskanzel rock.

“We can expand the infrastructure and win more tourists”.

Hikers recognize the boulderers long way off—well, not exactly the very boulderers, rather the large, colourful crash pads bobbing on their backs. For protection against injury, these mats are placed on the ground under the boulders in order to reduce the impact during falls, because in bouldering no safety ropes or hooks are employed.

 

The rock sea just above Lautertal-Reichenbach in the western Vorderer Odenwald region is a very popular and highly frequented destination among hikers. Over the past years, it has become ever more popular among boulderers as well. Even Swiss and Frenchmen come here over the weekend in search of cliffs with bizarre names such as Mag Nasty, Das lange Elend (the awfully tall guy) and Perkeo on the Rocks—and they find them without any difficulty by means of the GPS positions provided in Sascha’s book.

But it is not only the rock sea that offers great lines. Sascha knows that “many other places provide great cliffs, hidden or scattered sometimes, but they are world-class!”

 

Summer is not the most convenient bouldering season. Spring and autumn are much better, because it is easier to hold on to the sometimes extremely small grips when your fingers are not sweaty. So, in the Odenwald it is bouldering season even in winter and you can spot warmly wrapped up boulderers in search of the perfect line.

 

Bouldering has become a very popular sport, partly due to an increase of climbing and bouldering halls in the region. Many sportsmen prefer climbing on artificially prepared linesto climbing in the forests, accompanied by electronic music and in groups. This way, bouldering becomes an event and a social function. In the Odenwald, boulderers are in the minority—hikers consider thema rarity and also admire them for their skill when they wind around the rocks.

 

Sascha is a climbing enthusiast. He wants to attract many more people to climbing in the Odenwald region. “We can expand the infrastructure and win more tourists,” he is convinced. “Climbing is a primary instinct of man—in harmony with nature.”