On reflection Germany was probably the best three weeks of my life. Everything I had dreamed about for a long time, about what I wanted Europe to be, seemed to come true. It came out of nowhere though – it seems ridiculous to say it now, but I wasn’t expecting much from Germany. It was I think because I was pretty worn down after quite a few months on the road, which took its toll, physically but also mentally. Spain was just very hectic, and even though I had some great times, I could never really relax.
However the moment I arrived in the beautiful Frakenjura in Southern Germany something changed. Knocking on the door at the Gasthof Eichler guesthouse late at night, tired, cold and just wanting to sleep after the day’s travel from Barcelona, the bubbly host Marta greeted me with a kiss on each cheek, exclaiming ‘Ah ze other vun of my Australien boys iz here!’. She was the lovely mothering host at the guesthouse, and sat me down with a piece of cake whilst Grant and Ben appeared. It was so good to catch up with these guys, and I cracked a grin when I realised was relaxing next to a warm fire, enjoying talking some shite and frothing over what the next two weeks had in store.
The Frankenjura was stunningly beautiful at that time of the year. I arrived in the midst of Autumn, and the colours were so rich it seemed as if some of the trees were spray-painted red and orange at first glance. Coming from 30°C heat and a generally bland landscape in Spain, to this golden-hued, crisp, Northern climate was a stark contrast, and I much favoured the latter. It helps that the Frankenjura consists of hundreds of small outcrops spread over a large area in the forest, rather than a concentrated set of sectors. So there wasn’t too many people at any one crag, which was very preferable.
Ben and Grant had been there for almost five weeks already. Grant had been trying the uber-classic Slimline (8a+), one of Wolfgang Gullich’s old routes. Ben was trying its well known neighbour Action Directe (9a)! It was awe-inspiring watching him in action (pun definitely intended) on it the next day. He was on a mission to send it, having already spent a bit of time previously on other trips. It is the famous ship’s prow dotted with mono’s and two-finger pockets, and was the first 9a (Australian grade 35!) in the world. It starts with a huge deadpoint (around V11 in intself) to another hard boulder up high.
After spending two days recovering from another bout of sickness brought on by the sudden drop in temperature and general haggardness, I decided to give Slimline a crack. Grant was super close, having fallen off the second last hard move multiple times. It is a prow just like AD; only 10m long, but super fingery on little edges and shallow two finger pocks. I instantly fell in love with this route. Something about it was just right – it seemed as if the last months spent climbing on rock all came together and hence progress came easily, getting big links quickly and just flowing well. It’s kind of ironic all the long pumpers in France and Spain prepared me for a 10m firefight in the Frankenjura.
We got into a rhythm – day on, day off at Waldkopf. Ben was super close on Action. He had had an awesome burn on his very second day in the Jura, and it seemed so close. Sometimes Ben cut a double rest day, so Grant and I would try something else for a change. Grant did Witchcraft (8a+) which is another Jura classic; I had a few goes but found it nails ha ha! I also visited the picturesque Nuremberg on a rest day and went to the Monkee shop, who sell awesome climbing clothing. Other rest days were spent sampling the local beers, which were pretty good by all accounts!
About 10 days in, it was my third day of trying Slimline. Grant had already crushed it a few mornings previously, and time was running out before I had to go to Berlin, so the pressure was on. The crux was sticking a deep two finger pocket quite low down, but I was having trouble sticking a tiny edge just below the final throw to a jug at the top. One morning I emptied my head of thoughts as best I could, had one warm up go to get the blood flowing, took 3 layers off, chalked up and sent it. Was absolutely fucking stoked. Almost dropped the undercling move at the top but held on. Thanks to the boys for the belays and photos. I was not expecting it at all, but it was a stellar way to finish of my year’s climbing in Europe.
There was something very special about the Frankenjura. Hanging out with two good friends, frothing over sequences for hours on end, cracking jokes all the time, enjoying the Autumn glow in the evenings, sitting by the fire with some of Marta’s exquisite cake, pulling on pockets, meeting rad locals and a feeling of being lost in the goodness of it all, made for what was probably the best two weeks’ climbing I’ve ever had.
There was just this sense that I was no longer searching for something – I was simply enjoying the moment, pulling down on hard routes and having some good times – exactly what I wanted Europe to be. Ultimately I think climbing is something which is pointless unless we create some sort of meaning from it – whether that be sharing the good times with friends, climbing routes that stay with us forever in our memories, or simply just learning to let go from our thoughts and focus on the next move like nothing else matters. It’s about being, not wanting. I am so chronic for wanting something so so so much, then achieving or acquiring it, then not enjoying it. Europe crystallised this notion for me, and it doesn’t just apply to climbing. Life is finite – enjoy the good times.
A massive thanks to Ben and Grant for all the fun times, oh ma lawd have mercy haha! Little did I know that this awesome time was about to be backed up by an amazing week in Berlin….