Wednesday, 21 August 2013


It's like a giant partially bolted Churnet Valley, crossbred with Nesscliffe and Helsby, scattered throughout a forested sauna, and topped with a mini-Oktoberfest.

36'c a ridiculous temperature. By my standards 26'c is a ridiculous temperature and 10'c hotter is 10' more ridiculous. Driving around somewhere that looks a lot like middle England and getting out of the car into heat I've only ever experienced in Africa and the Caribbean was quite surreal. It's like stepping through the heat curtains you get across shop doorways in winter, except the heat just continues. Mid-week it cooled down a bit, I remember saying to Colin that it was much nicer at 26'c and he wisely pointed out that was still 10'c too hot for hard climbing. So there was precious little of that. Instead it was exploring and punting. Colin did a lot of chimneys, corners, and horizontal squirms, I did a lot of cracks, faces and the odd arete. We visited 21 crags in 10 days, and nearly as many summit ticks. I had to rest my skin but not my mind, despite the heat the syke held out well, helped by siestas!

Preposterously Proportioned Protuberances
...are an essential part of the Pfalz experience. The sandstone varies in quality, coarseness, features and angles, but the crags stick to formations that are distinct in character and distinct from the surrounding terrain. Spires and summits, towers and ridges all protrude from the forest that covers 70% of the surrounding countryside. Sometimes proudly visible on hilltops from miles around, sometimes only a vague summit hints at the potential that is revealed to be overpowering 40m walls shaded by 30m trees. Any protruberance that overhangs the base is an essential tick and I did a few of those. Abseil descents and summit books were mandatory. The quality of the rock and climbing was not always as immaculate as somewhere like Siurana, but the fun of the experience was hard to beat.

Weissbier und schnitzel
...are highlights of the area, along with a gargantuan selection of pastries and pretzel products (pretzel croissant nom nom nom). It is not a place to go for a diet and the amount of calories expended climbing and trekking around only just justified the amount put in at dinner and breakfast. Weissbier on tap re-defines "refreshment", 9 Euros for two chunks of schnitzel, a mountain of papriked chips and a bowl of well dressed salad persuaded us away from camp cooking on a few occasions, and by the end the staff of the local bakery knew us as regulars and smiled at our 8 items order each morning. The campsite was not bad for 9 euros each a night in peak season, flat ground and a good shower - despite the campsite fuhrer who bollocked me for accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road, exceeding 5kph (which the car wouldn't do any less than, even idling in 1st), and driving after 10pm, despite it being the restaurant's staff's fault for forgetting my SCHNITZEL. Dragging me away from my delayed dinner, thanks you grumpy old fuck. Further humiliation came on the campsite's crazy golf course with Colin owning my arse by some of the biggest numbers seen on the trip.


Return match needed
The sheer fun, diversity and character of the area just about compensated for the heat and lack of challenging climbing....JUST ABOUT. It was an excellent trip to explore, do a lot of fun stuff, and get the measure of an area that is complex but scarcely 30 minutes drive tip to tip. But boy am I syked to return. Drop the temperature to sending temps, and there are many inspiring grade 8s that are as attractive as anything I've seen anywhere. Now I've explored fully, a long focussed weekend would do. God knows when reliable cool weather is in spring or autumn, but whenever it is, I want to be there!!

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