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Emile on Bouldering in Germany, Australia and Japan

This weekend was a write off, it rained perpetually, as seems to be the trend here in Deutschland.

Emile Esterhuizen

Emile in Japan demonstrating the latest self defence pose with chopsticks and other traditional weapon

Well, I’m not officially here for a climbing trip, I’m completing a language course for a Masters degree that begins in September. I’ve resigned myself to another 2 years of study so that I can experience some of the wicked European bouldering.
I’m particularly fascinated with Frankenjura, there seems to be a high concentration of pockets and roof problems here, things I’m quite interested in at the moment, unfortunately there also seems to be a fair amount of bad weather.

Anyway the story of Frankenjura seems to be this… From around late November/early December it starts snowing/raining and the climbing is over, until about March/April, when there’s the occasional good day (I’ve only seen two of these “good days” in a month and a half).
April is notoriously unpredictable and some think its the worst climbing month. Apparently if its icy cold the rocks are drier, then it warms up and even if there hasn’t been rain for a few days, water seeps out from heaven alone knows where and ruins everything.
I assume that on cold days this mystery water is frozen in the bowels of the stone. I haven’t seen that yet since its been raining so much.

Summer is the best time to climb here, and Summer starts in May!
For hard boulder sending, September, October and November are the months to climb, its cold and not so rainy. It seems that the Winter pastime here is serious training, in the 4/5 bouldering gyms that I’ve visited here everyone of them has some kind of system board, its pretty cool I’m quite into my training and I hope to have some kind of an understanding of system training after a few months here.
I’ve tried some of the stuff advertised on nadventure.com

Emile Esterhuizen in Frankenjura

Emile bouldering in Frankenjura

An inconvenient aspect to the Frankenjura is that no topo for the bouldering exists, and several volumes for the pansy sport climbing (a joke, the sport climbing here seems very good). You have to make friends fast here, earn their trust and then interrogate them, until zey tell you ‘ver ze boulders are‘. Luckily these paternalistic Aryans take pity on a small South African speaking garbled German and have shown me a number of very worthwhile problems. Namely “Forget about Life for a While,” “Zerberus,” “Riot Act,” “Omega Mann,” “Hollow Man,” “Sea of Green,” “Flubber,” “Black Ball,” “Flachmann” and “Terminator” all somewhere in the 8A / 8B+ range, most of these problems aren’t really within my grasp, quite literally (curse growth hormones!!), but I’m going to give them a shot anyway.

Emile Esterhuizen in Frankenjura

Emile on Franky Minchia

I think Riot Act (8B+) seems quite send-able, I’m not sure what all the hype is about and I think Dai Koyamada’s comment on his 8a scorecard may be accurate, “8A+ 8B+” …something like that. I gave Zerberus (8B/8B+) one solid try in thick snow, it is a legendary problem but alas I couldn’t feel my fingers and so it was a short solid try. Once the snow melts it seems that Zerberus is wet for a few months, and so will probably only be climbable towards the end of April. Flachmann (8B) feels cool, and typically Frankenjura, it has a mono and is a wicked roof, its very bunched and dabby in the beginning, with foot holds that come dangerously close to the ground, but the movements feel very cool, its on my list.

Emile Esterhuizen in Frankenjura

Emile on Forget About Life in Frankenjura


Forget about Life for a While” has the best setting, its a small cave perched on a steep slope, and overlooking a very Germanic forest. The problem however has a lunge from a pocket that I can’t see myself making any time soon, but of course, I’ll keep trying. Otherwise I’ve managed a couple of not very notable 7B’s, not really send news, but they were fun – I don’t know their names. Next on my destination list is Kochel, its about an hour or so south of Munich and contains some Toni Lamprecht classics, recently he opened an 8C+ there, in fact it was the only climbable weekend in March that he opened it, “Bokassas Frisge – Assassin Monkey and Man“. A good site to check for Frankenjura and Kochel bouldering information is www.boulderrausch.de (its in German but its still navigable).

I escaped the weather one weekend and fled to Cresciano, it was a 9 hour train ride (one way) and so I didn’t get much climbing in, the weather in Cresciano seems to be eternally good, those Swiss valleys are quite special, if one’s not good for climbing (i.e. rain) then just flee one valley over and all’s well with the world. In Cresciano I gave “Franky Minchia” a burn, something I tried casually about a year ago. It went much better, but I’m afraid no send for me, I was feeling a little lazy and the granite/gneiss, whatever its called, doesn’t really appeal to me. However, I can appreciate the wicked cool setting of Cresciano and the obviously world class boulders there. Cresciano’s a really boulder friendly place to go, there’s a pub/guest room available virtually at the start of the walk-in to the boulders and bought my Cresciano guide and a Chironico guide from the pub.

I’m headed to Kalymnos for a bit more than a week in April and hopefully I’ll get some deep water soloing done, maybe I’ll even bring myself to try some of the routes. I also hope to get some serious attention paid to Riot Act, Flachmann, and Flubber (a classic looking 8A roof), the weather seems to be improving (touch wood), so I should be getting more time in on rock over the next month or two, maybe even a lucky send.

Emile in Australia

Emile in Horsham, Hollow Mountain Cave, Australia


In other news… if you want to hear about my other travels (made last year), then I can tell you that Australia was interesting. I managed to get about a month in at Hollow mountain cave. I made my way to Horsham (a mini civilised version of Clanwilliam), in Victoria, where I rented a car and made my way to Hollow Mountain Cave (a mini civilised version of Rocklands)

Emile in bouldering in Australia

Emile in bouldering in The Cave, Australia


The cave was very spectacular, endless roof, on good solid Rocklands-like sandstone, maybe a little more solid than Rocklands sandstone but with slightly less friction. I think I could spend the better part of my life in that cave, really great roof climbing and endless! I wasn’t a very prolific sender in Australia, I managed the initial 7C, “Extreme Cool” and then the 8A+, “Sleepy Hollow.” Then I spent the remaining two weeks or so of the trip trying to link the two, and steal a soft 8B+, “Under Siege“. Even soft 8B+s are too much for me and I was denied a send, although I didn’t feel too bad since I improved my endurance, I fell off from the end a few times (after a good 30 moves) – actually I lie, I was absolutely broken, I felt like sitting in a corner, rocking catatonically.

I will certainly return to Australia for my fantasy revenge, it will play out something like this… I land in Melbourne, look neither left nor right, sprint the 260km to Hollow Mountain, Flash Under Siege as a warm-up. Then link it in to next go to Cave man and Dead can’t Dance, to make the third ascent of “The Wheel of Life (8C+),” still not have broken a sweat and then reverse it without resting.

I think the weather in Hollow Mountain is always good for climbing, I was there in November/December and only had one or two really hot days. A few months before my Australia trip I managed to nip over to Japan. I think Japan is my spiritual homeland. I went there for two reasons, to try Shiobara out, and to learn a bit of Japanese.

Emile on Hydra in Japan

Emile hanging tough on 'Hydra' in Japan


I didn’t do much sending in Japan, my goals were a little too lofty. I did make a trip to three of Japan’s best bouldering areas namely, “Shiobara,” “Ogawayama,” and “Mitake.” Shiobara and Mitake are two small areas, Mitake is the closest bouldering to Tokyo and Shiobara is the coolest bouldering in the Universe.

Shiobara bouldering, Japan

Shiobara bouldering, Japan


Shiobara is one big roof lying next to a river, in one of the Hot Spring centres of Japan. In this roof (maybe half the size of Hollow Mountain Cave – so a substantial roof), are some of the monstrous Dai Koyamada boulder classics, like, “Babel (8C/8C+),” “Hydra (8B),” “Hydra G (8B+/8C),” and my failed 8A+ project, “Karamba“.
I think the season for Shiobara is February/March/April, when the Sakura are blooming, then conditions are cool and the river is low. I was in for a surprise one day when I stumbled down to the boulder and saw that it was half submerged, the stupid river was in flood, so no climbing for 3 days, and then a day of flood debris clean up. I only spent a day in Ogawayama but it seemed like pretty average granite bouldering, really nice setting, in a forest, and on the drive in you get to see Mt.Fuji.

Ogawayama Bouldering, Japan

Bouldering at Ogawayama


Mitake is another riverside bouldering area, so you have to watch out for flooding, i.e. very condition dependant. The Mitake classic is Kani-Mushi (Crab-bug), its an 8A+ traverse with a dubious heel hook top out. Great fun on polished river boulders. Anyway I think you need to be really fit to go to Japan, head straight to Shiobara, send a few 8B/8Cs then spend a month seeing the sights and not thinking about bouldering.

Marijus on Black Shadow

Marijus Smigelskis on 'Black Shadow' (8B) at Rocklands Photo: Julia Chen

Anyway thats some of the news about my travels.

I would also like to know if you could post something about the Black Shadow boulder. I spoke to Sue (the owner of the farm involved), her husband found me dangling form Black Shadow one day and thought I was a Satanist. I explained that Black Shadow is a wonderful, incredible life changing boulder and that it would be to their detriment if they stopped bouldering on their farm.


They seemed quite positive about bouldering, but said that they would like it if something were posted about the graffiti on the boulder. Apparently the graffiti is historically significant, which dates from the original settlers of Clanwilliam / their farm. So Basically they are fine with people climbing Black Shadow but, they must be aware that essentially everything immediately right of the right most hold is off for climbing.

I don’t know if you have a picture that you could post, but I think everyone that knows the problem will understand.

Ciao Emile

One Response to Emile on Bouldering in Germany, Australia and Japan

  1. Carly Dec 26, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    That’s my big brother. He is quite the beast of all beasts

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