Block magic in Hinterstein
Text: Ulrich Röker (translations: H. Röker)
One could think that this is a somewhat pretentious and misleading headline, but the following lines will show that there is really lying something magic in this bouldering spot. We invite you to a journey to this marvellous bouldering area in the heart of the Allgäu Alps.
Start for our little journey to the boulder paradise Hinterstein is Hindelang, known as village for winter sports and start of the passroad to Oberjoch and the nearby Tannheimer Tal.
Here turns off a small road into a narrow side valley which widens some kilometres further to a broad and sunny basin. The road continues through the "Vordere Dorf Hinterstein" and ends for public traffic at the "Hintere Dorf Hinterstein" and a big parking area. From here a massive rock slide is already visible on the opposite slope of the valley. It begins about 300 m from the last houses of Hinterstein on the other side of the river "Ostrach". And exactly this rockslide is the destination of our excursion to the fascinating world of bouldering. Here is a real titbit to be found for all fans of the game against gravity on such boulders.
From the parking follow a footpath across the meadows which leads sligthly descending then steep to the lower parts of the small alpine village. Pass the "Kiosk Petra Wechs" (excellent cakes!) and leave the village towards the "Ostrach", at this place a broad and slowly running alpine river which gives the valley its name. Cross over a sheltered bridge to the other side, then turn to the left to the beginning of the rockslide just some metres further. Mountains of boulders of all sizes are lying wildly scattered to a height of several metres where before the year 1964 lush alpine meadows and dense mountain forest were to be found.
It was between the years 1964 and 1966 when for a longer period of time parts of the mountain between Elpenalpe and Sulzbachwand started to slide. Huge amounts of dolomite- and marl-boulders of all sizes have been rolling down to the valley with destroying violence. The mountain forest in the central part of the rockslide was completely crushed and still nowadays there are remains of massive conifer trees to be found which snapped like matches in these days. Fortunately the slide was quite slow and noone was hurt. A memorial plaque at the lower end of the rockslide describes the natural event of these days.
Despite the rockslide was a known destination for excursions of local people - sometimes whole families were scrambling through the chaos of boulders - it was as recently as 2006 when the place was discovered as perfect destination for more serious bouldering. With developing the first circuit** of 33 problems the basis was set for one of the best bouldering areas of the Alps.
This small beginning, which was already documented in the 1st edition of the bouldering guide for the Allgäu "Allgäu-Block", developed to an excellent bouldering area which is - at least in Germany - without equal. With more than 670 climbed problems in almost all grades from "suitable for beginners" up to Fb 8b the boulder field is definitely amongst the areas with the most done problems in the Alps.
Following the example of Fontainebleau there are 5 circuits to be found here which are meandering through the free standing part of the blockfield. The grades of this circuits are thus that every visitor will be satisfied.
A circuit marked with yellow colour offers a rich field of acitvity for beginners. When climbing through the 107 problems in the grade "PD" (short for "Peu Difficile" = little difficult) you will have to do about 400 metres of climbing while crossing more than half of the blockfield. If you are looking for something more demanding, the next level is an orange circuit with 78 problems and the grade AD+. If you are looking for something even more difficult there are 2 blue circuits with 70 problems (TD+) and 67 problems (TD). For these looking for very hard stuff there is also a black circuit (ED++) with 77 problems and grades up to Fb 7c+/8a.
If this is still not enough, there are not only problems in circuits but also many individual problems to be found. You will find many of these in the free standing part of the boulder field, but also many in the bordering forest. There you will find plenty of huge boulders offering many excellent problems. And the great thing about that: the terrain in the forest is a lot less blocky than the free standing part of the talus. With other words: The landing here is often much better. On the other hand the boulders are lying not close together as in the other parts and sometimes you will have to search a little bit to find these excellent boulders lying a bit off the beaten track.
It is really a kind of voyage of discovery through the forest: from time to time you will suddenly come upon a genious dolomite boulder lying hidden in the dense mountain forest, which Mother Nature rolled down to the valley with destroying force just 50 years ago. Nowadays a welcome destination for fans of bouldering to measure one's strength with the problems created by the nature.
When working through the chaos of boulders you will find out quite quickly that the style of climbing is very, very varied. From flat slabs and friction-problems to huge roofs everything the heart desires is to be found. Unlike in most bouldering areas of primary rock in the Alps the problems in Hinterstein are often a bit more technical than expected at first glance. But don't think that you will not need power here, many problems are really steep and athtletic. The style of climbing is like a kind of mix of sandstone and gneiss; edges, slopers, sometimes amazing friction, requiring often good body power and offering also the one or two mantle exits à la Fontainebleau.
Here you will find a bouldering area of highest quality lying in a marvellous alpine scenery which - because a big part of the area is free standing - can also be fully enjoyed. There are numerous problems in all grades for everyones skills - at least in Germany something unique.
But also compared to international spots Hinterstein is really a worthwhile. Climbed grades up to Fb 8b show that the area has also a great potential for hard problems.
A very welcome difference to other areas is the variety of the problems here. There are countless boulders of middle height as well as many smaller boulders for all these not keen on very high problems and bonebreaking landings. But also fans of highballs which can concentrate on climbing only some metres off ground will find a bunch of boulders rising up to 10 m into the blue sky.
In short: the offer concerning heights of boulders as well as for the grades and the style of climbing is extremely varied.
Hinterstein is an area you should keep in mind and the true friend of bouldering will have a lot of fun here.
The area is described in the actual bouldering guidebook Allgäu Block (3. Auflage 10/2015) on a chapter with 93 pages.
Basic info and many photos on the web at the blocheart-page for the area.
**For all these not knowing what a bouldering circuit is; a bouldering circuit is a certain number of boulder problems with continuous numbering written on the rock with a certain colour. The grades of the problems in such a circuit are ideally quite similar. The continuation from one to the next problem is also often marked by little arrows, like that the next problem can be found quickly in the chaos of blocks. A circuit finally receives also an "overall grade". The example for such circuits was again Fontainebleau, the French top spot for bouldering.