When we first hatched the plot to head south to the Elbsandsteingebirge the main attraction was the Hänchelstiege, a via-ferrata type climb up one of the sandstone formations. It had stayed in my mam’s mind due to the fact that it was climbing (sort of), but less scary because of the steps and ladders and security wires attached firmly to the rock. She decided that this would be a good compromise between my love of climbing and her fear of it.
It turned out even less dramatic than she had expected. Although the route can be free climbed, we rented some additional equipment from the Bad Shandau tourist office to give us peace of mind. The tourist office, by the way, has a whole variety of offers- from kit rental including bicycles and the like to organised tours. Feeling adventurous, we decided to set off by ourselves.
Much of the journey is actually a relaxed walk through the forest to and down from the climb. As the route is steep, it can only be done in one direction, but the route down also offers a way onto the last viewpoint. The walk in starts near the top of the tram line, at the Baarenmoss station. The tram runs up the valley from Bad Shandau and was a really fun experience but we soon realised that the bus, which only stopped when necessary and reached faster speeds, was significantly faster. With a week ticket (17 Euros) you can use the bus, tram, the ferries across the Elbe, and the train line (within a certain radius). Seeing as a single ticket is 5 Euros, the week ticket was totally worth it, and we added a journey to Königstein later.
But first be climbed up the lovely wide footpaths to the point where Hänchelstiege and other, actual free climbs go off up onto the rock face. There were quite a few people competing to get on the route at the same time, and mam and I waited a bit, watching the others, letting Mam prepare herself mentally. For me it became more and more concerning that we were part of a longer chain of people moving up the rock, and in my mind I began seeing visions of people falling down on top of us. While this was possibly overly dramatic, it was probably the biggest danger we faced, as the route was secure, and (dare I say it) pretty easy.
The 165 meters of up were on good rock and complemented with large metal spokes and cables to clip into. Small climbs opened out into large platforms which offered stunning views across the area. We took longer to enjoy these viewpoints and take pictures than we did climbing, which is quite right to my mind! As we progressed further and further up Mam began to find clipping more of a burden than a help. She found the whole thing so easy and not scary, that she just climbed. Only two sections gave both of us real pause- although not because of the height or added risk. These two sections were traverses, where suddenly you didn’t look up but across, and somehow this changed our perception. Both of us were more nervous on those bits and were happy to have the added security of our gear.
That said, mam was so confident that she even down-climbed two or three meters (free) to take one of the best pictures of the trip. She’s coming up the rock, laughing (nervously?) at my fashion-model instructions, and once again asking ‘I’m not gonna clip, ok?’.
It was ok. And then we sat on the edge of the rock to enjoy our lunch- fresh rolls from town with the Nutella I had secretly carried up the hill as a reward for her bravery. So while we enjoyed the view we also came up with a new marketing campaign for Nutella- ‘where do you eat yours?’. It could be an Instagram competition… Ferrero- are you listening?
Best of all, Mam didn’t even need the sweet-tooth encouragement to make it to the top. She didn’t class it as Second or Third degree fun. No, she actually enjoyed it, and it sounds like she might even come climb something similar with me again!