Crack climbing near Mayen, Germany; Ettringer Lay has world class basalt and no crowds

Klettern (climbing) in Germany has fantastic variety from the pocketed limestone of Frankenjura, to bold sandstone climbing in Südpfalz, the steep conglomerate of Rottachberg, or the ethical world of knotted rope protection in Elbsandstein while the fantastic basalt crack area of Ettringer Lay near Mayen is a crack climbers paradise.

Germany is big but the Autobahn (highway) is great and I drove the smooth, silent, three lane road at a constant 160 km per hour towards Western Germany. Finally arriving in Mayen, the town of twenty thousand has all the supermarkets, a swimming pool, sauna facilities, some German, Greek and Italian restaurants and some nice spots for camping. After finding the empty Ettringer Lay parking lot only five minutes north of Mayen, I walked  down to Große Wand (the biggest sector) to check out some routes.

After a few days of full on climbing at the crags around Ettringen Lay I found that the area provided lots of unbolted gear protected cracks ranging from seams to fingers, to ringlocks, hands, fists, offwidths and chimneys. The full on layback seemed to be the choice of  climbers that had problems getting their jams to lock. The edgy and sometimes thin faces provided amusement for the vertically challenged. These non crack routes required ever present core strength and tense footwork. Sharp arêtes were found next to cracks and needed the use of open handed holds, heels hooks and quick thinking but the basalts fantastic friction made for ego pumping ascents. Over at the Erste Grotte/Zweite Grotte  there were fully bolted roofs for those with massive bicep workouts. It seemed that you can enjoy all this without the crowds because the busiest day at Ettringen was Sunday, with eight cars in the parking lot during the 2pm pasta lunch and maybe ten pairs of climbers in and around the  area.

 Ettringer Lay has many stand out crags but my favorites for high quality gear protected crack lines and arêtes were Kühlschrank, Große Wand, and Dürener Wand.

Mordor is an excellent choice for bolted routes but most of the lines have some kind of crack. The twin cave area of Erste Grotte/Zweite Grotte are a must for steep short power endurance sport climbing. These crags are where the hardest lines are and most were put up by Daniel Jung. The nice thing is that most of the difficult routes have insitu quickdraws.

A full route databank can be found at

You can get the awesome guide book called, Schwarze Säulen – Kletterführer Mayen.

The grades begin from French 5a to 8c+, although the German grading system (UIAA) is used. There are more than 500 routes at the Ettringer Lay area and the approach from the parking lot is less than five minutes. The crags/old quarries are on the two sides of a small road and nice trails interconnect the walls in an easily navigated maze. The rock is basalt and has a varied color from light grey to almost black and a pinkish/sand beige to dark brown. The route lengths are from 15-30 meters with most of the five star climbs being a pump inducing 25 meters. The fixed protection the equippers  have used are glue in staples and all are in top condition.


Kleinod 5b

Alice in Wunderland 6a+

Spektakulum 6b

Stargate 6b+

Mayflower 6c+

Pumpgun 7a

In der Kelle des Knopfgeissers 7a

Gunman 7b+

Cave Dog 8a+



Handriss 5c+

Harakiri 6a+

Aucune Plaquette  6b

Goldilox 6b+

Seepferdchen 7a+

The old wooden quarry cranes are cool and there are rail tracks, buckets, carts and informative displays within the area. The trails are well maintained, mostly by the local climbers and there are a group of active equippers who put up new routes and maintain the older ones.

In and around Mayen (only five minutes from Ettringer Lay) there are a lot of funky basalt churches, houses, statues, sculptures and castles. Some of the buildings also incorporate massive wooden beams, huge stained glass murals and enormous steel beams in the old architecture. On rest days, I recommend  a visit to the Burresheim Schloss, which was used in the filming of Indiana Jones and the last Crusade, as the Brunwald castle.

Also the Genovevaburg right in the town of Mayen and the municipal building 500 meters opposite of it. You can wander the countryside to see the domestic animals; horses, cows, goats, chickens and sheep. There is also a 100 km driving tour of Vulkan Park area within the Eifel National Park area or visit the Volcanic crater lake at Laachersee for a swim. There are always mini golf courses too.


This was a fantastic road trip, the basalt cracks had been on the radar for the last few years and it did not disappoint. I will for sure return, Ettringer Lay is a perfect place to climb high quality cracks on solid rock. Also the the ability to place a camming device, nuts or even clip a bolt when desperate gives a huge mental relief. The architectural beauty of the old structures in Mayen, Kottenheim, Ettringen and the surrounding towns were super to explore on rest days and the geological wonders of the Eifel National Park also über cool.

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