2009-10-07 48 9

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Wed 7 Oct 2009 in 48,9:
48.4156129, 9.2083447

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Close to the road from Sonnenbühl-Genkingen to Pfullingen (Stuhlsteige).




Once again, the question wasn't actually how to get up there, but how to make the trip more interesting. I like the Alb landscape, I somehow even like the trip up the Albtrauf steep slope, but there aren't so many reasonable routes - and I had been in that area a number of times during the past few months. Finally I chose one that is not the most convenient nor the fastest, but that was also the reason why I had avoided it the past few trips.

After a fairly uneventful climb to almost 800m, I reached hash village, found that the bakery was closed for noon break (which wasn't so bad as I had brought some emergency food), and went out for the hash. It was only a few metres off the road, behind a parallel agricultural track, five metres into the forest. Nothing special. But at the roadside, there actually was a notable, and somehow sad feature:

Three years ago, a man died at exactly this point in a car accident. As far as the press article says, it was probably his own fault by any means, though. People put up a cross, marking the spot and commemorating him. You would wish seeing those would make people drive more responsible. You would. But actually, it doesn't help.

See also: Press notice at tagblatt.de (german)

Now, back to the trip.

The Schwäbische Alb is a karst formation of limestone. That means, during millions of years, underground streams have washed large caves into the ground, which fell dry, sometimes collapsed, or the "roof" started to leak. Drips of rainwater drain into the ground, saturating itself with carbon dioxide, dissolving small amounts of limestone. When those drips hit open space, like a cave, they lose part of the carbon dioxide - and, as a result, are oversaturated with calcium carbonate, so they must leave a few molecules on site. And over thousands and millions of years, there grow beautiful formations called dripstones.

And those are one thing the Alb is famous for: Many dozens of caves, many of them filled with hundreds of dripstones. Some larger ones are developed touristically, illuminated and offer guided or unguided tours, some are accessible if you just go there and bring your own light, many are only accessible for experienced groups of cave researchers, often even only for divers.

About one kilometre from the hashpoint, there is one of the largest and most famous dripstone caves: The Nebelhöhle (fog cave). Known since ancient times, it has been developed into a visitors cave already more than two hundred years ago, and plays a good role in many old stories. The name fog cave comes from that in winter, there was often fog wafting out of the cave entrance - for people in former centuries reason enough to believe in ghosts. Actually, the reason for the fog is simple: The underground air is very humid, and has an almost constant temperature of about 8°C all year round. So when the comparatively warm and humid air from inside meets the cold winter air outside, the water condensates into fog.

I haven't been in that cave since I was a child, so I bought an admission ticket and spent some good time underground. The pictures below only can only show it very inadequately.

See also:

Some time later I was able to visit another cave, this time one of the second category: Undeveloped, but open. This was a rather small one, and I didn't want to proceed to the end for security reasons since I was all alone and it was rather slippery inside. There were only a few dripstones, but those weren't less beautiful. See the pictures below. And if you ever get into that area, don't miss to visit at least one of those caves.

I had to go to Reutlingen anyway at some time this week, so I chose a route back down from the mountains which I hadn't tried before and wasn't a detour at all. There was another interesting feature for cyclists: Uphill, the road is kind of a permanent bike racing ground. At both ends, divided by 4 km and almost 300 elevation metres, there are stamping clocks for the public, called Stoppomat. You get a free card at the lower end, time-stamp it, and time-stamp it again at the upper end. If you want, you can put it into a box afterwards, and get your time listed on the homepage of the owners. I was going down here, so there is no time for me, and from next week the road is going to be closed for maintenance. But I'll definitely go and try that some time. I expect it will take me about three times the record, though.

See also: Stoppomat homepage (german)

The way back home was on well-known trails and nothing worth talking about.


The photographing conditions in the Nebelhöhle cave were ugly, and I didn't bring a tripod. That means, I had to push the amplifiers above their limits, adding huge lots of noise to the pictures. However, I still think they are worth showing. In the Goldloch cave, I dared to use the flash for a few pictures.

RIP roadside.jpg
Dirk from Sonnenbühl earned the Darwin Award honorable mention
by driving too fast and not using the seatbelts on 2006-12-22, dying about 10 m from what would be the (48, 9) geohash on 2009-10-07.
2009-10-07 48 9 Cross.jpg