Via ferrata

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Via ferrata (the Hermann von Barth Way), on the Partenkirchen Dreitorspitze (Austria)
Via ferrata Piz de Lech

A via ferrata (Italian for "iron road", plural vie ferrate or in English via ferratas) is a protected climbing route found in the Alps and certain other locations. The essence of a modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 3 to 10 metres (9.8 to 32.8 ft)) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable can also be used as aid to climbing, and additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps and even ladders and bridges are often provided. Thus via ferrata allow otherwise dangerous routes to be undertaken without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing or need for climbing equipment (e.g. ropes). They enable the relatively inexperienced a means of enjoying the dramatic positions and accessing difficult peaks normally the preserve of the serious mountaineer; although, as there is a need for some equipment, a good head for heights and basic technique, via ferrata can be seen as a distinct step up from ordinary mountain walking. Conversely, the modest equipment requirements, ability to do them solo, and potential to cover a lot of ground, mean that via ferrata can also appeal to more experienced climbers.

Via ferrata can vary in length from short routes taking less than an hour, to long, demanding alpine routes covering significant distance and altitude (1,000 metres (3,300 ft) or more of ascent), and taking eight or more hours to complete. In certain areas, such as the Brenta Dolomites, it is possible to link via ferrata together, staying overnight in mountain refuges, and so undertake extensive multi-day climbing tours at high altitude. In difficulty, via ferrata can range from routes that are little more than paths, albeit in dramatic and exposed situations, to very steep and strenuous routes, overhanging in parts, demanding the strength—if not the technique—of serious rock climbing. Generally, via ferrata are done in ascent, although it is possible to descend them.

The origins of via ferrata date back to the nineteenth century, but via ferratas are strongly associated with the First World War, when several were built in the Dolomite mountain region of Italy to aid the movement of troops. However, many more have been developed in recent years, as their popularity has grown and the tourism benefits have become recognised. Over 1000 via ferratas now exist. The majority are found in the Alps, most notable in Italy and Austria. Others are found in a number of European countries, and a few places elsewhere. Via ferrata have been traditionally associated with limestone mountain regions, notably the Dolomites and the Northern Limestone Alps, as steep nature of the terrain creates the need for some form of protected paths, while the presence of ledges and natural weaknesses means relatively easy but rewarding routes can often be created. However, they are now found in range of different terrains.

The term "via ferrata" is used in most countries and languages, except notably in German-speaking countries which use Klettersteig (German for "climbing path"), plural Klettersteige.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

Simple protected paths, with ladders and basic protection aids, have probably existed in the Alps for centuries, helping to connect villages to their high pastures. Construction of what could be seen as the precursors of modern via ferrata dates back to the growth of Alpine exploration and tourism in the nineteenth century. In 1843, a route on the Dachstein was constructed under the direction of Friedrich Simony, which included a range of climbing aids with iron pins, hand hooks, carved footholds and ropes.[1] In 1869 a rope was fixed between the summits of Grossglockner, and in 1873 fixed protection was installed on the Zugspitze. In the Pyrenees, iron climbing aids were installed on the Pic du Midi d'Ossau (in 1880), and in the Ordesa (in 1881). The Northern Limestone Alps saw the first routes still in use today as via ferrata: the Heilbronner Way in the German Allgau Alps was constructed in 1899, shortly followed by the Eggersteig (1903) and Wildauersteig (1911) in the Wilder Kaiser in Austria.[2] In the Dolomites, the climbing path up the West ridge of the Marmolada (German: Marmolata) was installed in 1903, and the Possnecker Path up Piz Selva in the Sella Group was completed before the First World War.[3]

First World War : Dolomites[edit]

In 1914 the Dolomites were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Austria was part of the Central Powers during the First World War. In 1915, Italy joined the alliance of Britain, France and Russia and declared war on the Central Powers. Austria’s troops were heavily committed in Russia and it immediately withdrew to a defensive line which ran through the Dolomites. Until the end of 1917 the Austrians (supported by troops from Southern Germany) and the Italians fought a ferocious war in the mountains of the Dolomites; not only against each other but also against the hostile conditions. Both sides tried to gain control of the peaks to site observation posts and field guns. To help troops to move about at high altitude in very difficult conditions permanent lines were fixed to rock faces and ladders were installed so that troops could ascend steep faces. They also tried to create and control tunnels below the peaks to attack from there. Trenches, dugouts and other relics of the First World War can be found alongside many via ferratas. There is an extensive open air museum on 5 Torri, and around Lagazuoi, where very heavy fighting took place. This wartime network of via ferratas has been restored, although not until well after the Second World War: steel cables have replaced ropes, and iron ladders and metal rungs anchored into the rock have taken the place of the flimsy wooden structures used by the troops. These routes are now maintained by the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI; Italian Alpine Club).

Via delle Bocchette: the Classic Via Ferrata[edit]

In the 1930s, the Societa Alpinistica Trentina (SAT) together with the CAI began working on shortening and improving access to the popular climbing routes in the Brenta Dolomites, by installing artificial aids and protection. Natural lines and routes in the rock were linked up and a system of routes began to be developed, work continuing after the second world war. The Via delle Bocchette started to be discovered by mountain walkers and gradually gained a classic reputation in its own right, a reputation which it still retains.[4] In developing the Via delle Bocchette, a certain ethic was followed - climbing aids were kept to a minimum, and the routes deliberately do not access any summits, an approach which is sometimes but not always followed by modern via ferrata. The Via delle Bocchette helped establish the idea of doing via ferratas in their own right, rather than as access to summits or to climbs.[3]

Recent developments[edit]

Via ferrata have continued to grow in popularity. In the 1970s and '80s development remained focused on traditional areas (the Dolomites and Northern Limestone Alps). New routes were mostly developed by the climbing community often with active involvement of one of the relevant Alpine Clubs (although there was occasional controversy and opposition to some new routes). In the 1990s and 2000s, development became more commercial and involved more organisations: via ferratas began to be seen as a useful way to encourage tourism and increase the range of activities available to visitors, and so new routes have been developed by local communities, outdoor activity centres, cable car companies, mountain refuges and others, as well as continuing involvement by the Alpine clubs. Development of via ferratas has spread out of its original areas to the rest of the Alps and beyond. The first via ferratas in France were constructed in 1988; by 2003 there were 100.[5] While high mountain via ferratas have continued to be developed, the modern era has seen the rise of more "sporting" routes, sometimes closer to the valley and often more challenging in nature, with severely steep sections and requiring high strength. Routes have been built in new dramatic new locations, alongside waterfalls or in canyons. Other new routes include features such as wire bridges and even zip wires, designed to increase their appeal to visitors. Climbing via ferratas has come to be recognised as a valid mountain activity in own right, with its own guidebooks, equipment, grading system and enthusiasts.

Grading[edit]

Various grading systems exist for via ferratas. Most focus on the level of difficulty of the hardest passage, and use a 5- or 6-point scale. Smith and Fletcher in Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites use grades 1 to 5. The Kurt Schall guides (Klettersteig-Atlas series) use a primarily an A to E 5-point scale, although an F grade has been recently been used, and intermediate grades are also used (e.g. C/D). The website www.klettersteig.de uses grades 1 to 6, although based on the Schall system. In France, the 6 classic alpine grades are used: F – Facile; PD – Peu Difficile; AD – Assez Difficile; D– Difficile: TD – Très Difficile: ED – Extrêmement Difficile (although these grades bear no comparison to their Alpine counterparts). An outline of a 5-level grading system is provided below, but clearly individual guidebooks grades should be checked against their own definitions.[6]

A easy Straightforward path, but exposed. Plenty of climbing aids, possible short ladders. Challenging walking rather than climbing. Sure-footedness and a good head for heights are the main requirements.
B moderately difficult Some steep terrain, smaller footholds, but climbing aids provided. Longer ladders possible. Essentially protected but exposed scrambling. Some use of arms.
C difficult Steep to very steep rock, adequate climbing aids, long ladders possible (or even briefly overhanging). Good fitness and some arm strength required.
D very difficult Very steep to vertical, maybe short/well aided overhanging sections, mainly very exposed. Some climbing aids but often wire rope only. Strong arms and hands required.
E extremely difficult Vertical to overhanging; consistently exposed; very small footholds or friction climbing, usually no climbing aids other than the wire. Sustained arm strength required. Easier sections may be unprotected.

One criticism of these grading system is that they ignore the severity and length of the difficulties – a long, high mountain route with extensive passages of grade D is very different from a short valley route also graded D, but with only a brief difficult section. To overcome this, additional ratings on the seriousness of the route are often provided – the Kurt Schall guides use a five-level adjectival scale; Smith and Fletcher use a three-point scale A–C. The old Hofler/Werner guidebooks use a single general grade on an A-G scale. Most guidebooks provide some further information to help assess the nature of a route, such as the length of the route, the maximum height obtained, and even a grade for the quality of the protection.

Safety and equipment[edit]

Background[edit]

For many years via ferratas were climbed using simple equipment - carabiners fixed to short lengths of rope or slings attached to a chest (or sit) harness, on the basis that one would not fall very far.[2] However, it gradually became apparent that these systems did not prevent serious injury. Essentially, the problem is that there is only a short length of rope to absorb the energy of a fall which can be much longer, depending on the gaps between anchor points for the safety cable - put technically the fall factor, which in rock climbing does not normally exceed two, can in via ferrata be much higher. These high factors generate considerable forces which the human body, as well as most items of climbing equipment, cannot withstand, leading to serious injury and equipment failure. To address this, a number of devices have been developed to act as shock absorbers or progressive brakes. They aim to dissipate the energy of the fall more effectively than a short rope length and so keep the climber and equipment intact.

However, in spite of these equipment developments and the perception of via ferratas as being more secure and safe than rock climbing, people are more likely to injure themselves if they do fall, partly because of these elevated fall factors and partly because there are often rungs, steps, pigtails, etc. on which to land.

After a fatal via ferrata accident in August 2012 where both elastic lanyards on the energy-absorbing systems (EAS) in a via ferrata set failed, the UIAA (International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) worked with manufacturers to identify and recall several models of EAS systems.[7]

Via Ferrata Set[edit]

A Y-shaped lanyard with threaded rope energy absorber
A Y-shaped lanyard with progressive-tear energy absorber
Close-up of a progressive-tear energy absorber

A via ferrata set comprises a lanyard and two carabiners. The lanyard consists of an energy-absorbing system, two arms which connect to the cable with the carabiners, and a means of connecting to the harness. Modern lanyards use a "Y" tape configuration, which is currently the only type approved by UIAA, as it is simpler and safer to use and harder to use inappropriately. Using the Y lanyard, both arms should be attached to the steel line, although the system still functions if only one is clipped. However, some earlier lanyards use a "V" configuration. These were the first to be developed but suffer from a major limitation - it is essential to clip only one arm at a time onto the cable. If both arms are clipped, the energy absorber will not work. Some lanyards also have a short third arm which allows the climber to rest on steep sections. New types of commercially available lanyards have retractable arms to keep them out of the way.[8]

Energy absorber[edit]

There are two types of energy absorber in common use.

The first is a metal braking device with a rope passing through it and attached to the harness. The rope provides a high degree of resistance when pulled, thus gradually absorbing the energy of the fall. There are several variants of these absorbers. The advantage of such absorbers is that they can be used again after a fall, providing some protection while finishing the climb. Note that after any significant fall, the lanyard should be replaced. A length of the rope which passes through the plate hangs loosely from the plate while in use, so as to be available to be drawn through the plate if high fall forces occur. This "tail" tends to get in the climber's way; commercially made lanyards employ various methods to attach the tail to the harness and/or hold it in a compact bundle which can easily be pulled apart during deployment. If, however, the climber by seeking to secure the tail, impedes its ability to pull through the plate under load, excessive forces will not be dissipated and an unsafe situation is created.

The second type of absorber is a tearing energy absorber. It consists of a length of webbing specially sewn together to allow progressive tearing in case of a fall. The advantage of this type of absorber is that it is much more compact and since it does not have additional rope that can get in a way of the climber, it is also considered safer in case of a fall. The disadvantage is that it can be used only once, possibly leaving the climber unprotected in case of a fall in the middle of the climb. As with the rope braking device, this type should also be replaced if it has deployed. In the case of hired equipment, the progressive-tear energy absorber can be easily verified by both the customer before the hire and the supplier after the hire to ensure that the energy absorber is not reused after a fall.

Carabiners[edit]

Carabiners are also made specially for via ferratas, their design typically allowing a larger-than-normal opening and having a spring locking mechanism that can be opened with one hand. They are also strong enough to withstand high fall factors. Such carabiners are marked with a K in a circle, the K standing for Klettersteig, the German term for via ferrata. These are the only types of carabiner that should be used on the end of the safety lines. A typical design uses a spring-loaded sleeve on the carabiner gate. While the gate is closed, the sleeve is held in place over the gate opening by its spring; to unlock and open the gate, the sleeve slides directly down the gate shaft away from the opening. The ease of opening these devices makes them suitable for via ferrata climbing, with its constant clipping and unclipping, but not for applications where more secure locking mechanisms (automatic or manual) are called for. However, locking sleeves on via ferrata carabiners have been known to hang up in the gate opening and prevent the gate from closing properly. Care must be taken to maintain (clean and lubricate) and/or replace the carabiners as needed to avoid this potentially unsafe situation. Also, these carabiners are not true "locking carabiners", as employed in roped climbing and caving systems, and should not be used as such.

Other equipment[edit]

A normal climbing harness is used. Children and people with heavy backpacks are advised to use a full body harness or a normal harness combined with a chest strap.

A helmet is generally strongly recommended, especially on longer or steeper routes, or where rocks may be quite loose. The helmet should be a UIAA approved climbing helmet, since the danger of falling rocks or hitting your head during a fall is always high. Other types of helmets can be dangerous as they are usually not designed to stay in place during a fall.

It is a good idea to use tough gloves, as the steel cables may have some loose steel threads, and gloves help to protect your hands from abrasion caused by continuous contact with the steel rope and rocks.

On difficult climbs, or when climbing with novices or children, a length of climbing rope and belay device may be provide additional security.

Other equipment will depend on the nature of the via ferrata, its approach and descent - so adequate weather protection should be taken on alpine via ferrata. Some via ferratas require headlamps because they travel through long tunnels, others routes may cross glaciers or snow fields and require crampons and ice axe. On very difficult via ferrata some climbers use climbing shoes rather than the hiking boots normally used.

Routes[edit]

Italy[edit]

There are more than 400 via ferratas in Italy, over half of them located in the Dolomites.[9]

Dolomites[edit]

The start of VF Ivano Dibona

As well as historic via ferrata based on World War I fortifications, the Dolomites are particularly renowned for their dramatic high mountain via ferrata. Several of these provide challenging ways to reach some of the summits in the range. Among the more notable routes are:[10]

  • The via ferrata della Marmolada (Hans-Seyffert-Weg) which climbs the west ridge of the Marmolada, at 3343 m the highest summit in the Dolomites. The route dates from before World War I.
  • Via ferratas Gianni Aglio and Giuseppe Olivieri which provide a very airy route to the summit of the Tofana di Mezzo (3244 m), via ferrata Punta Anna.
  • Via ferrata Giovanni Lipella which climbs the neighbouring Tofana di Rozes (3225 m). The route starts through a wartime tunnel.
  • Via ferrata degli Alleghesi; a long and classic route to the summit of the Civetta (3220 m), opened in 1966.
  • The via ferrata Bolver-Lugli (constructed in 1970 by mountain guides from San Martino di Castrozza) ascends the Cimon della Pala the "Matterhorn of the Dolomites" as far as the bivouac Fiamme Gialle at (3,005 m). From there, the "Variation for the Summit", involving moderate climbing, is needed to reach the summit at (3,184 m).
  • Via ferrata Cesco Tomaselli which climbs the Punta Sud of the Fanes group (2980 m), a challenging route with minimal climbing aids and unprotected sections, and another via ferrata as the descent route.
  • The via ferrata delle Mésules (Pössnecker Path), one of the first via ferrata, which climbs the Piz Selva (2941 m) in the Sella Group, via a route which is "scenically magnificent" and still demanding today.
  • Via ferrata Piz da Lech, on the other side of the Sella group climbs the south face of the Piz da Lech (2911m)(Boeseekofel) above Corvara, a popular half day route of medium difficulty.
  • Ferrata Gianni Costantini, which climbs the Cima Moiazza Sud (2878 m) near the Civetta, is one of the hardest, longest (at 1000 m) and most celebrated routes in Dolomites
  • Via ferrata Zandonella (South) perhaps the best of several routes that climb the Croda Rossa di Sesto (2936 m) (the Sextener Rotwand) This area has extensive WWI remains and nearby is the much easier Strada degli Alpini, perhaps the most renown of the via ferrata based on routes created in WWI.
  • Alta via Bruno Federspiel, a very long route along the Rizzoni ridge with excellent views. It traverses the Spiz di Taricignon (2647 m) in the Fassaner Dolomites to the SW of the Marmolada.

Another interesting and historic route is the VF Ivano Dibona, involving a traverse of the main Monte Cristallo ridge. The complete route takes about eight hours starting at Rifugio Lorenzi (2950 m) by the top of the Rio Gere lift system. It begins by crossing a characteristic suspension bridge, and trends mostly downhill, passing several World War I fortifications. It is often preceded by undertaking the Via Ferrata Marino Bianchi, which goes to from the top of the lift to a subsidiary summit of the Monte Cristallo.

Probably the most unusual via ferrata is via ferrata Lagazuoi Tunnels. Fighting for control of Mount Lagazuoi in World War I, Austrian and Italian troops built a series of tunnels through the mountains. The aim was to tunnel close to the enemy and detonate explosives to destroy their fortifications. A via ferrata now uses these tunnels, allowing one to descend into and through the mountain.

There are a great many other via ferrata in the Dolomites, including many shorter routes such as the easy Via ferrata Averau, or the difficult Via ferrata del Canalone. There are via ferrata in the valleys around the dolomites, such as Via ferrata Burrone Giovannelli near Mezzocorona, in the Etschtal (Val d'Adige) which ascends a gorge.

Brenta

To the west of the main dolomites, on the other side of the A22/E45 road, are the smaller Brenta Dolomites, which are compact but dramatic, and rise above the town of Madonna di Campiglio. The Brenta contain a dense network of via ferratas, the core of which is the Via delle Bocchette system, consisting of several sections, notably the Sentiero Bocchette Alte and the Sentiero delle Bocchette Centrali, which are particularly celebrated and spectacular. (Via ferratas names with Sentiero ("path") suggest easier routes with not much denivelation, although the Bocchette Alte in particular is not easy). The northern end of the range can be reached by lifts from Madonna di Campiglio, and it is possible to spend several days at high altitude on the network of via ferratas, staying at mountain huts. However, in accordance with the wishes of the regions climbers, the routes do not reach any major summits.

Other via ferratas in Italy[edit]

There are over 150 via ferratas in Italy outside of the Dolomites, most of them of constructed fairly recently. There are notable concentrations in northern end of Lake Garda, in the Aosta valley, in the mountains east of Lake Como and in the Friuli region, split between the Carnic and Julian Alps.[11] Some of the more notable routes are:

  • Via dell´Amicizia, which climbs above the town of Riva del Garda on lake Garda
  • Via ferrata Ernesto Che Guevara, on Monte Casale, north of Lake Garda in Trento
  • Via Ferrata del Centenario C.A.O. on the west shore of Lake Como, the best regarded of the Lake Como ferrata.
  • Via Ferrata del Monte Emilius, on Monte Emilius in Valle D'Aosta (one of the highest via ferrata in the Alps).
  • Via Italiana, in the Julian Alps in Friuli (one of only 3 via ferratas rated 6* by www.klettersteig.de).
  • Via ferrata Deanna Orlandini, in Genova
  • Via Ferrata del Cabirol (IT), on Capo Caccia, Alghero, Sardegna (a coastal via ferrata).

Austria[edit]

Austria, with over 550 "Klettersteige", is arguably the country that has most enthusiastically embraced via ferrata - with via ferrata promoted as a way to experience "nature" and with the regional sections of the ÖAV (Austrian Alpine Club) basing many of their harder walks around via ferrata[12] Via Ferrata in Austria have a long history, with routes being established at the start of the 20th century in the Northern Limestone Alps. For many years route development remained focused in this area and it is only more recently that Via Ferrata have been built across the Austria Alps. As a broad generalisation, routes in Austria fall somewhere between the long mountain routes of the Dolomites and the shorter sporting routes of France. That said, the via ferrata currently (2012) considered the hardest technically in the world is in Austria: the "Arena" variant of the Bürgeralm-Panorama-Klettersteig in Styria.[13]

The Northern Limestone Alps, which run from near Vienna to the Swiss border, remain at the heart of Austrian klettersteig, with routes concentrated in key mountain groups: the Rax (where some of the oldest via ferrata are), the Hohe Wand, the Totes Gebirge, the Dachstein, the Wilder Kaiser, the Karwendel. The Dachstein mountains in Styria in particular, are home to several notable via ferrata, including the Ramsauer Klettersteig, the Jubiläumsklettersteig, and on the northern side of the Dachstein, the Seewand klettersteig, which is one of the hardest long routes in Austria. However, perhaps the highlight is the long and difficult Dachstein Super Ferrata, recently created by linking three routes, and possibly the most challenging via ferrata overall in Austria. Other notable routes in the Northern Limestone Alps are the Innsbrucker Klettersteig in the Karwendel and the Tajakante Klettersteig in the Mieminger Chain just to the east (both routes are in Tirol, near Innsbruck).

The Central Eastern Alps have seen more recent development, with large numbers of routes in the Otztal and the Stubai Alps, and on either side of the Hohe Tauern. Highly regarded routes are the Schlicker Klettersteig and Ilmspitz Klettersteig in the Stubai, the Tiroler Weg in the Otztal, and the Bella Vista Klettersteig on the south side of the Hohe Tauern in Carinthia. Other via ferrata in this area climb a number of 3000m summits. The Southern Limestone Alps in Carinthia and East Tirol are more traditional ground for via ferrata. Several routes lie near the Italian border (in the Carnic Alps) which formed the front line in World War I and some via ferrata pass fortifications from the conflict, including the Weg der 26er which ascents the Hohe Warte, the highest peak of the range.

France[edit]

France saw its first via ferrata in 1988 - La Grande Falaise in Freissinière in the Ecrins. This was shortly followed by the via ferratas at les Vigneaux just to the north (the easier route, La Voie du Colombier, is the most popular in France with 15,000 climbers per year) and the Aiguillette du Lauzet, a little further north (a more traditional high mountain via ferrata).[14] There are now some 200 via ferrata in France, located throughout the French Alps, and with a few routes in the Massif Central, the Pyrenees and even in Corsica. They are well distributed across the six French grades, with handful each of F and ED, the bulk falling within the four middle classifications. As via ferrata have developed across the country, some have identified a distinct "french style, with metal rungs driven into improbable overhangs", spiced with wire bridges, and an emphasis on thrill seeking[5] - although some criticise French routes as having an excess of iron climbing aids. Dramatic features underpin many of the more notable routes: long suspension bridges (59m at the via ferrata de la Grande Fistoire), wire "monkey" bridges (via ferrata de la Chal); routes into and across gorges (the "spectacular" via ferrata Gorge du Durance);[15] routes up and around waterfalls (via ferrata de l´Adret: la Passerelle) or simply overhanging and strenuous (the neighbouring via ferrata de l´Adret: Le Bastion).

Other routes facilitate visits to historic sites. Les Mines du Grand Clôt near the village of La Grave in the Hautes Alpes department takes the climber up a sheer cliff where a lead mine operated with little success between 1807 and 1925. This route is illustrated with sign boards in English and French telling the story of the struggle to extract small amounts of ore in very difficult conditions. Another via near Lumbin in the department of Isère, the Vire des Lavandières, passes an old section of route called the Échelle des Maquisards built in 1943 and used by resistance fighters during the Second World War.

Responsibility for maintaining via ferratas in France lies with the commune in which the via is situated. Maintenance can be costly depending on location, with vias at higher altitudes being subject to damage by snow and ice through the winter months. Some communes have decided to fund this maintenance by charging an admission fee, but this applies to very few vias and most remain free of charge.

Switzerland[edit]

Despite its central position in the Alps, via ferrata took a long time to arrive in Switzerland. It was not until 1993 that the Tälli Klettersteig, the first real Swiss via ferrata (and still considered one of the best), was created on the sheer southern faces of Gadmer Flue in the Urner Alps. Even then nothing much further happened for several years, but in this century there has been a rapid development of via ferrata, with over 150 now listed. According to the Rother guide,[16] the new Swiss via ferratas are typically similar in character to the "sport" via ferrata in France, however, they are usually not as generously engineered with artificial holds so that climbers have to make contact with the rock and think about where the next foothold is.

Via ferratas are now spread across Switzerland, but particularly in the central and western areas. Areas with a large number of via ferrata are the Bernese Oberland with 32 routes and the Valais with 39 routes. In central Switzerland there are several routes around Lake Lucerne, in the Urner and Vierwaldstätter alps (15 and 17 routes respectively),[17] with Engelberg developing into a notable centre for ferrata - here, the Fürenwand-Klettersteig is considered the "most spectacular".[18] The range of routes is diverse: "action-packed" gorge routes (Alpine gorge in Saas Fee, Gorner gorge near Zermatt); panoramic routes onto 3000m peaks (Jegisteig (Jägihorn) and Mittaghorn Klettersteig, both near Saas Fee); high alpine challenges (Salbit-Kettenweg near Andermatt); and demanding athletic routes (Via ferrata San Salvatore near Lugano). The Rother guide considers that the most outstanding routes with regard to scenery and grading are the Braunwalder via ferrata in the eastern Swiss canton of Glarus and the Daubenhorn via ferrata near Leukerbad in the Valais. Also known as Leukerbadner Klettersteig (1&2), the latter is also the longest via ferrata in Switzerland.

Germany[edit]

There are about 180 via ferratas in Germany, the easiest of which can be approached without special equipment. Many are in the southern regions of Germany near the Austrian border. There are also many via ferratas in other areas - most notably in Saxon Switzerland. As opposed to via ferratas in the Dolomites, many routes were built in modern times and they have sport character, can be short and much more difficult than classics in the Dolomites.[19]

Rest of Europe[edit]

Norway[edit]

Several via ferrata are found in Norway, usually named by their Norwegian word klatresti which roughly translates as 'climbing trail'. There is a via ferrata Tysso in Tyssedal, starting at the Norwegian Museum of Hydro Power and Industry and climbing along the very steep hydropower pipeline. There is also one in Hemsedal.[20] In 2012 a new via ferrata opened in Loen, close to Stryn.[21] Trondheim boasts a via ferrata opposite the Trondheimsfjord on the Munken mountain, with spectacular views of the city.[22]

Poland[edit]

There is an assisted high level hiking trail in the Tatra Mountains – the Orla Perć. It is equipped with chains, ladders and other assisting features, but usually it is not traversed with harness and lanyard. Though it is not formally considered a via ferrata, it does however provide similar sensations of exposure.

Slovenia[edit]

There are many via ferratas routes or route sections in Slovenia, though there is no definite list. In the western part (Julian Alps), a few have similar wartime origins as those in the Dolomites, all the rest being in disrepair or of later construction. There is no separate classification, so they fall under the broad "very difficult trail" category. In 2010, the first and as of 2012 the only, sport via ferrata vas built near Vinska Gora, called Gonžarjeva peč.[23]

Spain[edit]

There are more than fifty vias ferratas in Spain, located in the following regions: - Pyrenées, all along the french border - All along the mediterranean coast from Girona to Murcia - two areas in Andalucia, around Ronda, and region between Malaga and Cordoba - Aound Bilbao, and a few spares near Burgos and Zaragoza

  • 601 Via Ferrata Regina, Alt Urgell
  • 602 Via Ferrata d'Allinyà, Alt Urgel
  • 603 Via Ferrata de St-Marti Sarroca, Alt Penedès
  • 604 Via Ferrata del Castellot, Alt Penedès
  • 605 Via Ferrata Olmo-Urquiza, Montsec
  • 606 Via Ferrata de la Pertusa, Montsec
  • 607 Via Ferrata Teresina Montserrat
  • 608 Via Ferrata Feixa del Colom, Conca de Barberà
  • 609 Via Ferrata de l'Aigualcoll, Baix Camp
  • 610 Via Ferrata del Santo Christo Somontano de Barbasto
  • 611 Via Ferrata del Puente, Somontano de Barbasto
  • 612 Via Ferrata de Sacs Ribagorza

Sweden[edit]

There are at least seven via ferrata routes in Sweden. One on the eastern route to the peak of Kebnekaise, one in Funäsdalen, one in Kittelfjäll and four on Skuleberget in the High Coast area.[24]

United Kingdom[edit]

Located in the Lake District, Honister's via ferrata is based on an old Miners' track up the steep face of Fleetwith Pike. There are two routes to choose from Via Ferrata Classic and Via Ferrata Xtreme.

Located in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, How Stean Gorge's via ferrata was constructed in 2009 for recreational purposes and incorporates fixed beams and ladders over the river as well as rockface sections.

Located to the west of the village of Elie, in the county of Fife, Scotland, the Elie Chainwalk is perhaps the closest thing that Scotland has to a Via Ferrata. It comprises eight chains along a route which follows steep sea cliffs, and typical via ferrata equipment (lanyards, helmet, harness) is never used. Reputed to have first been installed to help fishermen reach their nets, it is now maintained by the local council and was recently refurbished. It is suitable for those aged about 10 and above (with supervision); it is not recommended at high tide due to the possibility of being stranded.

There is also an indoor Via Ferrata being constructed in Kendal Wall that takes a route around the climbing areas on steel ladders and rungs.

Gobbins Path, Northern Ireland. Walking route along sea cliffs. Being refurbished ?, 2012.

Kosovo[edit]

There is a via ferrata in Rugova Mountains, Kosovo. It is located on fourth kilometer from Peja city. The road starts from Queen's Cave and need two hours to finish. It was built in 2013. This is unique in Balkans.[25]

Rest of the World[edit]

Canada[edit]

There are several via ferratas in Canada, mostly privately operated. In 2002, the mountain guide François Guy Thivierge installed the first two via ferratas, with a zip line, in Canada, at the Canyon St Anne close to Québec City. In 2003, Thivierge developed 2 more via ferratas (with 2 zip lines) in Les Palissades de Charelvoix, 10 km north on 170 road from St Siméon. There is also Adventures Lafleche near Gatineau, Quebec. The largest via ferrata in Canada can be found on Mt. Nimbus in the Columbia Mountains. Operated by Canadian Mountain Holidays, this via ferrata is accessible only by helicopter.[26] Western Canada's first public via ferrata is located halfway between Nordegg and the Icefield Parkway in the Rocky Mountains; the trailhead can be picked up at the parking lot on the east side of the Cline River. The climb is about 180 m (600 ft) long and takes around 2 hours to return to the parking lot. Whistler's only via ferrata is operated by Whistler Alpine Guides. This private, fully guided, high alpine climb passes the toe of the Whistler Glacier to access the buttress of Whistler Peak.

China[edit]

There is a high-level hiking trail on Mount Hua in China. It provides similar sensations of exposure. Another path is under construction in Hunan province. There is also one Via Verrata in the North of Huairou close to Beijing http://www.feilada.com [27]

Japan[edit]

On Mt. Hoken in the Japanese Central Alps are mid-level via ferrata. At an elevation over 2900 meters they pass over sheer drops of 300 meters. Several people have lost their lives on this route and the via ferrata can unexpectedly ice over.

Kenya[edit]

In July 2012 a new via ferrata developed by the Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS), opened on Mount Kenya, providing safe passage on the Northwest approach to Point Lenana (via Austrian Hut), as well from the south side (Shipton). Christened "Olonana", it is the world's highest via ferrata, at 4,985 metres (16,355 ft) replacing the via ferrata on Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia, as the world's highest.

Malaysia[edit]

The via ferrata in Malaysia is located on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. At 3,776 meters, it was verified by Guinness World Records as the highest via ferrata in the world,[28]

Mexico[edit]

There is a recent via ferrata in Mexico located in the Huasteca Canyon 30 minutes from the city of Monterrey, the largest in Latin America. Its difficulty level is intermediate.

Oman[edit]

There are 3 routes in Oman; Jabal Shams, Wadi Bani Awf (Snake Gorge) and Bandar Khayran (Western Isle).

Peru[edit]

Located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas (2,650 meters), between Cuzco and the spectacular Ollantaytambo fortress. The via ferrata reaches a vertical height of 300 meters, including a hanging bridge at 250 meters, and has a total length of 700 meters. Private route. Intermediate level. Exit via 100 meters rappel.

United States[edit]

Via ferrata routes in the United States include Mount Ogden Via Ferrata in Waterfall Canyon east of Ogden, Utah, Nelson Rocks in West Virginia, Picacho Peak in Arizona's Picacho Peak State Park, Torrent Falls in Natural Bridge Kentucky, Doe River Gorge in Tennessee, Telluride, Colorado, and Amangiri Resort in Southern Utah (4 routes). Liability exposure in the USA is significantly different from other countries, which may explain the low incidence of via ferrata construction. Also, via ferratas in the US are currently not approved for installation on public lands.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dieter Wissekal, Peter Grimm. "Entstehung und Geschichte" (in German). via-ferrata-dachstein.at. Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Werner: Klettersteig Scrambles in the Northern Limestone Alps. Trans. Dieter Pevsner Cicerone Press 1983 ISBN 0902363 46 8
  3. ^ a b Frass/Hofler/Werner: Via Ferrata Scrambles in the Dolomites. Trans. Cecil Davis Cicerone Press 1982 ISBN 0902 363 28X
  4. ^ for example, selected for Unsworth, Walt 'Classic Walks of the World' 1985 Oxford Illustrated Press ISBN 0 946609 14 4
  5. ^ a b Chavy, Jocelyn: Via Ferrata - a complete guide to France; pub. Cordee 2004 ISBN 1 871890 97 7
  6. ^ Adapted from http://www.aacuk.org.uk/Files/Klettersteig_Guidebook_Key.pdf retrieved 28 September 2012, translated from key in Kurt Schall: Klettersteig Atlas Austria
  7. ^ http://www.theuiaa.org/news_428_Second-wave-of-via-ferrata-set-recalls-within-six-months
  8. ^ "Petzl catalogue". 5 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Klettersteige in Italy". 5 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Routes listed are rated 5* by www.kletersteig.de, 4 stars for "fun" by the Schall guide to the dolomites and most are listed Erlebnis Klettersteig, Die 100 schönsten Touren in den Alpen (except VF della Marmolada, Gianni Aglio/Giuseppe Olivieri and Cesco Tomaselli)
  11. ^ "Klettersteige in Italy". 17 September 2012. 
  12. ^ for example see http://www.oeav-events.at/OEAV-EVENTS/alpin-programm/getVeranstaltungListe.php?tgId=3&aktivId=13. retrieved 24 September 20009
  13. ^ http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/journal/climb//video-worlds-most-difficult-via-ferrata retrieved 4 October 2012
  14. ^ http://viaferratafr.free.fr/histoire.php retrieved 1 October 2012
  15. ^ http://uk.franceguide.com/Via-Ferrata-exhilarating-fun-in-the-mountains.html retrieved 1 October 2012
  16. ^ Iris Kürschner (Translation: Gill Round), Via Ferrata Switzerland, summarised at http://www.rother.de/titpage/4832.php retrieved 19 September 2012
  17. ^ "Klettersteige in Schweiz". 18 September 2012. 
  18. ^ Bedding, James (3 April 2008). "Switzerland's via ferratas: a real cliffhanger". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  19. ^ "Klettersteige in Germany". 25 November 2011. 
  20. ^ Via ferrata in Hemsedal to vesle Røggjin
  21. ^ (German) Via ferrata - Loen
  22. ^ (Norwegian) Via Ferrata-ruten på Munken
  23. ^ Ferata Gonžarjeva peč
  24. ^ Via Ferrata Skuleberget
  25. ^ http://www.telegrafi.com/lajme/udhetimi-ne-shtegun-e-hekurt-video-2-37361.html
  26. ^ Flinn, John (17 January 2010). "A via ferrata makes scaling a vertical face like climbing a jungle gym". Los Angeles Times. 
  27. ^ "Construction cliff work 'not for the faint-hearted'" (video). BBC News Online. 3 May 2011. 
  28. ^ According to the following article: http://www.nst.com.my/Current_News/NST/articles/27torq/Article/index_html
  • Via ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Volume 1 [North, central and east] by John Smith and Graham Fletcher. Published in 2002 by Cicerone, UK. ISBN 1-85284-362-4.
  • Via ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Volume 2 [Southern Dolomites, Brenta and Lake Garda] by John Smith and Graham Fletcher. Published in 2003 by Cicerone, UK. ISBN 1-85284-380-2.
  • Tobacco Maps by Casa Editrice Tobacco.
  • Kompass Maps by Kompass Wanderkarten.

External links[edit]