What is Via Ferrata?
A Via Ferrata (also known as Klettersteig) is a walk or climb which incorporates anything from metal rungs and ladders to a permanently fixed safety wire. The “iron path” or “way of steel” classically allows safe and comparatively straightforward progress through otherwise awkward, challenging or inaccessible terrain.
Origins in Klettersteig (climbing path)
In 1869, Johann Stüdl arranged for fixed ropes to be laid as protection for tourists wanting to climb the south west ridge of the Großglockner: the highest mountain in Austria. As alpine tourism grew in popularity, routes followed everywhere from the highest peak in Germany to one of the most iconic peaks in the French Pyrenees.
Via Ferrata and the Dolomites
Although routes can be found around the world, Via Ferrata are commonly identified with the towering limestone spires in the Italian Dolomites.
Early classics date to before the 1st World War but between 1915 and 1917, warring Italian and Austrian forces established many more to establish, maintain and retain observation posts and field guns. High level, multi-day traverses followed and today the Dolomites offers an incredible array of options from simple walks to easily accessible “challenge” routes set up more like at an adventure playground.
What does Via Ferrata Involve?
If a route has a safety wire, it is usually for a good reason! As a rule, safety wires run continuously from the start of the route to the finish of the route and are bolted to the rock at regular intervals. To stay safe, climbers attach themselves to the wire with lanyards known as “cow-tails” which must be moved from section-to-section.
Everything else about a Via Ferrata depends on the route. Some involve little more than walking and ladder climbing. Others involve lots of scrambling and maybe some rock-climbing techniques. How Stean Gorge’s Via Ferrata also involves walking on wires and dangling off wires.
Via Ferrata Equipment
Basic Via Ferrata equipment is simple but effective. Some routes just require protective helmets, harnesses and lanyards plus outdoor clothing, footwear and gloves. At the other extreme you might need to add additional specialist climbing and/or mountaineering equipment!
At How Stean Gorge our instructors carry ropes, pulleys and more so they can perform rescues if the need ever arose or more likely pass on some more advanced skills. We also have staff who can train you in rope techniques for Via Ferrata!
Where Can I Via Ferrata in the UK?
Although the sport of Via Ferrata is often associated with Italy, France, Austria, German or Switzerland you can try it right here at How Stean Gorge in Yorkshire!
If you’re looking for practice before heading to a course abroad, or simply want to extend your climbing skills to something thrilling and different, our Via Ferrata Climbing Course involves a whole day of familiarising yourself with all the sport involves.
Families and children can give it a go too! We’ve catered for all abilities with our high wire adventure, allowing visitors to climb along our gorge – including right beneath our café!
If Via Ferrata sounds like something you want to try, get in touch to find out about booking with us!