What is Via Ferrata?

What Is…. Via Ferrata? Sometimes spelt with capitals like God, or Monday, Via Ferrata is name that doesn’t really lend itself to revealing what it is. Via, is fine, but Ferrata? Immediately Ferrets and Frittatas spring to mind. Mine at least.

So the one sentence explanation. A multi pitch rock climbing route meaning ‘road of iron’ , this is a popular activity outside of the UK, and involves  clipping yourself on to pre laid hooks, stemples and climbing ladders instead of using ropes, karabiners and other trad climbing gear in order to reach a summit.

The Lingo:

You are going on a Via Ferrata route. Context – “ Me and big Dave are off Via Ferrata.”

Or in the plural – “I climb via ferratas, in the Dolomites mostly.”

What are the Dolomites and why does everyone mention them when talking about Via Ferrata?

Sometimes climbing gear is described as suitabke for Via Ferrata or for the Dolomites.

Simply, the Dolomites are a set of hostile Alpine, snow covered mountains that were fought from between Austria and Italy in 1915 to 1917.

The high peaks made excellent site points and the Dolomites were amended with ladders and ropes to help make ascending quicker.

These are the first ever Via Ferrata and they are still climb-able, with the addition of new iron and steel ladders that can be used for extra holding power.

Why climb Via Ferrata?

As they are already pre-laid, all you need to do is climb a Via Ferrata route.  You can get down and up the mountain quicker, and it isn’t as tricky as scrambling or trad climbing. I asked Tom Livingstone, a climber taking his ML awards why he also enjoys Via Ferrata routes.

“It’s a safer terrain really and it takes down that level of anger. It wasn’t originally designed for leisure climbers obviously, but with the addition of solid rungs, you can climb quite safely and reach the summit with less resk.”

Where are the UK Via Ferrata Routes?

The Lake District has Honister, How Stean Gorge, and there is also the Elie Chainwalk in Fife.

What do you wear for Via Ferrata?

It depends where you go but it tends to be nice and warm so you need your climbing specific gear on, your approach shoes (which are lighter and stiffer than normal climbing boots) as well as a climbing helmet, a harness and lanyards.

Have you been on a via ferrata route? What have your experiences been?