What is Via Ferrata?
Via Ferrata is the perfect mix between rock climbing and hiking. The term “via ferrata” comes from the Italian language and in a direct translation it means “iron road”. The via ferrata routes are mountain paths, similar to the climbing routes, provided along their entire length with metallic structures: spiers, slopes (iron steps), metal shafts, pythons, suspended bridges, etc … These equipments allow less experienced people in the field of mountaineering to follow routes similar to those of mountaineering, but with a very high degree of safety.
Is it for everyone?
Anyone that has a minimum level of fitness is able to follow a Via Ferrata path. Of course the harder the path, the higher your fitness level and mountaineering skills need to be. Bellow we created a table where we offer some details in regards with each difficulty level. For more detailed tables and more informations check the UIAA website.
Table: Via Ferrata paths difficulty levels
|A – Easy||F||K1||A challenging walk on a straightforward but exposed path.||Wire ropes, chans, ladders, bridges, iron champs, steps that allow a secure but a little exhausting climb||Via ferrata equipment recommended||Steady feet and good with heights|
|B – Moderately difficult||PD/AD||K2/K3||Flat to steep rocky terrain, exhausting and power draining passages which alternate with relaxing ones||Wire ropes, ladders, bridges, iron clamps, steps in a combination that asks for more body control than grade A||Via ferrata equipment recommended.||Steady feet, good with heights and good phisycal condition (some endurance in arms and legs)|
|C – Difficult||D/TD||K3/K4/K5||Steep terrain, exposed passages and vertical parts. Grips and steps are small. Longer power draining passages||Wire ropes, ladders, bridges, iron clamps and steps. A combination that requires more power and courage||Via ferrata equipment highly recommended. Inexperienced children may need to use a rope as well.||Steady feet, good with heights , power and endurance in arms and legs|
|D – Very Difficult||ED||K5||Very steep to vertical with overhanging parts as well. Very exposed mostly||Wire rope, ladder, bridges. Almost no iron clamps or steps. Even most difficult parts secured only by wire ropes||Not suitable for beginners and children. Via ferrata equipment is a must, in some occasions the use of rope may be needed||Power in arms, hands and legs. Experience in rock climbing (overhanging routes/boulders) would help a lot|
|E – Extremely difficult||No Equivalent||K6||Primarily overhanging and very exposed with small footholds. Easier sections mostly unprotected||Almost entirely made of wire rope, with hardly any other elements such as ladder, bridges, steps etc.||Not suitable for beginners and children. Via ferrata equipment and rope are a must||Climbing experience is essential. Lots of strength required in arms, fingers and legs. Increased mobility and endurance.|
On our adventures in Transylvania we mainly focus on the B and C difficulty levels but there is the possibility to approach harder paths if the adventurers are up for the challenge.
What does a Via Ferrata gear include?
In each and every of your Via Ferrata adventures you will need the 4 most important elements:
Helmet : protects you from possible falls of rocks that may occur on steep slopes
Via Ferrata Kit: the most important part of the equipment – consists of 2 carbines with automatic safety, a sling in the form of Y and shock absorption mechanism. With the help of the two carbines, you permanently secure yourself to the metal cable along the route.
Hiking boots with Vibram soles: for every route, even those with a low degree of difficulty you need boots with an adhesive sole, great rigidity and high cut for ankle protection
Harness: secures you, together with eh Via Ferrata kit in case of a fall
Apart from the gear mentioned before it is worth mentioning the following elements worth having with you:
How to move along the path safely?
During the whole path you will be permanently secured by your harness, with the Via Ferrata kit, onto the metal cable. It is really important during the whole route to keep a safe distance between you and the other adventurers on the course. There should be at least one cable segment gap between you and the person in front as well as the person following you. At the same time you need to pay attention all the time at what happens around you and what the other adventurers are doing around. In case some rocks come loose from the top, you need to get closer to the wall, don’t look up and allow the helmet to “take the beating”.
The “tricky” part comes when you reach the knot where the metal cable is bolted to the rock/wall. Here you need to make sure you follow the steps described bellow in this exact order every single time.
1 – We are looking for a comfortable position in which to make the transition of the carabiner on the next segment of the metal cable.
2 – We disconnect the first carabiner and connect it immediately to the next segment of cable.
3 – With the first carabiner now coupled, we disengage the second carabiner and move it to the next cable segment.
At no point do we disengage both carbines simultaneously. None of the carabiners attach themselves to the loop of the harness or one of the other during the route, even when we take a break.
Can I exit a Via Ferrata route whenever I want?
The answer may vary depending on the Via Ferrata route you are about to engage upon. Most of the routes do not offer an exit path, therefore in this case you will have only 2 options left – either to go back the same way you came or to push forward and reach the end of the route.
That is why before starting a Via Ferrata route, make sure you are ready for the task and that you are properly informed about the difficulty and the physical requirements of the route.
Why having a guide for my first Via Ferrata adventure?
First and foremost it is always important to have an experienced person by your side when you first try an extreme activity. In this case your person will be a mountain guide specialised in Via Ferrata. The guide will be responsible for your safety and for teaching you all there is to know before starting on the route.
Most of the time the guide is the one that provides you with the Harness, Helmet and Fia Ferrata Kit. Since you are trying this for the first time it is not worth investing in the equipment without knowing if you even like it or if this is something you will do often in your adventures.
Where are the best places for Via Ferrata in Europe?
- Romania – a destination not so known but which hosts impressive routes: Cheile Turzii, Peretele Zanelor, Casa Zmeului, Pietrele Negre
- Italy – of course the Dolomites are well known for their exquisite Via Ferrata routes such as: Le Bocchette, Ferrata delle aquile, Ferrata degli alpini in Col dei Bos, Punta Anna, Sentiero dei Fiori
- Slovenia – Julian Alps is the best place to search for amazing routes such as: Mojstrana and Mala Mojstrovka
- Germany – the Bavarian part of Germany hosts most of the routes and can be found in areas such as: Oberallgäu, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgadener Land
- Austria – Tyrol represents a great alpine playground full of spectacular routes: Endorphin Galitzenklamm, Glödis, Spitzkofel, Panorama
- Belgium – this country is the host for a variety of amazing routes worth trying out: Pont-a-Lesse, Les Rochers des Grands Malades, Landelies, Marche-les-Dames
- France – the Rhone Alps offer a great option to try some adventurous routes: Le Saix du Tour, Bellevaux, Le Mont, La Curalla
- Spain – some of the most amazing Spanish routes can be found close to Barcelona: Les Dames, Cala Moli, Les Baumes Corcades, Gorges de Salenis