Via Ferrata is a mountain route which is equipped with fixed cables, iron rungs and ladders. That is the reason why it is called the “iron road” as it is a bridge that runs between the mountain ranges.
A via ferrata is mainly used to allow access to otherwise dangerous climbing routes and is especially helpful for those of us who are just beginners. Since the bridge caters for various climbing abilities walkers and climbers can follow the via ferrata without needing to use their own ropes and belays and more importantly without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing.
These simple protected paths, with ladders and basic protection aids, have probably existed in the Alps for centuries. Yet these paths which were once used to help connect villages to their high pastures have now been developed in recent years. This is because their popularity has grown and the tourism benefits have become recognised. This development is believed to have mainly occurred during the nineteenth century due to the growth of Alpine exploration and tourism.
These new routes were mostly developed by the climbing community often with active involvement of one of the relevant Alpine Clubs. 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 communtities, outdoor activity centres, cable car companies, mountain refuges and others, as well as continuing involvement by the Alpine clubs.
The majority are found in the Alps, others in European contries and a few elsewhere in America and Canada. 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 from the Bobbie Burns Lodge, 35 km south of Golden B.C.
“Traversing the knife-edged ridges, straddling the tiny summits, and walking across the airy suspension bridge was exciting enough while tethered into a bombproof harness and cable. Building the thing must have been outrageous.”
But, how safe can these bridges actually be?
An interview with British Columbia native and mountain guide Carl Trescher who, after experimenting with a small via ferrata on Mt. Syphax, went to learn from the masters.
“We use expansion bolts to build our anchoring systems for the bridge. These systems are theoretically capable of holding around 100 to 135 Kilonewtons. (The force of over 13,000kg.) Should be strong enough!!!” Carl Trescher.
To read more on this interview, click here
So who wants to have a go?! Tackle the heights, see some outrageously wild places and find an adventure.
Have you done the Mt. Nimbus Via Ferrata? Did it feel strong enough to you?