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These notes are intended to assist the walker or climber who has already gained considerable knowledge of British mountaineering and scrambling and is fully aware of its risks but is still interested in exploring the wonderful world of Via Ferrata. They are brief and not designed to be comprehensive in any way. Ultimately climbing is a dangerous sport and claims many casualties each year. One of the guiding principals of British climbing and mountaineering is that it is the individual climber is responsible for his or her own safety. If you cannot accept this then this site and probably climbing in general is unlikely to suit you. May we refer you to this very interesting site instead!
Below Left: Alex Reid (aged 13) on an exposed section of the Via Ferrata Yves Pollet-Villard in the Haute Savoie of France, and Right on the awesome monkey bridge on the Via Ferrata de la Roche a Agathe near Thone in the same area.
Via Ferrata is the name commonly used to describe the high level footpaths found in the Alps that use fixed cables for protection and steel ladders to surmount difficult sections (another name is Klettersteig).
Originally via Ferrata were constructed in the Italian Dolomites and Austrian Tyrol to enable troop movements in during the First World War. After the war these protected high level paths were taken over by mountain guides who used them as an easy way to get clients to the foot of climbs. Gradually the network was extended by these guides and via ferratas became an pastime in their own right. In recent years other countries have noticed the increase in tourist revenue that the Italian via ferratas have engendered and now modern and in many cases steep and exposed via ferratas can be found all over the alps.
Although they break just about every rule of aesthetic mountaineering ("Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints etc"), Via Ferrata are very enjoyable and highly popular, and give nearly everyone an opportunity to move through spectacular and often extremely exposed alpine scenery with a minimum of equipment.
To enjoy Via Ferrata at their best it is worth staying at the huts so that only a small amount of equipment is required to be carried.
Right Top: Looking down the steep upper wall of the Via Ferrata de la Tour du Jalouvre in the Haute Savoie of France. The himalayan bridge can be seen below.
Right Bottom: Looking up the same wall. The leader is protecting an inexperienced member of the party by use of a rope run through "Pig's Tails" at the cable junctions. When the rope comes tight the second person will start to move. For steeper sections, more rope can be employed and a belay taken.
The simplest Via Ferrata Clipping System is a short length of 9mm rope (don't use tape - it has no stretch) tied in to your harness with an HMS Screwgate Karabiner attached to the other end for clipping onto cables etc (NB. Normal screwgates will not fit over ladder rungs). A better system uses two such lengths of rope plus krabs so that you are always clipped in to something at any given moment. However, such a system is not really safe as a fall can generate such a high impact force as to break components and prove fatal and so we do not recommend it.
Any commercially produced Via Ferrata Clipping System always includes an impact reducing device, as the fall factor induced in a short fall onto a short length of rope clipped onto a ladder rung can be so high as to break a karabiner. For this reason too, they include a system whereby the attachment to the karabiner is fixed so that the pull is always along the karabiner at its strongest point and never cross-loaded. The Mammut website has a full explanation of possible Impact Forces attainable on Via Ferrata. There are many good Via Ferrata Clipping Systems on the market - please follow the link for a selection.
Photo: The Tuckett Hut - an excellent base for operations in the Brenta Dolomites.
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