What is a Via Ferrata and what to know before doing it

hacer una via ferrata

This post is also available in: Español

I recently discovered the exciting world of the Via Ferrata and although I’m still a beginner and I’m getting started in this field, I can already look forward to becoming a professional.

You may not have heard about them because they were not very popular (or I was not very aware of them) or you know them but you still haven’t dared to go on the adventure. In any case, in this post I tell you everything I would have liked to know before getting into the harness and fastening my helmet.

What is a Via Ferrata?

Let’s start from the beginning, a vía ferrata is a mountain route but it includes certain artificial elements that make it safer (and more fun). What kind of elements?

  • Mountain staples
  • Pins
  • Stairs
  • Chains
  • Hanging Bridges
  • Tyrolines
  • Cat’s feet
  • Harness
  • Carabiners
  • Insurers

The track is equipped with steel cables anchored throughout the course, and you carry carabiners that connect to it as you go, which ensures you in case of a fall. In other words, you are always connected to the mountain.

via ferrata route

What is the difference between Via Ferrata, mountaineering and climbing?

It is very common to confuse these terms and although they are related sports, there are notable differences.

As I was saying, the Via Ferrata is a mountain route where you help yourself with steps and steel cables all along the route to keep going.

However, and although in the mountaineering and climbing you also have protective equipment, you climb directly on rock walls or other natural reliefs. The help you have in these cases is your own body and your climbing skills. The technique needed is superior, and some experience is required.

If we go deeper into the matter, alpinism involves the climbing of high mountains and seeks to conquer the summit, while sports climbing can simply stay in one section of the mountain and does not have to be big.

Is it difficult to do a Via Ferrata?

Like everything in life, it’s a matter of experience. However, there are different types of via ferrata according to their level of difficulty and there is a way to measure them. The most popular is the Hüsler scale, and it is classified as follows:

  • K1: easy
  • K2: not difficult
  • K3: somewhat difficult
  • K4: difficult
  • K5: very difficult
  • K6: extremely difficult

So you know, if you’ve never done a Via Ferrata, maybe starting with a K6 isn’t the best choice. Start with a K1 and then go up the level.

If you have never done it and you feel like it, I have to say that a K1 is not difficult but it does require an acceptable physical condition. It is a mountain route that, although it has aids, you need strength and agility.

vias ferratas en España

Material needed to make a Via Ferrata

The itinerary in the mountain has different artificial elements you use to advance, as I commented. But you must also take into account the material you are carrying because for the activity to be really safe, you must carry the appropriate equipment.

To begin with, it is normal to do a guided via ferrata, accompanied by a professional who will show us both the path and the techniques to walk it. In these cases, they will lend you the material so you won’t have to worry about anything, but anyway, these are the minimum materials they must offer you (don’t trust them if they don’t carry them!):

  1. Harness: It must be approved for use in the mountains, not heavy and comfortable.
  2. Energy dissipater: this gadget absorbs the impact if you fall. It has a safety system and what it does is reduce the speed of the fall to avoid injuries.
  3. Helmet: lightweight and approved.
  4. Carabiners: wide and with automatic pressure systems. They have to slide well along the cable, otherwise they make the activity difficult.
  5. Tapes: to secure ourselves to the track anchors.
  6. Backpack: light and comfortable. It doesn’t have to be very big, but it should be close to the back. Always carry water and some food like nuts or fruit. If you are going on your own, I recommend you also take a front pack, in case it gets dark in the mountains.
  7. What to wear: it is important to wear clothes that are as comfortable as possible. Also take into account the time of year and the area, to adapt your clothes to the cold or heat. As far as footwear is concerned, it is best to choose for lightweight shoes or boots, but in both cases they should have hard soles and be non-slip.

carabiners via ferrata

If this is your first via ferrata you still don’t know if you will like it, so the best thing to do is to rent the material or as I said, do a guided route where they lend you the material and take care of licenses and insurance.

The best thing about doing a Via Ferrata

Personally, the via ferrata has opened the door to a world I didn’t know. The sensation of freedom that one feels when being in the middle of the mountain, the peace that one breathes, and also the security that being tied up at all times transmits, is indescribable.

In addition, it allows you to reach areas that would be impossible by climbing or walking, and this gives you postcard-worthy views.

It keeps you active and becomes a challenge where you want to aspire to more, go up a level, get to know other via ferrata and continue to enjoy the journey.

vias ferratas in group

The best via ferrata in the world

There are many via ferrata around the world, so many that if I were to number them all I would not end up. Besides, there are some in strategic points that allow you to see areas from another perspective, which makes it even more exciting.

I have only made vias ferratas in Spain (at the Posada de Valdeón and in the Pyrenees), but here is a list of the ones that I find most interesting in other countries and that I hope one day to have the opportunity to enjoy:

  • Sacred Valley in Ollantaytambo (Perú)
  • Aletsch (Switzerland). On the largest alpine glacier in the Alps.
  • Mount Kenya (Kenya, Africa). It is one of the highest via ferrata in the world.
  • Marmolada (Italy)
  • Liaucous (France)
  • Roc Du Vent (France)
  • Dolomitas (Italy)
  • Hua Shan (China)
  • Mountain Torq (Malaysia)

This is all I can contribute with my brief experience on via ferrata. I hope I could have helped you to take the step to start in this world if you had doubts and if you didn’t know about it, at least that you are curious now.

Have you ever done a via ferrata? What strikes you most about this sport?

See you in the mountains! 🙂

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