Scurt ghid pentru incepatorii pe traseele de via ferrata

Via ferrata - "iron dome" - is a protected climbing route, provided with a steel cable fixed in the rock, metal steps, stairs, suspension bridges and zip lines.

The word defines both the route and the outdoor activity, which consists in traveling the via ferrata route by using a harness attached to the cable. Halfway between climbing and rock climbing, via ferrata allows non-expert climbers to reach high altitudes safely, using minimal equipment.

The minimum requirement for via ferrata routes is represented by a harness, a protective helmet and a via ferrata kit, which includes ropes and carabiners for shock absorption, necessary to tie you to the route.
If you choose to opt for a package that includes a tour of via ferrata , as you can find in the offer, you will be able to benefit from all the necessary equipment from the organizers.

What else do you need to have in your luggage?

  • Padded gloves, without fingers, are not mandatory, but if you have them, they will help you to have more comfort and a better grip when climbing.
  • A small backpack - you will need to have your hands completely free, so take a small backpack with you for the bare essentials, such as water and food.
  • Hiking boots, or a pair of solid sports shoes - via ferrata is more extreme climbing than rock climbing, so you won't need the most high-tech boots on the market. But even so, it is recommended to have a pair of walking or hiking boots with a grippy sole.

What is the best time of year for via ferrata?

To travel a via ferrata route without problems, you need favorable weather conditions. This means avoiding rainy days, electric shocks, snow and ice. During the winter, it is more difficult to travel via ferrata routes and it is not recommended for tourists, because the routes can be slippery and dangerous.

The snow and ice covering the metal cables make the activity more difficult, and the routes will require twice as much time to be completed. In addition, you will need more complex equipment, such as ice poles, ice axes, crampons and snow shoes, essential for via ferrata experts who are brave enough to venture on these routes in winter.

For tourists who want a vacation that includes via ferrata, the best season is summer, late spring and autumn. If you're trying the via ferrata for the first time, make sure you check the weather well in advance and keep an eye on real-time weather forecasts to see all the news before you hit the trail.

One thing to remember about hiking in the peak of the summer season is that some areas can be much more crowded. As such, if you want to avoid the crowds, avoid peak season.

Do you need a via ferrata guide?

Via ferrata does not require as many skills as climbing and, as long as you follow the route, it is impossible to get lost or get stuck. However, the biggest risk factor in this activity is safety. Even if you are attached by ropes and are completely safe even when you fall, there are many things you have to think about when you are at such a great height.

Checking and re-checking the ropes and carabiners (as well as those of the children or the group you are going with) is the most important responsibility for anyone who wants to go out without a guide on such a route.

Therefore, although it is perfectly possible to do via ferrata without a guide, it is highly recommended to go with a guide, regardless of your level.

Most accidents happen when people use their equipment incorrectly, when they forget to check their attachments or when they are distracted by other people. This is especially true in the case of families, because parents are often focused on making sure that the little ones are tied as securely as possible and forget to check their own ropes.

A guide not only has years of experience in traveling these routes with groups, but also acts as an additional level of security. The task of the guide is to check if everyone is safely attached to the route and/or to the other members of the group. He will be there to ensure that there is rope between the participants, as a secondary safety measure in case someone forgets to connect to the route.

A guide will also help you with the technique and give you directions. For beginners, the via ferrata route with a guide should be mandatory. The same is true for families, regardless of the level of experience, at least when you go out on the via ferrata for the first time with children.

Difficulty scale

There are many different scales used to classify via ferrata routes. The most famous of these are:

  • Italian scale
  • Austrian scale (Kurt Schnall)
  • German scale (Eugen Hulser)
  • German scale (Paul Werner)
  • French ladder

In 2016, the UIAA Mountaineering Commission decided to adopt the Italian scale for scoring, so this is an international standard that you can notice in different parts of the world, not just in Italy.

In the French Alps, however, the French scale is often used. In France there are six levels of difficulty, which you will find below, keeping the terms from the French language. The Italian difficulty scale is very similar to the French one, but it only includes 5 levels of difficulty (without AD).

  • F (Facile): easy, suitable for a first introduction to railways.
  • PD (Peu Difficile): a bit difficult, ideal for children and beginners.
  • AD (Assez Difficile): quite difficult, the best type of route for beginners accompanied by guides or more experienced climbers.
  • D (Difficult): difficult, suitable for those who have done via ferrata before.
  • TD (Tres Difficile): very difficult, for those who rely on a good technique.
  • ED (Extremely Difficult): extremely difficult, reserved for those with a lot of technical experience.

Via ferrata is generally aimed at adults, because it can be difficult for little ones to reach the cables and stairs. But there is a series of via ferrata for small children in the Alps in the South of France. There are different age restrictions, depending on the classification of the routes, most starting from 9 or 10 years old, and some even starting from 7 years old.

Is it a dangerous sport?

Compared to traditional climbing, via ferrata is a much easier sport. You don't need the same climbing skills to tackle the more intimidating rock faces, and the cables act as an extra level of security. But via ferrata can be just as risky and dangerous, especially if you don't know how to use the equipment properly.

Although via ferrata is more accessible than climbing, accidents can occur, and quite a few... This is why it is absolutely essential to have the right equipment with you, to know exactly how to use it and to understand the necessary safety checks.
Below are some tips that will help you to always be safe.

  • Always go on the route accompanied by a guide – a guide is not only a person who knows the mountains and the best climbing techniques. A professional guide knows how to work with groups, making sure that everyone is safe.
  • Make sure you are in good physical shape – this is an essential condition for anyone who wants to try via ferrata for the first time. Experienced hikers and those who hike the hills or who have climbed before are the right people for this sport.
  • First of all, check if you are properly strapped in - it is common for parents who go with children on via ferrata routes to forget to check their own carabiners, because they are concerned about the safety of their children.
  • Don't go out on the route if the weather is bad – good weather conditions are essential for a successful via ferrata tour. Avoid rain, snow and ice and choose a dry day. If the weather suddenly changes, turn back.
  • Always keep your helmet on - it can be tempting to take your helmet off when taking a break, especially when it's hot outside and you're sweating. But you must always keep the helmet on your head, because that way you will be protected from any possible fall of stones.