| by Dave McG
'Via Ferrata' to the native English speaker may be tricky to translate, so what exactly does it mean? Once translated from the Italian to 'Iron Path', it may throw up visions of a challenging or gruelling route to traverse. However, it’s anything but a slog!
Via ferrata at a glance may beg the question 'What's enjoyable about hanging off the side
of a mountain attached to a cable or metal rung?' The answer for many curious
Tourists and keen climbers is “plenty”.
Where did it all begin?
Originally thought to have been created in the 18th Century to allow villagers easy access
to higher pastures, the early pathways were simple structures of rope and wood.
These routes were further developed using more robust materials during World War I to aid the movement of troops taking control of the much prized, strategically advantageous higher ground.
This development continued either side of World War II but it wasn't until the 70's and 80's that they became the focus of the climbing community. Commercial development led to the rapid expansion of Via Ferrata as the exciting outdoor activity that we know today.
There are now over 1800 Via Ferrata routes across the European Alps. France joined the party in 1988 and now has over 200 routes available. The rope and wood structures have been replaced with modern cables, metal rungs, bridges and even zip wires in some locations.
Climbers (and adventurers) attach harnesses to these fixtures, traversing routes that would normally require more technical equipment, without the risks normally associated with climbing and mountaineering.
Recognising that not everyone wants to hang off a mountain at 2700m (although some do and the views are spectacular), there are lower level routes alongside waterfalls or in very picturesque canyons that are far less challenging
By all accounts Via Ferrata is actually more thrilling than scary. Suitable for all ages, with differing degrees of difficulty make it a great family option.
Why not see for yourself and take an iron path on your next adventure?