Calling all thrill-seekers! Feeling like branching off from typical hikes and lakeside strolls? Looking to engage in a unique Alpine sport, with levels appropriate for all ages/skills? As long as you don’t have a fear of heights, check out your nearest via ferrata.
Gaining in popularity, via ferrata means ‘iron path’ in Italian, and is essentially a protected climbing route found in mountain settings. A steel cable runs through iron loops, and you connect yourself to the cable via a harness, two carabiners, and a safety system in case of a fall. This system allows you to ascend to impressive mountain perches without the need for advanced rock-climbing skills.
Here is an example of Switzerland’s longest via ferrata, located in Leukerbad:
You can easily rent via ferrata equipment at sporting goods stores near the trails. Consider hiring a guide for your first climb, especially if you have children or less-confident climbers in your group.
For our first go-round, we chose the 700-meter Via Ferrata La Clusaz. It’s about 45 minutes from Geneva, in nearby beautiful France. Our group was composed of 4 adults and 5 children (ages 6, 7, 8 and two 10-year olds). If you have a Spiderman-loving child in your family, they will love this activity (just make sure one of the adults is fast enough to keep up!)
Via ferrata trails vary in length and difficulty, and are available for every level of hiker/climber. For details about the (several dozen nearby) Swiss and French via ferratas, click here and here.
A few tips: 1) When planning, remember that you often have to hike to get to the starting point of the via ferrata, and you will have to hike all the way back down from the top, too! 2) Buy/rent protective gloves to shield your hands from the cable and equipment. 3) Be sure to wear hiking boots/shoes with a grip. My sneakers were adequate, but slippery on some of the well-worn stones/metal grips. 4) Check ahead to see if/where a particular trail has an early exit. For example, the La Clusaz trail has an exit at step 5 (of 12), in case you or someone in your group is ready for flat ground.
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.
Fay Rogers said:
This is spectacular and so well written. Did you actually do this or did Christine B-B? Bravo. We did the Barrage d’Emosson last week and I sent photos to Lori and Caroline, knowing they are trying to discover and see as much as they can. Lori suggested you might be interested in writing about visiting this Dam. And maybe you have already covered it before. It can all be done by public transport or by driving. But using public transport is more fun for kids becaue they get a mountain train, a very steep spectacular funicular, a mini funicular, an amazing view and walk around the dam with some explanations about the hydro-electric power and its importance. I will forward you my Emossan Dam photos in a different email. Another idea, for next year, there are a number of Sunrise Alphorn concerts. We are going to Vercorin this Saturday with a 5:30am cable car lift. The husband of one of our AIWC tennis players is a professional musician and will be playing. I will try to take some good photos. Have a nice weekend. Fay
Thank you, Fay! I will get those ideas in the queue for the blog, they sound wonderful, thanks for sending! And yes, I did the via ferrata with my family last week. Our friends are experienced climbers so showed us the way. Turns out our 6-year old is part mountain goat, he is obsessed with via ferrata now.