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