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Adventure in the Alps – so what is via ferrata?

Summer fun in Samoens – Via Ferrata

Looking for inspiration for a summer of fun? The second in our series of summer blogs introduces the exciting sport of via ferrata.

Not for those without a head for heights (or a willingness and determination to overcome one!), in this post we will give you a better understanding of this fantastic activity… And another reason to come to Samoens!

Big smiles on the via ferrata

So what is via ferrata?

Despite a romantic Italiain name, the meaning of via ferrata, “iron route” or “iron way”, does little to convey the excitement and adventure bestowed upon its participants. Descriptions vary but it is safe to say that via ferrata sits somewhere between hiking and climbing.

A metal cable attached to the rock at 2m-5m intervals will guide you along your route and offer you the security needed. Attached to your climbing harness will be specific via ferrata lanyards and carabiners. Using this equipment you connect yourself to the cable clipping yourself in as you move along rock faces using natural features, ladders, rungs and pegs. As with all such mountain activities a helmet is also standard (and compulsory on some routes).

Autumn via ferrata

Climbing experience is not required but a head for heights is! Routes are graded and include very easy paths that are little more than an exposed walk to those that require high levels of fitness and strength to negotiate overhanging sections. Distances too can vary from routes taking an hour to those needing a day to complete.

Our local via ferrata is graded as AD+ (‘assez difficile’ – harder than easy but not considered difficult…) and requires a reasonable level of fitness from those who take part. If you are an experienced climber or have done via ferratas in the past, there’s nothing to stop you heading up without a guide.

If you are new to such things, a guide is definitely recommended for your first adventure. We will happily arrange this for our guests.

The origins of via ferrata

Now well established as a popular activity, the origins of via ferrata are often disputed. One school of thought is that they we created to support movement of troops in World War 1 whilst others attribute their existence to purely recreational reasons.

In reality, what we currently know as via ferrata arguably stems from both paths. Mountain routes with aids such as fixed ropes and ladders became prominent during the 19th century when the appetite for exploring the alpine areas started to grow. Tourism and transhumance (seasonal migration of farming communities between mountain pastures in summer and the valleys in winter) brought about many established paths with permanent protection.

Winter via ferrata - time to enjoy the view and yes that is snow...

World War 1 also saw the Dolomites become a strategically significant battle ground with German-backed Austrian troops fighting the Italians in the South. To help troops advance quickly through these steep mountains fixed lines and ladders were installed. Today, a number of via ferratas in the area still offer a chance to see dug outs, trenches and military observation posts.

With mountain appeal continuing to grow throughout the 20th century, routes have subsequently been created purely for fun and adventure.

Via Ferrata in Samoens

Strictly speaking, the via ferrata is arguably nearer Sixt than Samoens but given that it’s a 5-10 minute drive, it’s easily accessible from here.

As mentioned, the route is graded as AD+ (fairly difficult) and you should allow at least 2 hours to complete it for your first time (half a day including transport and kitting up).

If you can take your eyes off the rock, the views over the end of the Giffre valley are nothing short of breathtaking and there are a couple of spots wide enough to sit down and enjoy a sandwich if you really want to savour them (others can still pass you safely).

Via Ferrata - fun for the whole family

Guides (including English speakers) are available locally and joining a group with cost around €40 for half a day including all safety equipment.

If you get a taste for it (we love via ferrata here at Absolute Alpine!) there are others in the area worth exploring – these are also offered as options by Samoens guides.

So, there’s another reason to consider a summer holiday in the Alps… What are you waiting for?

Our Flickr Gallery

These photos and many more are available on our Flickr gallery – click here to visit.

Until next time…

One comment on “Adventure in the Alps – so what is via ferrata?

  1. Arnaud Bouchet on said:

    Absolutely AMAZING…one of the best experience I had as outdoor activities go

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