You’ve got the right gear and a bit of background knowledge – but how do you actually go about tackling via ferrata? In this, the third and final article in our series, Ian Fenton and Dan Middleton offer up their top tips.
This is like teaching someone how to climb a tree – basically you get to the start of the route, clip both krabs into the cable and away you go! The main thing to remember is to never have both krabs unclipped at the same time, so at re-belays (where the cable is re-anchored to the rock, usually every 5m or so) you unclip your leading crab and re-clip it past the re-belay, then follow with your second krab. Some shock absorbers have different coloured arms in the Y-shaped section to prevent twisting. If not, you can use different colours of insulation tape on the spine of your karabiners to differentiate between your leading and seconding ones.
You can also use one of the krabs for resting on a vertical or overhanging section if your arms are tired. Just unclip one of the arms of the Y from the cable, clip it into a rung and sit in your harness - the shock absorber will not slip unless shock loaded. But always remember to keep one arm of the Y clipped into the cable.
As these routes are essentially man made they can and do fail, and should be treated with the same caution as any fixed equipment in the mountains. A brief visual inspection should be made as you travel over them and keep an eye out for any obvious signs of wear; badly rusted or loose ladders, loose cable anchors etc. Bear in mind that the ladder rungs in particular are subject to wear from passing climbers and in combination with extremes of weather do occasionally become bent or loose.
Even though the routes are generally technically straightforward, there are a couple of other points to bear in mind, especially if you are in a mixed ability group or with the kids. Firstly, there can lot of arm work involved, and on harder routes it’s possible that less strong climbers may become exhausted and be unable to continue. Start with some of the easier ferrata, try to pick routes that are within the ability of the whole group, and always make sure an experienced climber, instructor or guide is with you if there are doubts.
Consider employing a top rope for steep or difficult sections if someone isn’t too confident. Secondly, though kids will love the climbing, their hands may be too small to operate the Klettersteig karabiners properly, or they may lack the grip strength required for their repeated operation. Check this before setting off and keep a sharp eye out en-route.
The style of via ferrata varies with location. Some are almost roadside adventure playgrounds, others are full on days in the mountains requiring thousands of feet of ascent and descent. Before heading off, take time to think about your planned adventure. Some ferratas start or finish on already very exposed terrain, and short-roping inexperienced members of the party may be required.
OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:
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