What is Via Ferrata? Via Ferrata is Italian for “iron road” and essentially it is a vertical route equipped with anchored rungs and steel cables to aid climbers. This allows inexperienced or new climbers (that’s us!) to explore alpine regions and steep scenic areas that would usually be inaccessible.
We were lucky enough to experience the Via Ferrata with Mountain Skills Academy at the Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish.
We didn’t really know what to expect when we booked our Via Ferrata experience, and truth be told, I was a little nervous. I’m pretty open to new adventures and I like hiking, but climbing kind of freaks me out. It’s not the climb, it’s gravity and the thought of falling.
Here’s the great thing about Via Ferrata – this style of climbing uses a system of lanyards attached to steel cables which effectively limits the danger of a fall. Whenever you reach an anchored pole, you unhook one carabiner and clip it back onto the cable on the other side of the pole before unhooking the second carabiner. This double clip system means you should always be connected to the cable at all times.
What was it like? Here is a video of our experience – footage shot on a GoPro attached to my helmet.
A synopsis of the climb: We met our guide, Lora, at the top of the gondola where we were fitted with climbing harnesses, helmets and lanyards. Then it was a short hike down the track to the beginning of the Via Ferrata. Lora explained how the system worked and answered our questions and then it was time to climb.
The route started off gently enough and was more of a hike than a climb as we gently traversed around the side of the mountain. This was a good opportunity to get comfortable with the lanyard and carabiner system.
Things got much more vertical once we reached the first ladder.
There were just the two of us on our tour which meant we were able to go at our own pace. There was plenty of time to enjoy a few unusual rest stops along the way.
And take in the views.
Once we had conquered the vertical parts, the terrain leveled out quite a bit. Our legs were happy about that! We hiked across a footbridge and around the mountain towards the Summit Lodge. We came up under the suspension bridge and had made it – finishing our climb back at the top.
Yes, we did get very hot and our hands were very dirty from the cables, but the sense of achievement was awesome!
After getting cleaned up, we enjoyed a well-deserved beer on the patio and took in the amazing view before taking the gondola back down.
Mountain Skills Academy have many tours available, including 2 Via Ferrata adventures in BC; this one near Squamish and a 4-hour climb in Whistler. If you are curious but have any reservations about fitness level or ability, we’d recommend trying the Squamish one first. The climb takes about 1.5 hours and for a novice, it’s challenging but not too difficult. The experience is exhilarating and the views are spectacular.
Via Ferrata is a unique and fun adventure. We are really glad we did it and hope to do the Whistler Via Ferrata someday as well.
Let us kow if you’ve tried it too.