‘Iron Roads’ Climb Over The Rocks Of The West
Rock climbing is a specialized sport, with its own equipment and techniques. But European-based via ferratas have begun to spring up in the U.S. mountain country to make the sport more accessible to more people.
Translated as “iron roads,” via ferratas originated as a way for Italian troops to navigate the Dolomite Mountains during World War I. Fixed “protection” on the rock, such as cables, steps, pegs and ladders, allow non-technical climbers to hook in and climb over rocks. Some via ferratas incorporate hanging bridges.
The sudden appearance of via ferratas came after the 2011 Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act that permitted a wider range of activities on U.S. Forest Service land, on which many U.S. ski and snowboard resorts sit.
Here’s a look at the via ferratas in and around North American mountain resorts:
In the Telluride box canyon, the mountain club has set up a via ferrata on the south-facing wall at the end of the canyon near Bridal Veil Falls. Local guiding companies take climbers onto the wall that rises 500 feet out of the canyon floor. Featured is the “Main Event” that crosses 300 feet on a sheer cliff.
Jackson Hole has the first via ferrata built on public land. It has eight routes – from introductory to more-difficult – and a 120-foot suspension bridge. Rates include two-hour practice climb, half-day option or six-hour full day on the rock.
Squaw Valley has installed one of the newest via ferratas in the West, with two routes on the Tram Face that juts out above the main base village. Routes are particularly kid-friendly, and guides provided by the resort.
Routes rise out of Waterfall Canyon above Ogden, Utah. A trio of climbs sit west of the ridge that tops Snowbasin Resort. Built by local climbing legend Jeff Lowe. Mount Odgen Via Ferrata includes a training wall and main climb.
Other via ferrata are planned for the mountains of the West, including several routes on the backside of Taos Ski Valley. The East has one in Rumney, N.H., in the famed Polar Caves.