This week, our founder was invited out to visit Salewa’s headquarters in Bolzano, Italy to tour Italy and Austria for some via ferrata, some great food, and to check out a surprise unveiling. Here’s his account of what happened.
Our next stop was the Strandhotel Margeritha in St. Wolfgang, a small town on the north coast of Wolfgangsee Lake in Austria, and our home base for the rest of our trip. The majority of our third day entailed via ferrata (iron road), a form of climbing in which you clip into a steel cable follow it up and across climbing routes, occasionally aided by ladders, rebar pegs and suspension bridges.
Aid climbing has been around as long as people have been in the mountains, but via ferrata developed in World War I as a way to help Italian and Russian troops move through the Dolomites as they fought each other. In recent years, via ferrata has been developed for recreational pursuits as a way for non-climbers to enjoy routes that would otherwise be restricted to experienced climbers.
Routes vary in difficulty, but overall, routes feel about as tough as your average hike, albeit a vertical one. Even first-timers will enjoy the views once they get used to the exposure and start trusting their protection. It’s a great way to introduce a newbie to the sport of climbing. Once someone sees the views that they can access and get a feel for the rock, they’re going to be hooked.
I took Salewa’s Firetail Evo GTX up Klettersteig Drachenwand, a 4.25-mile loop with 2500 feet of elevation gain and a sweet suspension bridge near the summit. We started out by climbing up some fixed ladders, then went straight to the pegs, enjoying panoramic views all around. Route up treated us to increasingly epic views and grander exposure to exhilarating drops as the day went on, culminating in a suspension bridge that hangs thousands of feet above the valley floor.
As an experienced climber, I wasn’t sure how engaged I’d be in such an easy form of climbing. What I found was this - a gorgeous vista is just as gorgeous whether you get there via trad rack or the Iron Road.
If you can’t make it to Europe to hit up your first (or 100th) via ferrata session, there are a few in the US to hit up. Check out these spots at Mt. Ogden in Utah, Nelson Rocks in West Virginia, and Torrent Falls in Kentucky.
Or just go to Europe. It’s all over the place there.