Translated from Italian, "Iron Roads" is a cross between hiking and climbing. Via Ferrata routes are built into rock faces with cables and ladders and other equipment designed to facilitate people's progression along the route and to optimize their security.
Developed by the Italian Army in the Dolomites during WW1 to access "inaccessible" peaks and equip safe passage for the troups carrying heavy equipment, Via Ferrata is now a new activity in its own right for people keen to try something a little more challenging than alpine hiking.
Although no real climbing ability is needed, a via ferrata does demand a steady head for heights.
Where to do some Via Ferrata in Chamonix?
The first French Via Ferrata was built in 1988, and it became popular in France and Switzerland in the 90s. There are lots of Via Ferratas close to Chamonix within a 30min to 1 hour drive.
- Mer de Glace in Chamonix - starts at the Montenvers train station, traverses the Mer de Glac glacier, then at the Echellets goes up to the refuge Couvercle (4-5 hours up). Lots of ladders (30).
- Passy (new one)
- Borderan in the Col des Aravis near La Clusaz - On the Borderan cliffs above La Clusaz are two via ferratas equipped with cables, metal ladders and suspended walkways.
- Yves Pollet Villard in La Clusaz - Starts and finishes at the Col des Aravis. (3 1/2 hours roundtrip) 1 spectacular footbridge.
- Saix du Tour in Avoriaz / Morzine
- Saix de Miolène in Chapelle / Abondance
- Tour de Jalouvre in Grand Bornand
- Collonges in St. Julien / Genève
- Reclavier in St. Julien / Genève
- du Mont in Sixt Fer à Cheval
- la Roche à l'Agathe in Thônes
Required Equipment and how to practice the Via Ferrata
A via ferrata sling equipped with a braking system and 2 carabiners - designed to prevent a fall, a helmet. Also, as in any climbing activity, you should bring a climbing rope, carabiners, appropriate footwear, gloves, and a backpack with supplies and a water bottle.
When you hire a guide, normally this specialized equipment will be provided for you. It is recommended to take a guide or an instructor, either for a first time experience or also to discover the best sites.
There are also Via Ferrata and Rock Climbing Instructors which specialize in Via Ferrata.
For more information visit: www.viaferrata.org.