WORDS BY DAN KOSTRZEWSK
For some of us, part of the fun and excitement of tackling a via ferrata route is moving safely in alpine terrain with the aid of specifically designed gear.
Constantly moving through inspiring terrain, but being clipped to a fixed steel cable with minimal climbing hardware is what has made via ferrata such a popular draw in the alpine countries of Europe. For climbers, it’s liberating to move without setting belays, building anchors or placing protection. And for non-climbers, the gear-light experience provides a less overwhelming entry to alpinism that requires only a few key pieces of equipment.
As via ferrata routes have become more popular in the past two decades—migrating from their birthplace in the Dolomites throughout the French, Swiss, Bavarian and Austrian Alps—traditional climbing manufacturers such as Petzl, CAMP USA and Black Diamond began building-specific via ferrata kits for this new alpine discipline. At CMH, the via ferrata gear we provide our guests features the latest technology and is manufactured by respected climbing gear manufacturers who work with the UIAA to set standards for the gear they manufacture.
While our guides are experts at individually equipping each guest and teaching them how to safely operate their gear—and we provide all of the mandatory items to our guests at no additional cost—we’re always keen for a gear room education on what exactly what the equipment does and how it is utilized using on one of our four modern classic via ferrata routes. So we stepped into the gear room for an education on what it all is and how it all works.
Black Diamond Climbing Helmet
For any alpine activity, a climbing helmet is essential protective equipment to shield your dome from the possibility of falling rock or an unexpected bonk on a hard rock surface. Climbing helmets are built to take a beating and feature polycarbonate shells and internal foam, yet are lightweight and easy to adjust due to internal suspension systems that adjusts to fit with a one-handed dial.
Petzl Climbing Harnesses
A key piece of gear in any climbing activity, the harness is a critical link in the via ferrata system. Cinched tight over your apparel or outerwear, it connects climber to clips via the attachment loop interface and also organizes climbing hardware when not in active use with handy gear loops. Petzl harnesses are made to meet three main criteria: climber safety, comfort and ergonomics. CMH provides these harnesses in a one size fits all, adjustable style.
CAMP USA Via Ferrata Lanyards
Made specifically for via ferrata utility, this integrated system of locking carabiners, 22-mm webbing and EAS stitching is a prime combination of components that each guest uses to clip themselves into the fixed steel cables of the route. The dual carabineer set-up helps ensure that you remain clipped into at least one cable at all times and the squeeze-activated carabiners allow easy one-handed clipping into the next section of cable, while a combination of swivels prevents twisting and tangling.
Similar to via ferrata systems made by both Petzl and Black Diamond, the locking carabiners on the end of each lanyard operate with a squeeze lock mechanism that is easier to manipulate than a conventional twist lock or triple-action-style lock. Another key benefit of the new age system is a bungee-cord effect that keeps the clips and webbing snugged close to the body and prevents it from dangling down by knees or feet.
- Energy Absorption System: At the heart of the via ferrata lanyards, this is the component that absorbs energy in the event of a fall, so that the loads are reduced on all of the other components of the system, the via ferrata structure, and, of course, the climber. Sometimes called a screamer box—essentially sewn webbing intended to peel out predictably— the light, stitched shock absorber is designed to absorb impact and energy in the unlikely event of a fall
- Petzl Connect Adjust Pro with Locking Carabiner: Utilized as a convenient hard clip to a bolt for resting mid-pitch or between sections, this super functional piece of climbing gear was originally designed as a personal anchor system for sport climbers. The metal piece of hardware is connected to a section of dynamic climbing rope and offers simple, quick length adjustment. Our guides also utilize this setup to secure to a Petzl Tandem Speed Pulley when preparing each guest for our exhilarating zip line crossings, carefully built with climbing rope and anchor systems.
Optional: Black Diamond Belay Gloves
Since a via ferrata day involves the rougher textures of metal clips and steel cables, we recommend bringing (or buying a pair at the lodge retail store) some traditional thin leather belay or climbing gloves. Most of the branded options available fuse abrasion-resistant natural or synthetic leather with tough stitching and Cordura® reinforcement yet provide exceptional dexterity for handling biners, clips and other via ferrata hardware en route. They also provide light insulation on those chilly or misty days in the northern ranges.
Guide Tip: Footwear
“If you want to really enjoy the route, you want to make sure you have a boot on that isn’t too rigid. We recommend a pair of approach shoes or lightweight hikers or even trail runners. It’s really nice to have a shoe or a boot that is really flexible so you can really feel the terrain underneath your feet,” says ACMG Mountain Guide and CMH Cariboos Assistant Area Manager Geoff Ruttan. “You’re stepping on the rock sometimes—it’s not just about stepping on the rungs—so it’s nice to have that dexterity underfoot.”