An eagle’s eye view
20th June 2010 | Freddie, Courchevel
More people are enjoying the thrills of going on a Via Ferrata high up in the mountains. But what exactly is it and what is it like? PlanetSKI reporter, Freddie, lets us know.
Iron hand rails and footholds are hammered into the rock with safety wires enabling people to experience the thrill of climbing and being on a rock face without all the necessary gear and skills.
There are bridges, ropes to swing across, trapezes and other “fun” obstacles.
On many of the routes you do though need a good head for heights.
As a keen rock climber in the summer I was champing at the bit to touch rock again and feel the exhilaration of being high above everything, looking down on nature, surrounded by mountains.
I had seen other people’s pictures of Via Ferrata and chatted to mountain guides about it and spotted a few routes whilst scouting about for a rock to climb up but I didn’t really know that much about it.
A good friend of mine leant me his “tails” and showed me the basics.
I attached these to my harness and set off hurriedly to find out what the mountains had to offer me.
I was in Courchevel an area I have skied in many times, but never seen from a rock face.
I was hugely impressed and a little surprised at how well the routes were signposted and put up.
Some of the Via Ferrata that we encountered in Champagny at the entrance of the Vanoise National Park was newly erected.
One of these new additions was a suspended bridge over the gorge.
I felt a bit like Indiana Jones.
In fact it made me hum the theme tune, mostly to distract me from the fact that some of the bolts were new and that the bridge was almost virgin to it’s intrepid explorers; give me the old stuff any day.
It’s been there for a while so it does the job.
The first bit of the climb was above a small lake.
It was tinged with that beautiful turquoise blue that you get from glaciated water off the mountains. I tried not to look down too much although I have to say heights in general do not really scare me.
I should have been scared because I was clipped to a rock above a lake and moving swiftly round it, clipping and unclipping as I went but the view was magnificent and I was after all Indiana Jones so no fear.
Not a snake in sight either.
We completed the first bit quite quickly.
My partner was an excellent teacher and we made a great team.
At one hairy moment I had to cross a strange trapeze-like wire, but thankfully it did not involve putting one foot in front of the other although I’m sure those more experienced would probably try this.
I also had to walk a plank.
Novel and I wasn’t entirely sure that it really would hold my weight wedged between the rocks so I think on this occasion I did actually have to hold my breath (why does anyone actually do that, it’s not like it makes you any lighter?).
The rest of it was straight-forward and fun although I did find myself looking for hand and foot holds unnecessarily.
Would I do it again? You bet.