High-Wire Acts: 8 Awesome Via Ferrata Climbs

Clip into existing cables to get to breathtaking mountain vistas without all the climbing gear.
Crossing the cliffs between Mürren and Gimmelwald
Crossing the cliffs between Mürren and Gimmelwald © Robin Van den Hende
By Alison Mann

According to climbing blogger Robin Van den Hende, a via ferrata "is a way of accessing high and exposed mountains and cliffs without all the time-consuming gear and rope work you need in rock climbing.

“Basically, it's a cable connected to the rock at intervals that you clip on to. If you fall, the idea is that the cable and a specially-designed, shock-absorbing lanyard set stop the fall."

So you don’t need to be a top climber or own a lot of equipment to give via ferratas a try, but you will have a lot more fun on hikes with them, providing you have a head for heights. If you’re inspired to give one a go, we’ve asked some experts to pick their top routes, which are listed here.

The village traverse (pictured at top)

Where: Switzerland
How long: Guide time 3 hours
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 8

This nerve-wracking route traverses between the villages of Mürren and Gimmelwald and actually descends, rather than the more typical ascent. As climbers navigate the route, they catch spectacular views of the Bernese Alps. Van den Hende says of the via ferrata: “What makes this route fun is how it’s been built to take advantage of the natural obstacles to give you a feeling of exposure, and challenge you to overcome any nerves you might have about long falls.”

 

The volcanic via ferrata La Guagua
The volcanic via ferrata La Guagua © Valerie Van den Hende

The little-known route

Where: Spain
How long: 4.66 miles
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 9

Gran Canaria plays host to Via Ferrata La Guagua, an amazing route over volcanic rock. It is little known outside Spain. The route is set in the Parque Natural de Tamadaba, offering incredible views.

“It really tests you, it’s challenging technically, varied and very long," Van den Hende says. "There's a suspension bridge, a wire rope ladder up an overhang and some fantastic rock formations. On the descent, you also pass some indigenous ruins. It’s good if you fancy a tropical location but need some time away from the beach, or in winter of course. It’s something a lot of tourists don’t hear about.”

 

Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière
The difficult Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière © Iris Kuerschner

The technical climb

Where: Val d'Isère, France
How long: 3 hours, depending on the route
Scenic beauty: 8
Fun factor: 10

Iris Kürschner, author of mountain guidebooks (including "Ferrata Western Alps"), and Dieter Haas are avid climbers of via ferratas and selected Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière. The route has three sections: an initiation for children and beginners; the junior — which requires a bit of strength — and the integrale, which is very exposed and for experienced climbers. “The Via Ferrata Roc de la Tovière is one of the most difficult ferratas of the Western Alps,” says Haas.

 

Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent
Don’t look down on Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent © Iris Kuerschner

The "don't look down" route

Where: Savoie, France
How long: Around 4 hours all-in
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun Factor: 7

The Via Ferrata du Roc du Vent looks over the picturesque Lac de la Gittaz in Savioe, France. Beautiful it may be, but those taking part need a good head for heights. "You shouldn't be scared of heights when you start the long crossing on the rope bridge, with a deep drop,” says Haas.

 

Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi
The Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi © Iris Kuerschner

The sport route

Where: Piemonte, Italy
How long: Takes 3.5 hours
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun Factor: 6

A beautiful view from this Italian route. It’s suitable for less experienced climbers, and because it’s split in two it allows for an escape. “Via Ferrata Rocca Senghi is a sportive Direttissima through partly overhanging rock in the wild and remote Valle Varaita di Bellino, Italy,” Haas says of the route.

 

Via Ferrata des Canyons de Lantosque
A tropical route in France © Iris Kuerschner

The unique location

Where: Alpes Maritimes, France
How long: 3,117 feet
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 8

Via Ferrata des Canyons de Lantosque is an interesting route in the beautiful Valley of Vésubie, France. It’s pitched as a good route for beginners, and has three parts. It has a slight canyoning feel to it during the second stage, where users cross a gorge filled with moss and tropical ferns.

 

The Via Ferrata Bergsee
The Via Ferrata Bergsee © Iris Kuerschner

The hut-stop

Where: Urner Alps, Switzerland
How long: Takes almost 6 hours, including walking to the hut
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 7

The Via Ferrata Bergsee, in the Göschenen Valley in Switzerland is well-known for the rock tower that looks like a crocodile, and has been suggested by Haas for it’s Alpine charm. The route includes a 50-foot-long steel rope bridge which hangs 164 feet above the ground. After some thrill-seeking on the via ferrata, it’s just a half-hour walk back to the Bergsee Hut for a rest.

 

highest via ferrata in the world, Mt Kinabalu
The highest via ferrata in the world, Mt Kinabalu © chendongshan/Getty Images

The highest in the world

Where: Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
How long: 4-6 hours
Scenic beauty: 9
Fun factor: 9

This route is the first via ferrata in Asia and is also the highest in the world at 12,389 feet above sea level. There are two options. One is a leisurely two-to-three-hour route, where visitors can get the amazing views without taking up too much energy on the traverse. The second route takes a bit more commitment and allows users to summit the mountain. Of course, for both of these routes you have to climb to the start point first.

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