Europe Jan 23 - advice please.

Sbooker

Active member
I don't think the lack of the Grands Montets summit tram is the worse thing for new visitors. But I agree, I will not return until it's back, and hopefully with a new lower-capacity S3 type lift.

My first ski day there in 2004 was powder in late December and I really enjoyed just the Herse and Bochard Gondolas. I think the best terrain is Combe de Pendant, followed by Glacier de Rognons / Point de Vue.

If you are there for 2 weeks, I would do the following given Sbooker's parameters:

1. Chamonix.
  • Mt. Blanc tram / Aguille du Midi. You do not even have to ski the Vallee Blanche, tons of things to do at the top.
  • So many areas are served by a free bus system: Brevent, Flegere, Le Balme/Le Tour, Grands Montets, Les Houches
  • Italy close by: Courmayeur, etc
  • Satellite areas: Les Contamines, Megeve
  • The town. Museums, history, lots of cafes, shopping
  • Lots of apartments
  • Public transportation
2. Interlaken / Jungfrau Region.
  • Not too far away from Chamonix
  • Another must-see place in Europe scenery-wise equivalent to Chamonix, Zermatt, Dolomites, etc. Rick Steves (a famous American European travel writer) cannot stop talking about this region.
  • Great public transportation. Trains, likely buses to all the resorts/skiing.
  • Nice beginner / intermediate cruising - especially at the Grindelwald/Wengen complex.
  • Murren is very special. Smaller area, but James Bond, tram-only accessibility, etc.
  • Lots of Non-ski: Hiking, sledging, snow-shoeing, taking lifts into the alpine, etc.

I'm sure you could swap Morzine/Avoriaz in for Interlaken, but I have not been to the Portes du Soliel area.

I also do not know gateway city....guess Paris?. If so, Austria would be a one-day haul in each direction - limiting its desirability.


Even I could be a big dork and delay skiing to have touristy fun at the top of the Aguille du Midi. My brother is too-cool-for-school and looked on -- horrified. The guide said in the summer there are lines 1hr+ to get this photo.

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Great pics. Thanks for the tips.
 

Sbooker

Active member
Please link back to the thread where (according to you) Tony went against his own impassioned advice never to consider Jackson Hole after mid-February.
:rotfl:
Jokes. I was referring to the run ins Tony had with people on another ski forum about Jackson Hole. Some get upset by good advice.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
The Jackson :jk: were on the EpicSki Forum that was shut down in 2017. I have archived copies on the home computer though.

ChrisC's suggestions are very constructive. I don't know whether there's a train connection from Chamonix direct into the Swiss Valais or whether you would have to backtrack to Geneva.

I've read the Rick Steves comments on Interlaken/Jungfrau and thus agree with the suggestion even though I haven't skied there. After this year's trip I suspect it's the largest Alps ski complex Liz and I have not skied so perhaps we might see sbooker & company there next January.

As for Chamonix I recall visiting an interesting museum there on the 2004 NASJA trip. The town and ski areas are spread out so I'd want a car there. The standard Vallee Blanche route is very intermediate so a must do for sbooker's daughter. And not unreasonable for her friend if she progresses well over the prior 2-3 weeks. There are fairly flat sections, so I'd encourage ski vs. snowboard.

It is likely that Australia like SoCal is a hotbed of snowboarding due to surf and skateboard culture. If your kids' friends are surfers (not unlikely living in Brisbane, which has an embarrassment of riches in nearby beaches), then I can see the attraction to snowboarding.

A hired taxi to Val d'Isere should be less tedious than a bus. Better yet, you could take it to Val d'Isere in one direction and Tignes 1550 in the other. That allows you to cover more ground without backtracking during your ski day and perhaps the shorter distance to Tgnes 1550 will be a bit cheaper.
 

Sbooker

Active member
The Jackson :jk: were on the EpicSki Forum that was shut down in 2017. I have archived copies on the home computer though.
I remember one comment. It was something along the lines of - "Don't listen to the accountant. He has no soul". :rotfl:
As for Chamonix I recall visiting an interesting museum there on the 2004 NASJA trip. The town and ski areas are spread out so I'd want a car there. The standard Vallee Blanche route is very intermediate so a must do for sbooker's daughter. And not unreasonable for her friend if she progresses well over the prior 2-3 weeks. There are fairly flat sections, so I'd encourage ski vs. snowboard.
The Vallee Blanche is a must do. Lily is extremely sporty. She is in the national hockey team. She is an wizz on a skateboard and she can surf at a low level so I'm tipping she will be at intermediate level on a snowboard by the end of the first week. My daughter Emily is going to board with her for the morning lessons the first week but will switch back to skis in the afternoons and from the first week onward. Emily can snowboard but prefers skiing much more. My lad Tom hasn't skied since late December 2019 when we were in Hokkaido. He and his mate have declared they will be snowboarding. Tom was a pretty good skier for a boy from Brisbane but he was also good on a snowboard. He had a full day lesson at Mammoth a few years ago and quickly got to the point of being able to confidently do the groomed black runs there. I think he did Cornice on his second day on a board. He had three days on a board at Thredbo in August 2019. He could go anywhere on the hill by the third day including the 'off trail' areas.
I will do my best over the next few months to change Lily's mind on snowboarding but I suspect my suggestion will fall on deaf ears unfortunately.
A hired taxi to Val d'Isere should be less tedious than a bus. Better yet, you could take it to Val d'Isere in one direction and Tignes 1550 in the other. That allows you to cover more ground without backtracking during your ski day and perhaps the shorter distance to Tgnes 1550 will be a bit cheaper
Good suggestion. A end of day run from the Auguille Percee down Sache to 1550 would be great. That was one of my favourite areas when we were there in March. It is not in the resort boundary (it's actually in the national park) so it can't be groomed according to our instructor Pierre. There are some fantastic views of the Vanoise NP and interesting steeper sections in the final third of the run as you approach Les Brevieres.
It is likely that Australia like SoCal is a hotbed of snowboarding due to surf and skateboard culture. If your kids' friends are surfers (not unlikely living in Brisbane, which has an embarrassment of riches in nearby beaches), then I can see the attraction to snowboarding.
Brisbane itself is devoid of surf beaches because Stradbroke and Moreton Islands block the ocean swells. The Gold and Sunshine Coasts (about an hour drive from our home) are the closest areas that get good surf breaks. We can be at Caloundra in 42 minutes if we go for a quick surf/swim before work of a Saturday. I'm in the office by 9am if I leave Caloundra at 8am.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I will do my best over the next few months to change Lily's mind on snowboarding but I suspect my suggestion will fall on deaf ears unfortunately.
If she's an expert skateboarder and starting to surf, she may well progress faster at snowboarding. Given your comments about Lily's athletic talent, I'd be surprised if she's not ready for Vallee Blanche by the time you get to Chamonix. She might have to plan ahead to carry momentum here and there on a snowboard, but it's not like having to contend with exposed traversing.

A end of day run from the Aiguille Percee down Sache to 1550 would be great. That was one of my favourite areas when we were there in March. It is not in the resort boundary (it's actually in the national park) so it can't be groomed according to our instructor Pierre.
There is definitely a long black piste covering that route if any of your group want to stay on that. The Vallon de la Sachette was the first off piste we skied with guides in April 2018. Liz and I returned there on our own the last day of that trip. In both cases we diverted to the black piste about half way down due to less desirable snow conditions at low elevation.
 
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Sbooker

Active member
If she's an expert skateboarder and starting to surf, she may well progress faster at snowboarding. Given your comments about Lily's athletic talent, I'd be surprised if she's not ready for Vallee Blanche by the time you get to Chamonix. She might have to plan ahead to carry momentum here and there, but it's not like having to contend with exposed traversing.


There is definitely a long black piste covering that route if any of your group want to stay on that. The Vallon de la Sachette was the first off piste we skied with guides in April 2018. Liz and I returned there on our own the last day of that trip. In both cases we diverted to the black piste about half way down due to less desirable snow conditions at low elevation.
Sache was pisted when you were there? Mmm. Maybe Pierre’s info was incorrect or more likely it was my mistake. Lost in translation I suppose.

Edit. I just checked with my wife. Sache hadn’t been groomed in the couple of weeks before we were there in March because of the warm temps apparently. It is snowmaking - not grooming - that is disallowed in the National Park.
 
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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Val d'Isere/Tignes was loaded with snow when we were there in April of the banner 2018 season, so plenty of snowpack for grooming. I would suspect snowmaking is needed sometimes to keep Tignes 1550 accessible, and I notice a winding blue piste coming down from Tignes 1800 that we never skied. Perhaps it would be prudent to arrange the taxi pickup from Tignes 1800.
 

Sbooker

Active member
We just had our first 27 degree Celsius day here in Brisbane which signifies the end to our best season. It will be heating up soon unfortunately. But with that comes the comfort that autumn is approaching in the northern hemisphere……..January can’t come quick enough.
We’re hearing about the dire state of the European glaciers in the news here in Australia. Is that likely to have any bearing on when the Vallee Blanche will be first possible this coming winter?
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Supposedly average opening of Vallee Blanche is mid-December though it’s usually recommended for Feb-Apr.

Most years you exit via the Montenvers train. That requires a stairway climb up from the glacier’s recent level. That level is much lower than decades ago (why the stairs were built) but it’s not gone.

I think the opening date is based more upon season to date snowfall covering up crevasses, boulders etc. So I think it will depend upon that and weather when you are there.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Supposedly average opening of Vallee Blanche is mid-December though it’s usually recommended for Feb-Apr.

I think the opening date is based more upon season to date snowfall covering up crevasses, boulders etc. So I think it will depend upon that and weather when you are there.

I skied the Vallee Blanche twice - once in 2006 (La Vraie Vallee variant) and another time in 2018 (Le Petit Envers variant). Both descents were in late January when it was possible to ski into town. There is still a hike (20 min?) to get off the glacier and onto the traverse back to Chamonix.

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When I was in Chamonix over the New Years' holidays in 2004/2005, it was not possible to ski the Vallee Blanche despite recent heavy snows. The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix was simply not leading any tours off the Aguille du Midi cable car at that time. While you are always free to ski it on your own (yikes!), the guide services do not start touring until about mid-January when the snow bridges have formed.

From the High Mountain Guides site:

Is it possible to ski the Vallée Blanche over Christmas / New Year?
Conditions on the glacier generally improve as the snow volume increases over the winter season and crevasses have bigger & stronger snow bridges and the skiing generally becomes easier and less technical on the glacier. In December and early January the glacier often has open or poorly bridged crevasses plus the midi snow ridge is generally not equipped fully before February. This means more mountaineering skills are required to make a safe descent from the station to where the skiing begins. Occasionally in January there are decent conditions and then, with a strong & small team, and good weather, we will guide the descent but generally before mid January we will recommend doing other good off piste alternatives from the Chamonix Valley, of which there are many! Another good alternative is to ski tour from the Midi or Skyway lifts and descend just the upper slopes before returning to the lift to descend & thus avoiding more crevassed terrain lower down.

My guide also said the really steep lines (Cosmique Couloir, Glacier Ronde, etc.) do not come into play until almost March but continue to about May 1st.

The fixed ropes go in around mid-January. While I do not find the Arete down from the tram challenging since it's quite wide, some do since it falls away 9,000 vertical ft down to Chamonix. I have worn crampons for the decent but not roped up.

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Snowboarding
All the guide companies do not recommend snowboarders attempt the Vallee Blanche and do not allow them in their group tours:

Compaignie des Guides de Chamonix:

The group session joins together people who do not necessarily know each other. It is ideal for people looking for the friendliness of a group at an attractive price.
No snowboarders in group booking, only in private booking

Or

For the snowboarders : Due to the natural configuration of the glaciers, the classic route of the Vallée Blanche is not very steep and therefore is not recommended for snowboarders. Several steeper variants (Petit et Moyen Envers du Plan for example) are better adapted for snowboarders. The level required for these variants is equivalent to that of a black slope in off-slope conditions (changing and deep snow). Telescopic poles are mandatory to help your descent on the final part of the glacier.

Looks like a private tour is the way to go for you since you will have snowboarders. Once you get to three people - it's about the same price. The lower part of the Vallee Blanche on the Mer de Glace is the poling part. I did not think it was horrendous, but boarders will want a pole.

I don't know if the summer heat wave opened more crevasses. They seemed to be formed more from glacier movements.
 
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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks ChrisC for the thorough research. I skied Petit Envers in February 2004 and the Classic Route in late January of the huge 2018 season. The latter includes a 25 minute hike up, then ski down a hiking path into town. Thus I have no idea where the crevasse choke points might be.

I don’t recall excessive poling during the long runout but I guess the guides consider that an issue for snowboarders. The upper part of the Classic Route is similarly flat.

I definitely remember being roped together as a group for the Arete descent which most people find fairly challenging due to the exposure.
 

Sbooker

Active member
I skied the Vallee Blanche twice - once in 2006 (La Vraie Vallee variant) and another time in 2018 (Le Petit Envers variant). Both descents were in late January when it was possible to ski into town. There is still a hike (20 min?) to get off the glacier and onto the traverse back to Chamonix.

View attachment 32586


When I was in Chamonix over the New Years' holidays in 2004/2005, it was not possible to ski the Vallee Blanche despite recent heavy snows. The Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix was simply not leading any tours off the Aguille du Midi cable car at that time. While you are always free to ski it on your own (yikes!), the guide services do not start touring until about mid-January when the snow bridges have formed.

From the High Mountain Guides site:

Is it possible to ski the Vallée Blanche over Christmas / New Year?
Conditions on the glacier generally improve as the snow volume increases over the winter season and crevasses have bigger & stronger snow bridges and the skiing generally becomes easier and less technical on the glacier. In December and early January the glacier often has open or poorly bridged crevasses plus the midi snow ridge is generally not equipped fully before February. This means more mountaineering skills are required to make a safe descent from the station to where the skiing begins. Occasionally in January there are decent conditions and then, with a strong & small team, and good weather, we will guide the descent but generally before mid January we will recommend doing other good off piste alternatives from the Chamonix Valley, of which there are many! Another good alternative is to ski tour from the Midi or Skyway lifts and descend just the upper slopes before returning to the lift to descend & thus avoiding more crevassed terrain lower down.

My guide also said the really steep lines (Cosmique Couloir, Glacier Ronde, etc.) do not come into play until almost March but continue to about May 1st.

The fixed ropes go in around mid-January. While I do not find the Arete down from the tram challenging since it's quite wide, some do since it falls away 9,000 vertical ft down to Chamonix. I have worn crampons for the decent but not roped up.

View attachment 32587

Snowboarding
All the guide companies do not recommend snowboarders attempt the Vallee Blanche and do not allow them in their group tours:

Compaignie des Guides de Chamonix:

The group session joins together people who do not necessarily know each other. It is ideal for people looking for the friendliness of a group at an attractive price.
No snowboarders in group booking, only in private booking

Or

For the snowboarders : Due to the natural configuration of the glaciers, the classic route of the Vallée Blanche is not very steep and therefore is not recommended for snowboarders. Several steeper variants (Petit et Moyen Envers du Plan for example) are better adapted for snowboarders. The level required for these variants is equivalent to that of a black slope in off-slope conditions (changing and deep snow). Telescopic poles are mandatory to help your descent on the final part of the glacier.

Looks like a private tour is the way to go for you since you will have snowboarders. Once you get to three people - it's about the same price. The lower part of the Vallee Blanche on the Mer de Glace is the poling part. I did not think it was horrendous, but boarders will want a pole.

I don't know if the summer heat wave opened more crevasses. They seemed to be formed more from glacier movements.
That is great info. Thank you.
There is a real chance I will be doing it by myself. I just don’t know how keen Emily’s friend will be on the snow sports. A day in Annecy or Aosta or Geneva may be a lot more appealing to her. Then again she may want to spend most of her time on snow. I know my daughter would happily ski most days but she’ll feel a sense of obligation to hang with Lily.
I don’t think the walk down from the lift will worry me greatly but I’m sure the guide will help out anyway. And I don’t possess the skills to tackle really steep terrain so that stuff not being open until later in the season is no concern at all.
Thanks again.
 

Sbooker

Active member
Thanks ChrisC for the thorough research. I skied Petit Envers in February 2004 and the Classic Route in late January of the huge 2018 season. The latter includes a 25 minute hike up, then ski down a hiking path into town. Thus I have no idea where the crevasse choke points might be.

I don’t recall excessive poling during the long runout but I guess the guides consider that an issue for snowboarders. The upper part of the Classic Route is similarly flat.

I definitely remember being roped together as a group for the Arete descent which most people find fairly challenging due to the exposure.
What’s with being roped together? Surely if someone goes over the side there is a risk of taking others with them if roped together? Or is the rope anchored somewhere?
Can you tell I’ve not done any mountaineering? :)
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
What’s with being roped together? Surely if someone goes over the side there is a risk of taking others with them if roped together? Or is the rope anchored somewhere?
Can you tell I’ve not done any mountaineering? :)

I did a lot of mountaineering/glacier climbing living in the Northwest and California about 15 years ago, and have ascended the major volcanoes of the Cascade Range (Lassen, Shasta, Jefferson, Hood, St. Helens, Adams, Rainier, Glacier, Baker). Now my ice ax and crampons mostly gather dust. I took a multi-month class at Bellevue Community College so I would learn what I was doing versus just hiring a guide outfit. Final exam was Mt. Rainier.

Rope teams are a requirement for glacier travel - usually at least 3 people, but better with 4 climbers. The theory - if one person collapses a snow bridge and falls into a crevasse, the other climbers will act as counterweights and stop the victim from falling too far down. (Crevasses can be 100 ft++ depending upon glacier thickness). You are to use your ice ax to anchor yourself and brace yourself for the pull from the falling climber. Rope teams should be balanced weight-wise. Also, a rope team of two is not that effective, but climbers still do it...but there is a higher probability of 2 people going into a crevasse. Spacing on a rope team should be about 25-30 ft.

Rope teams are also important on steeper icier parts of a mountain where someone can fall and start sliding for their life. This is what roping up on the arete from the Aguille du Midi is trying to prevent. You also need to be careful of crampons and ropes - do not want to cut the rope - so often you are holding the rope in your hand.

Skiers have boards that often are long enough to span crevasses and prevent a fall. They help distribute weight too. Snowboarders more often fall into a crevasse since their boards are shorter. They usually do not sink too far since there is a lot of snow covering crevasses.


Over ten years ago, Telluride created a Via Ferrata like one would see in Italy (A World War One invention to move troops in the Dolomites). Here you are attached to the main cable via a harness and 2-3 locking carabiners. It's the real deal, fun and intoxicating. I think this is 'exposure' and the Aguille du Midi arete is safety overkill with ropes, crampons, and cables on both sides.

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ChrisC

Well-known member
Just a real-world example of why glacier travel with a rope team of one (?!) does not work......tragic.




My Bellevue College instructor always had a critique of news stories talking about a 'highly experienced mountaineer' traveling solo and 'unfortunately' getting into trouble. If they were so experienced, they would know not to be climbing alone.
 
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ChrisC

Well-known member
Some photos of the Vallee Blanche arete:

Maybe 200 or 300 vertical feet?

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My brother (plus guide) slightly horrified that I think this a great photo opportunity and not treating the situation too seriously. We passed some other groups that were slow. I think we were roped now looking at the photo.

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My favorite was when the guide said "Follow my tracks" and my brother literally skied in his tracks. Someone was not used to glaciers.

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But guess anyone can get a little nervous....

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Here are the flat sections of the Mer de Grace glacier section of the Vallee Blanche. There is enough ice that it's not too difficult to keep some momentum across it.


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Sbooker

Active member
Some photos of the Vallee Blanche arete:

Maybe 200 or 300 vertical feet?

View attachment 32600

View attachment 32599

My brother (plus guide) slightly horrified that I think this a great photo opportunity and not treating the situation too seriously. We passed some other groups that were slow. I think we were roped now looking at the photo.

View attachment 32601

My favorite was when the guide said "Follow my tracks" and my brother literally skied in his tracks. Someone was not used to glaciers.

View attachment 32604

But guess anyone can get a little nervous....

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Here are the flat sections of the Mer de Grace glacier section of the Vallee Blanche. There is enough ice that it's not too difficult to keep some momentum across it.


View attachment 32603
That scenery is something else. Wow.
 

Sbooker

Active member
Do those that ski off piste in Europe take their own avi safety gear? I will be skiing with an instructor or guide most of the time if skiing off the marked trails. I believe the instructors and guides supply shovel, probe and transceiver. I'll ski in the low angle areas to the side of the pistes when I'm not with a guide (especially on snow days).
No point buying gear?
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
You can look at it that way. But I don’t because I will definitely ski a route unguided that I have been shown previously by guides though with the day’s avalanche rating in mind. And sbooker is lees likely than I am to have family/friends joining him for such explorations.
 
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jamesdeluxe

Administrator
Telluride created a Via Ferrata like one would see in Italy
A few days ago, the NY Times posted an article about five that have been built in the U.S. I pasted the initial part below.

Coming Soon to an American Cliff Near You: ‘Via Ferrata’ Routes​


I stood on a rock ledge, terra firma far below, and took in the panorama to my left. Against the horizon sat Fairchild Mountain — reaching just above 13,500 feet — and other peaks in the Mummy Range, a series of lofty summits in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park. In the foreground was a bright blue sliver of Mary’s Lake. In front of me, a sheer wall of stippled gneiss. It was the kind of vista that Tommy Caldwell, a renowned professional rock climber who lives in nearby Estes Park, Colo., likely experiences on a regular basis.

But unlike Tommy Caldwell, or even experienced amateur climbers, I did not need to have precise technique nor exceptional strength nor a rack full of climbing gear to reach my elevated perch. That’s because I was on the Cloud Ladder via ferrata, which consists of permanent rebar rungs bolted into the rock, bordered by a continuous series of fixed aircraft-grade steel cables to which I remained attached. Those rungs made it relatively easy — though still thrilling — to scale the rock face.

Long popular in Europe, particularly in the Alps, via ferrata routes — “via ferrata” is Italian for “iron way” — are becoming more popular in the United States, with new routes being installed on peaks, in gorges and even at high-end outdoors-oriented resorts. The system originated in Italy as a way to move soldiers through the mountains during World War I and was later adopted by intrepid hikers for ascending steeper terrain.

“I wanted people to experience a part of the mountains that you wouldn’t be able to unless you were a climber,” said Harry Kent, the founder and director of Kent Mountain Adventure Center in Estes Park, which operates the Cloud Ladder, open since July 2021, on private property a few miles south of the town. (The site is open year round, weather permitting, for guests 12 and older; guided tours cost from $174 to $330 per person, depending on the number of climbers.) Through his other business, Via Ferrata Works, Mr. Kent and his team are also building the country’s first urban via ferrata at Quarry Trails Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio, in an abandoned limestone quarry. The route, on a 150-foot-high cliff face, is expected to open this fall. Access will be free.

The high-alpine Cloud Ladder has a different type of superlative: With some 600 feet of sustained upward climbing for most of its length, it’s billed as the steepest via ferrata in the United States. If I’d been a first-timer, I would have opted for the adjacent and easier Peregrine Arete. But having previously ascended other via ferratas, I was game for a challenge — which I found on the second of two heart-pumping suspension bridges, where I hovered on a tightrope-style cable that spanned 45 feet across a 200-foot chasm. I won’t pretend that I didn’t think twice before heading across it, even though I was secured to two other cables at shoulder height.

As on all via ferratas, in addition to a helmet, I wore a waist harness with a bungee-style lanyard holding two large carabiners (known as lobster claws) and an energy-absorbing device that would lessen the impact in the unlikely event that I fell. (I didn’t.) As for the carabiners, you clip them onto the cables and leave them attached, sliding them along as you climb, except when you arrive at one of the many anchor bolts along the route. There, you unclip one carabiner, clip it in again after the anchor, and then unclip and clip the second one. “Never double unclip,” my guide, Nick Golden, had cautioned.

Though climbing a via ferrata may look like a daredevil outing, it’s more attainable than you might think. The challenges tilt toward psychological rather than physical. “We regularly see people getting past self-imposed boundaries,” said Sean Kristl, the general manager of the guide service Alpenglow Expeditions, which provides via ferrata tours in Olympic Valley, Calif.

Last summer I brought a friend, Lauren Stanley, 56, an architect from Austin, Texas, to climb the via ferrata in Taos, N.M., with me. Afterward, she told me she was reassured by the knowledge that carabiners and cables were always close at hand. “I felt like a lizard crawling over beautiful rock faces, with just enough adrenaline to keep me sharp and aware,” she said.
“Once people get on one via ferrata, they start looking up where others are because it is so accessible and fun,” said Gannon Nawojczyk, the manager of Southeast Mountain Guides, which operates a route in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Visitors vary in fitness level, age and experience. “People are starting to realize that this is for anybody, so our clientele is becoming more mixed,” he added. The company experienced a 190 percent surge in via ferrata guests between 2018 and 2021, in spite of closing for two months in 2020, according to Mr. Nawojczyk.

Not surprisingly, there’s an art to designing a good via ferrata, and that includes incorporating natural rock along with the artificial aids. “Our crew is mostly made up of mountain guides, so we have a good sense of what guests can tolerate in terms of exposure and steepness,” said Mike Friedman, the managing partner of Utah-based Adventure Partners, which has designed via ferratas at ski areas like Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin and Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as well as at the Amangiri resort in Utah and Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs. Aerial bridges and ladders within routes are particularly popular, Mr. Friedman said.

Via ferratas that are open to the public exist in at least 18 locations across the country.
 
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