Via Ferrata – walking on walls and swinging in the breeze

Just 20 minutes drive from our chalet in Chamonix valley, there is a “via ferrata” in Passy called Curalla.

For those that don’t know, a “Via ferrata” is like a footpath on a rock face…  They were first developed during the First World War in the Italian Dolomites for moving troops around the alps.  It literally means “iron road” in Italian, and consist of permanent metal cords, metal rungs (stemples) anchored into the rock face itself.

With a harness and special karabiners, you attach yourself to the fixed cord for safety, and “climb” the metal rungs, across wooden bars suspended over the sheer abyss, across rope bridges a few hundred feet off the ground….  ascending the ladders, traversing the mountainside clinging to the rock, to the rope, to the rungs…

 

James leading the way...

James leading the way... what you can't see is that we are already 200 metres up!!

 

It was our first go at Via Ferrata, and James proved his worth as our guide.  His calming voice giving instruction, instilling confidence, belaying parts to doubly-ensure our safety (we used a rope as an additional safety measure – which also helps to reduce how exposed parts of it felt), together with handy tips like, “Keep your eyes on me and don’t look down!!”…

Though parts consist of “ladders”, I am not used to being on a ladder attached to a rock hundreds of feet above the forest below, dancing from foothold to perch to rock, praying the glue they used to afix the rungs to the rock face is strong enough!!

 

Helen crossing the 4m wide "Pont du Mont Blanc"..

Helen crossing the 4m long plank called the "Pont du Mont Blanc"..

Both Helen and I were surprised by how exposed you feel.  Not surprising, really… but the rope bridge was something else!!  A single cord beneath your feet swinging in the breeze… two cords at chest level to cling onto!

Sure, our karabinas are attached to the cord so we can’t fall – at least not very far!! – but adrenaline kicks in, and my leg muscles start twitching!! Felt like a tightrope walker as the rope trembles and swings from side-to-side with the fear in my legs!

A better impression of the height...

A better impression of the height...

All in all – it was a fantastic thrilling adventure which, to me, felt surprisingly different to climbing… It is less strenous than climbing – not so tough on the finger muscles – but you still get to enjoy the most amazing views, enjoy the thrill of the height… the courage, the adrenaline, the fear of overcoming a challenge!!   Helen and I will both definitely be doing more!!

Not really for those with vertigo, or fear of heights, though!!

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