Via Ferrata Accidents – what you don’t know might hurt you

Valerie on the bridge on the Via Ferrata Sandro Pertini in the Dolomites, Italy.
Valerie on the bridge on the Via Ferrata Sandro Pertini in the Dolomites, Italy.

If someone asked me what causes accidents on via ferrate, I would only be able to make a few informed guesses. This is because there is surprisingly little readily accessible information on why accidents happen on vie ferrate. This concerns me because understanding why the cause of accidents is essential to preventing them. I’d like there to start a conversation about the causes and prevalence of these accidents as a way of improving understanding and helping people safely enjoy vie ferrate.  As a starting point, I’ll set out what I know and suspect.

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Wire and War – the top five vie ferrate for WW1 history

WW1 ruins and a view of Marmolada from the Via delle Trincee.
WW1 ruins and a view of Marmolada from the Via delle Trincee.

Vie ferrate have much of their origins in war.  As the Italians and Austrians fought a war of attrition in the passes, summits and ridges of the Dolomites, they built vie ferrate to help the movement of troops and supplies.  Now these routes are a major leisure activity, with climbers clipping to metal cables fixed to mountainsides to protect them as they climb ladders and scramble over rock.  Via ferrata are an incredibly fun way to explore the mountains and in the Dolomites they also provide one of the best ways of learning about an aspect of World War 1 of which many people are unaware.  Seeing the tunnels, trenches, emplacements and debris of this mountain war can begin to bring to life the hardships and sacrifices of the men who fought on what the Italians called the “il fronte vertical.” Read more

One of the most photographed views in the Dolomites…in cloud

It’s been said that the view across Lago di Misurina to the Sorapiss group of mountains is one of the most photographed in the Dolomites.  The full mass of these mountains reflected in the quiet, clear waters of Lago di Misurina is a view to make you sigh and stare as you try to take in the glory of it.  During my time in Misurina, this view was in cloud.

Lago di Misurina and the Sorapiss mountain range

I’m a bit disappointed about this because I would have loved to see all of these rugged peaks reflected in the waters below a blue sky.  However, I’m English and so am used to accepting that a mountain view is usually a bonus rather than a given.  I also think that there can be a beauty in clouds and how they interact with mountains. Read more

Via Ferrata Virgins – getting started at via ferrata

If you have never done a via ferrata before, then there are some things you need to know and consider to have fun and stay safe.

Me on the Via Ferrata Lamon.

Your level of experience

If you are a confident rock climber or a hiker with experience of scrambling, then you should feel comfortable with much of the practice of via ferrata.  You are also likely to have the essential skills and knowledge that comes from being in the mountains that you need to keep you safe.  However, even with these skills and knowledge, I would recommend getting yourself familiar with what a via ferrata involves before trying one.

Even though I came to via ferrata with rock climbing, scrambling and hiking experience, I found reading up on the subject and speaking with friends I knew who had done via ferrata to be really useful.  Read more

Tips for via ferrata

These are my top ten tips for how to have a safe and fun time on a via ferrata.

1) Don’t fall off

This may sound obvious, but it cannot be overstated.  There are two reasons that falling off a via ferrata could be serious and should be avoided.

Tip 3 – Always clip onto the cable

The first is that the fall factor involved in such a fall are very high and higher than you are ever likely to take in a rock climbing fall.  Via ferrata lanyards are designed to take the high energy involved in such a fall, but you will still experience a high impact force (i.e. a very big jolt and shock to yourself and your gear) when you come to a stop. Read more

Via ferrata – useful links

The via ferrata up Piz da Cir V, above Passo Gardena, in the Dolomites, Italy.

To make it easier to find the best information on via ferrata on the internet, I have started a useful links page.  This includes the most useful sites for planning a trip and the most authoritative sites for safety and technical information.  This page is a resource that I would like to build and so will be adding to it

Campsites for via ferrata in the Dolomites

Camping Colfosco and Sassongher in the Dolomites, Italy

In the past I’ve found it quite hard to find much out about campsites in the Italian Dolomites that are convenient for via ferrata.  This is why I have written reviews of the campsites I have used in the Dolomites and put them online here.  I will add further reviews to this page when I can.

I would be really interested in anyone else’s thoughts and suggestions on campsites that make a good base for via ferrata.