Wire in the Lakes – the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata

The UK’s first via ferrata is one of the Lake District’s biggest attractions but has also been one of its biggest sources of controversy in the last few years.  How might these controversies, and the quality of the climb, affect your decision to pay to climb this via ferrata?

The gully and the Burma bridge on the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata.
The gully and the Burma bridge on the Honister Slate Mine Via Ferrata.

It was probably inevitable that when it opened in 2007 the first via ferrata in the UK would attract some strong opinions.  The system of climbing a mountain using ladders, stemples and occasionally bridges, together with a metal cable to attach to so as to prevent a long fall, could be considered to be more at home in the Alps.  Vie ferrate have their origins in the Alps and they seem more at home among the cable cars and ski pulls that dot those mountains.  Yet a via ferrata had been constructed on Honister Crags to provide a way to climb from a little way above Honister Pass to just below the summit of Fleetwith Pike. Read more

Rocking stag weekend

The Plan

Rock climbing certainly had to be part of it.  My best man, Jim, and I agreed that pretty early on.  My stag do would have to involve adventure and I’m a keen climber, plus I had met all of my friends who would be on the trip through rock climbing.  However, there were some issues with this idea.

Climbing on Glaciated Slab in Borrowdale.

My brother isn’t a climber and had been less than enthusiastic when I had taken him to a climbing wall in the past.  My friends also tend to be wall and sport climbers, with little experience of the trad climbing that is more common in the UK.  The solution, I thought, was to find somewhere with some easier, single pitch climbs on which I could set up a top rope.

I also thought this would be a great opportunity to try out something I’d been interested in doing for a while – the via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.  I’ve done lots of via ferrata in Italy and I was curious to try out England’s first via ferrata.  Climbing on ladders and stemples (i.e. big staples punched into the rock) while attached to a safety cable also seemed more accessible than full rock climbing, while still being a mountain experience and adventurous.

The plan was to do the via ferrata on the Saturday and rock climb on the Sunday.  To get round the fact that my friends don’t own tents, we would stay in a yurt.  This was something else I’d been interested to try now that there are a few companies providing them as a more glamorous alternative to camping.

In a big estate car, we would drive up to Seatoller (in Borrowdale and just below the Honister Pass) on the Friday night and then be ready to go the next morning.

This was the plan, but plans don’t always go as you expect. Read more