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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Be Seen on the Mountain

I couldn’t see where the cries for help were coming from.  The rocky hulk of Tryfan was almost black in the twilight and was shrouded in cloud.  I could tell the shouts of help were definitely coming from high on Tryfan’s west face, but they were just disembodied voices in the growing dark.

The Moon over the west face of Tryfan in Snowdonia National Park, Wales.
The Moon over the west face of Tryfan in Snowdonia National Park, Wales.

I was in a group that had climb Tryfan earlier in the day before moving on to climb Glyder Fach next door.  It was November and we had decided to head down by the Y Gribin ridge as the light dimmed.  Cutting cross-country to get back to the cars, we heard cries of “help!” and headed in their direction to see what we could do. Read more

Turning Around the Men in Pyjamas

There are times when there is no doubt that you should tell someone that they’re not properly equipped for a day in the mountains and should turn back.  One example of this happened earlier this month when a stag party attempted to climb Snowdon dressed in pyjamas and trainers, in a storm and by the scrambling route of Crib Goch. Unsurprisingly, this stag party got into trouble and had to be talked down by phone by mountain rescue.

A back-clipped quickdraw; a potentially dangerous mistake that is a little too easy to make and to not notice.  Would you point this mistake out to someone you didn’t know?

According to the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, this stag party was just one recent incident of groups heading up Snowdon without suitable clothing and equipment.  Although trying to climb a mountain in nightwear is an extreme example, my experience is that it’s not uncommon to come across people hiking, scrambling, rock climbing or doing via ferrata who look like they don’t have the right clothes, equipment or skills.  These people can be putting themselves at risk and can take up the valuable time of mountain rescue if they get into trouble.  What I wonder is whether there is a moral obligation on all of us to tell these people to turn around or change what they are doing. Read more