Via ferrata – the new sport!

Since arriving in Switzerland (and being married to Nil), I have been introduced to a few new things in my life, things that I’m beginning to enjoy doing despite my fear of heights and all. Climbing is one of them and specifically, via ferrata.

It is rather popular European sport that is similar to rock climbing. It is basically a mountain route equipped with cables, ladders, bridges and rungs for either to hold onto or step on. You don’t go in there without any equipment – that’s just silly! Compulsory equipments for via ferrata are similar to those used for rock climbing; a harness, helmet, appropriate shoes & clothing plus a ferrata kit consisting of two lengths of rope, a brake and carabiners (it’s like a closed hook of some sorts). Additional gear may include gloves and climbing straps.

The whole thing is pretty simple. Carabiners are hooked onto cables available at via ferrata routes and you just climb your way up. Easy routes are mostly ones that require little skill and for beginners that have no experience with climbing or via ferratas at all. To simply put it, if you have vertigo and you have no experience climbing, don’t be a hero and opt for routes marked “difficult” (difficile) or “experienced”.

So far, I’ve gone for three via ferrata routes – one in France during my summer holidays there and two in Switzerland. They both vary in the fact that the one is France is somewhat like a via ferrata park with a variety of obstacles (single rope things, a gorge and so forth). For someone like myself who has mild vertigo (translate: I do well with gradual increases of height but poorly around cliff edges), it was just perfect. In fact, it was a fun yet easy course.

The one in Noraigue, near Neuchâtel was more of the cliff-side variety (click on the link and you’ll see), which resulted in me bursting into tears twice and Nil getting worried that we were never going to make it through the route. We got stuck in one part where you were basically hanging off a cliff edge with the carabines hooked onto the cable and rungs for your feet. That was it. Needless to say, I don’t really relish the idea of going back there again.

Yesterday, we tried the one at Rougemont, specifically Videmanette. Located near Lake Geneva, the climb offers a gorgeous view of the Swiss countryside and mountains, not to mention some mountain goats. The route is accessible through a train ride from Montreaux – Golden Panaromanic services (read: fabulous mountain scenery) – and then a cable car ride up to the peaks from the base station at Videmanette. We took Route 1 because the ladies (I met up with Nil’s friend and girlfriend) felt that we weren’t up for the harder route and found ourselves at the main peak of Rubli at 2,285 metres before heading back via the same way. Oh, I would have taken pictures but we had a bit of a drama in the morning so the only pics of the trip are with Nil’s friend. O’well…fab excuse to go again, no? 😉

Anyway, if you do come to France or Switzerland (and other parts of Europe), do ditch the commercial guided tours and try this out! It does great wonders for the body…and well, it’s just fun! 😎

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