Okay, so before I start this post I want to make it clear that I’m not saying people should steer clear of via ferrata, I would definitely do it again and in a weird adrenaline kick way I did enjoy it. However, what I am saying is that make sure you fully understand the grading system and your own capabilities (it is a lot more difficult than it looks.) Also, make sure your leaders are fully qualified and you can trust them, you know so the chance that they will abandon a group of scared, inexperienced teenagers half way up a mountain is minimal.
The first two times we tried to face the ever daunting via ferrata it rained so was too slippy, as if the weather was sending us a message, a warning. Eventually (third time lucky, or maybe unlucky) we harnessed up and began the day. For anyone who isn’t aware of what via ferrata is it consists of hooking yourself to a tiny rope whilst climbing across thin iron pegs that are hammered into a vertical cliff face. The more enjoyable parts included climbing up ladders and crawling across bridges. The first half an hour or so was fun and I felt quite confident despite the fact we had barely seen the via ferrata instructor. We have a theory the man who runs via ferrata forgot we were coming and so asked a few of his mates down from the pub to give him a hand. As we progressed the climbing became increasingly difficult and as I tried tackling a bit of overhanging rock I suddenly became fully aware of the fact I have zero upper arm strength. I clung on, trying and trying, I felt tears prickling in my eyes, it took me a while to even realise my friends below were struggling to hold on whilst i remained stationary. After a lot of ‘don’t worry’s and ‘you can do it’s I eventually pulled myself up. My hands were incredibly sore from holding the iron pegs so tight. I was terrified, you couldn’t fall that far but enough to hurt yourself and I was scarily aware of how weak the harnesses’ actually were. I can’t describe to you how fearful I was, I was glad to hear I was, by far, not the only explorer to shed a few tears. The instructor hadn’t been seen for hours, we were obviously going too slow for him (not that they were there to help us or anything.) To put it into perspective, two explorer leaders agreed not to take part in the via ferrata because they knew they would struggle too much and didn’t want to hinder our own experience, another was abseiled down in the first half an hour and one was even helicopter lifted off the cliff face by mountain rescue (no joke.) At the top we were greeted by one of the explorer leaders who gave us each a huge warm hug and told us all how proud she was, they had had no idea how difficult it would have been. I almost cried once we’d finished, we made it out alive! After enjoying some crusty bread and peanuts we took the cable car back down, all of us still in shock but glad we’d achieved so much.