Viva La Via Ferrata!

In researching our Switzerland trip, I came across the Via Ferrata hike/climb from Murren. While intrigued, I feared it was too daunting.

Via Ferrata means iron path, a protected climbing route with established metal rungs and a cable wire. It’s also known as Klettersteig. They are very popular in the Alps and are expanding worldwide.

During our three nights in Murren, I decided to go for it. And on Sept. 15, my heart pounded through the most adrenaline-filled 3 hours I’ve ever had: up, down, hovering, climbing, dangling with a harness and carabiners for the first time. I loved it!

The 1-mile route from Murren down to Gimmelwald includes a zip line, tightrope, suspension bridge, some ladders and numerous metal rungs secured into the sheer rock. You are attached to a metal cable nearly the entire way, though I wondered when and how it was tested for security.

When we started, I couldn’t believe what we were doing: rungs jutting out into space, the mountains above, and the town of Stechelberg far below. I stopped repeatedly to take pictures, prompting a scolding from the guide (who does not take pictures but did once when I begged).

The tightrope was relatively short, but there was no netting beneath! The zipline, configured with pulleys and rocks, didn’t zip so much as dragged slowly. The ladders were completely vertical. The Nepal suspension bridge didn’t seem tough in the moment, but it was over a 1,310 feet ravine!

For someone who loves hiking and beautiful views, this was a paradigm shift: Via Ferratas are so much more fun than just trudging one step after another, yet without the complexity or accouterments of serious climbing. The biggest challenges for me, a fit, active 59-year-old, were the occasional high steps or drops where my short legs struggled to find purchase.

The tour with equipment (harness, carabiners, helmet, gloves if needed) cost $135 with eight people max–our group had six. You can sign up at the Murren sports shops or Alpine center. It’s possible to do the Via Ferrata yourself, if able, but there are portions you cannot do unguided, like the zipline.

I’ve found a new passion. Whenever I review the pictures, a huge smile breaks out and my heart races, just a little.

Which Alp summit was the coolest? Click here!


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