I have a relatively adventurous streak, but a general clumsy nature and lack of co-ordination has seen me steer clear of adding rock climbing that to my usual outdoor adventures (100m up a rock face is not the right place for an oops moment). However when one of my hiking groups sent around details of a trip to the Italian Dolomites with Coletts Mountain Holidays
I took one look at the pictures and said hell yeah, time to climb some real mountains!
The Via Ferrata (It = Iron Way) is essentially clipping yourself onto steel cables to provide a fixed route up the mountains I normally would leave to those mad climbers. Full safety kit is required, harness, cows tails (the bits you clip on) and helmet in the event of rock fall from above and it is not recommended to be done during a thunder storm for obvious reasons.
Day one was to be a gentle introduction to VFs. Cir Spitz, Grade 2A, 20 minute walk in/out from the Gardena Pass. The weather forecast was dodgy to say the least, but we were going to see if we could race the weather and knock over our first VF before it
closed in, no pressure then. Well those 20 minutes to walk in were the longest of my trip. Could I do it? would I cope with the exposure (drop), would I make a complete arse of myself, fall down and hold everyone else up? Most important would we beat the weather and even get to have a go?
It was a push to get to the base of the VF and get kitted up then an unprotected scramble to the start of the wire which takes you up in quite a sheer way. It was about then that the clouds started closed in. We pushed on. Then the rain started. We pushed on. Then it started hailing. We pushed on. When the thunder started ... we pushed on more quickly! Once on the wire there was no way I wanted to turn around, I was having way too much fun, but the first flash of lightening did add a sense of urgency to getting to the top so that we could start down.
I didn't make the summit/summit (fundamentally a small patch of rock with a metal cross) which was fine considering that we hit the point just
below the summit at pretty much the time when the thunder and lightning decided to co-incide within a second or so of each other. Not planning on cutting my holiday short due to electrocution with adreneline well and truly pumping and our guide not so gently pushing, let's just say the descent had an extra little touch of urgency to it.
Welcome to the world of Via Ferrata! It was amazing, loved every spine tingling moment, every slip of foot and view (or lack of view) from the top. It was definitely spiced up by the weather! Bring on day 2!
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