About via ferrata

The first “railways” or “vie ferrate” tracks are Italian and date from the start of the First World War. Built with a military objective and then abandoned, these roads were maintained or renovated for tourist purposes.

At the end of the 1980s, via ferrata routes were traced in France in the Alps, rather in the classic spirit of Italian routes: natural logic and minimal equipment. The progression is mainly done using the rock, a sensation of climbing secured by the presence of the life cable in the event of a fall. Only passages that are too difficult are equipped with equipment to help progress: bars, nails, chains, pedals.

The more recent and current evolution shows the opening of increasingly equipped routes which respect less the logic of natural progression on the walls. Thus appear zip lines or suspended bridges to cross ravines, ladders or flights of bars to gravel vertical or overhanging walls or even technical inventions which are more acrobatics or gymnastics than climbing: suspended trapeze, firefighter ladder, pendulums, aerial nets…

There is therefore something for everyone and the practice of this activity attracts more and more people. Even if the ultra-equipped and secure courses of certain routes no longer have anything to do with the spirit of the original routes, where the commitment and reading of the rock to progress are more demanding.

The routes of the Dolomites are for us the absolute reference in terms of ferrata, extraordinary for their beauty, the high mountain environment and the historical heritage they represent.

To learn more about the history of via ferrata.

Matériel pour la ferrata

Bring at least a harness, a helmet designed for the mountains, an energy or shock absorption system with 2 safety carabiners in the event of a fall. It is recommended to also have a lanyard and/or quickdraw to secure yourself if necessary (rest) as well as a “Reverso” type belay system and a semi-static rope of at least 30m to be able to escape and go back down in the event of a blockage or problem on the track.

Optionally, a double pulley may be required in the presence of a zip line and a pair of leather mittens provide more comfort and safety in repeated contact with the equipment (bars, cables, chains).

To learn more about ferrata equipment

Rating of via ferrata

Even if several rating scales coexist depending on the country or region, the system used here to rate the difficulty of ferratas is that of Hüsler & Schal.

There are 6 levels from K1 (Easy) to K6 (Extremely difficult) and the 4 criteria that differentiate them are terrain, safety, requirements and equipment.

If level K1/K2 is accessible to everyone, levels K3 and K4 are already difficult and/or aerial and K5/K6 technical, physical and committed, requiring climbing skills.

We can also find the use of mountaineering ratings (from F to ED) or even the absence of rating (for example in the Dolomites, given the exceptional alpine character of the routes)


These are the verticality of the route (inclined, steep or overhanging), the exposure to falling (aerial passages) and the size of the holds available for climbing.

It goes from level K1 in flat or not very steep and little exposed terrain to K6 with overhangs, no fine climbing and very exposed/aerial passages


This concerns the presence, size and quantity of equipment placed on the wall to progress, requiring or not using the rock to climb.

It goes from level K1 with a lot of nearby equipment to level K6 where the equipment is very spaced (or just the cable) and combined with climbing steps (V+)


We are talking here about sure footing, physical condition, sensitivity to vertigo and mastery of climbing techniques.

It goes from level K1 where sure-footedness and little vertigo is enough to level K6 where climbing techniques and arm strength are required


This is the one that everyone must carry and it is also a question of knowing who the vias are intended for.

It goes from initiation level K1 where some will not wear equipment to level K6 where equipment is obligatory and reserved for climbers!

Download the Hüsler & Schal rating grid

C L I M B I N G 7

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