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Post details: Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata

"Via Ferrata" translates to "iron way". In plain English it means "Rock Climbing for Dummies". You get to climb steep vertical walls, but your progress is made easier by iron support structures that look like giant staples hammered into the rock. In addition to that, you are connected to a steel cable at all times by a Y-shaped lanyard which would limit the potential fall.

But don't get me wrong - it is still a fairly dangerous undertaking and the managers state it very clearly in their FAQ.

Q: Is Via Ferrata safe?
A: No.

The closest Via Ferrata to Washington is at Nelson Rock Preserve near Franklin, WV. So this Saturday I took a friend of mine and we set out towards West Virginia. After 3 hours we reached the Preserve, but all the gear was rented out and since we didn't make reservations, we had to wait about an hour for some to be returned by earlier visitors. We took this as an opportunity for lunch and went to a nearby Gateway Diner, whose prices would drive McDonalds bankrupt and whose restrooms were labeled "Bulls" and "Heifers".

After returning to the Park Lodge, we obtained the gear - a harness, a lanyard and a helmet - and set off for the mountain. The climbing was just the right difficulty for beginners and mostly enjoyable. Except for one spot where you had to traverse above a deep gorge on a slightly overhanging sheer wall, clinging desperately to the iron staples, and trying not to look down. The idea of dangling helplessly on the lanyard about 100 feet above the ground was a little bit disconcerting.

But whatever little vexation this stretch presented was paid off by an access to a precariously hung suspended bridge, 200 feet wide and 150 feet high. Its wooden rungs led to a second ridge of the rocky massive which offered some spectacular views of the whole park and crossing it was the highlight of the whole trail.

The second part was a bit easier and before long we enjoyed the views from the summit. "Via Ferrata" was definitely a memorable experience, albeit not for everyone. After all, there is a reason why their liability release form ends with a phrase: "I won't sue the Nelson Rock Preserve no matter what happens and I really, truly mean this".

But hey, if you have issues with your boss, if your boyfriend/girlfriend seems to be pursuing other venues of interest or if you are frustrated at George Bush's pearls of wisdom, go for it. Hanging on for dear life to a steel cable on a sheer wall of rock 200 feet high will give you a very different perspective on life's little problems. And it will make you appreciate the simple pleasures of standing on the firm ground.



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