Elevation: 4,133 ft
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Shared By: kenr on Sep 27, 2018
Admins: Dan Flynn, Mark P.

Description

There are lots of Via Ferrata routes in many parts of Switzerland. In the German-speaking regions they are often called "Klettersteig". Popular routes on sunny weekend days will be crowded with local residents and visitors from all over Europe. Many have Sport-climbing crags or multi-pitch mixed-Trad routes nearby. Some have quicker access or easier descent by purchasing a ticket for a mechanical lift.

Popular print guidebook for Switzerland is:
Klettersteige Schweiz, by Iris Kürschner (www.Rother.de : 2013).
. . . (There is an English translation of an older 2005 edition called Via Ferrata Switzerland).

Via Ferrata routes normally have a steep cable through their non-easy parts, attached to the rock with steel posts. A climber on a VF route normally attaches a special "via ferrata kit" to their harness. But the normal method does not necessariy work effectively, and there are other options -- see more below under the section Protection.

Aid hardware: Many via ferrata routes in their non-easy parts have fixed hardware other than the steel cable -- such as rungs or "stemples" or railings or posts -- which the climber can grasp or stand upon for Aid. There are several options for using (or not using) this hardware -- see more below under the section Styles of Climbing.

Protection

Via Ferrata routes normally have a steep cable through their non-easy parts, attached to the rock with steel posts. A climber on a VF route normally attaches a special "via ferrata kit" to their harness. The "normal" VF kit has two lanyards or leashes, each with an auto-locking carabiner with a large opening. The kit connects the lanyards/leashes through a shock-absorption device. The climber attaches the carabiners of the VF kit to the steel cable. So if the climber falls, if using the VF kit properly they will go down to a few feet below the closest lower post which attaches the cable to the rock -- not all the way to the bottom.

Nevertheless a falling climber could easily get seriously injured or even die even when using a "normal" VF kit properly -- by hitting a ledge of protruding rock or fixed hardware. So while VF routes are often said to be "protected" by the steel cable, actually taking a fall on a VF route is a very bad idea.

. . . One of the worst situations is to fall while re-clipping to the cable above the next attachment post. Sometimes the clipping stance is overhanging (when already tired after a sequence of overhanging moves). Possible trick is to hook your elbow through one of the hardware rungs (sometimes not available).

So it should be considered normal for a VF route on MountainProject to have a Protection rating of "PG-13", and many in Switzerland should get "R". Should be very unusual to claim on MP that a VF route has "good" protection -- needs detailed justification.

warning: Most guidebooks and phone apps + websites for via ferrata routes confuse Protection with Aid. When they say that a route is "well protected", what they mean is that the steel cable is available for Aid. Unlike most rock-climbing guidebooks, the guidebook or app or website for Via Ferrata typically gives no consideration to the serious consequences of the climber actually falling (while using a normal VF kit with "normal" VF procedures). So it's left . . .
- - > up to you to make sure you do not choose to try any VF route where you might actually fall.

traverse failure: Another limitation with the normal VF kit is that the two lanyards / leashes are (rightly) so long, that if climber falls on a horizontl traverse section which is smooth or overhanging below, they could find themselves hanging in space, unable to reach up and grasp the cable to get back on to start climbing again.

Similar problem with just hanging on hardware to rest on any section of VF route whether horizontal or vertical.

better ways?
There are several "non-normal" equipment and strategies to get a much better chance of escaping serious injury in case of an actual fall.
Details below under section Special Protection Methods.

special Protection methods

There are some other non-normal ways to get Protection on a via ferrata route. Some can offer a much better chance of escaping serious injury in case of an actual fall. They might include:

* third leash: Add a third (shorter) (non-stretching) leash-with-carabiner to the VF kit. Best if your VF kit has a third attachment point above its shock-absorption unit -- otherwise attach to climbing harness. Short enough so climber can easily reach its carabiner while hanging on it with full body weight. Easier to use if carabiner is attached to the leash in a way that it does not slide around. Uses include: (a) Pausing for a full rest in the midst of strenuous section; (b) When re-clipping the cable in a strenuous position, clip the short leash first, then hang from it while re-clipping the longer normal VF leashes; (c) Horizontal traverse section, clipping it to cable for protection, so that after falling to below, the cable is still within reach; (d) Clipping to hardware other than the cable for temporary protection above a single hard move - (falling with the attachment point below would be bad because high-Fall-Factor impact on non-dynamic connection, so spinal injury or leash might break, unless using a VF kit with third attachment point).

* non-normal "via ferrata kit" which offers self-belay capability similar to a top-rope-solo device, but with a device designed self-belay on steel cable of appropriate diameter - (e.g. Skylotec Skyrider).

* rope belay by another climber above. Some modern VF routes have each post for attaching the steel cable designed to make it very convenient for a professional mountain guide or a climber well-experienced leading multi-pitch rock-climbing to use a rope to give a belay from above to climbers following. Even with that it would normally be possible for a lead climber to clip their own quick-draws to the steel cable (or other fixed hardware), and use the cable-attachment posts or other fixed hardware as anchor points to construct a belay station.

Since VF routes tend to have traverses and many easy anchoring points, a 16.5 meter / 55 ft rope normally works fine for reaching a comfortable belay station above a crux section. Since the Following climber clipping their own VF kit to the cable protects against big side-swing falls (unless they get too tired to re-clip), usually the main point of quick-draws is to keep the rope from hanging down away from the cable and getting stuck in some place difficult to reach. Unless the Leader wants to try a section like leading a bolt-protected climbing route, using a more "interesting" climbing style (e.g. pure "free") which might result in an actual fall. Since the placement of cable-attachment posts on most VF routes is often rather run-out, might want to also bring some Trad pieces for that.

* clipping a carabiner of a normal VF kit to fixed hardware other than the steel cable or cable-attachment post.
. . . Key problems with this strategy are (a) such other hardware might not be available at some difficult parts of the route (or at least strenuous to reach); (b) with a long + stretchy normal VF leash, climber might still fall far enough to get hurt (typically by hitting other protruding hardware close below); (c) with a shorter static "third" leash, might be putting a high-Fall-Factor impact on a non-dynamic connection - (so spinal injury or leash breaks).

* wrapping a prusik loop around the steel cable. Might work, might Not. Better test it in a safe situation before relying on it in a crux situation. Even if it actually works for holding a fall, gets time-consuming to set it up for more than one or two crux sequences on the same route.

Styles of Climbing

Many via ferrata routes in their non-easy parts have fixed hardware other than the steel cable -- such as rungs or "stemples" or railings or posts -- which the climber can grasp or stand upon for Aid (or some could be clipped for Protection). The climber could also grasp the steel cable for Aid, or stand upon one of the posts attaching the cable to the rock.

The "normal" style for most climbers on a VF route is to use maximum Aid of the fixed hardware for both hands and feet.

But there are other options which a serious rock climber could use to make some sections more interesting:

* Free climbing with hands and feet directly on the rock, not hardware. Clipping the cable or other hardware for Protection only, not for Aid.

* Hands grasping hardware, feet on the rock only.

* Skipping holds with hands on hardware. WIth matching hands on next higher hold, or not matching. With feet on hardware or directly on rock only. Or feet not on anything: just campus.

Key problem with playing with these "interesting" styles: Falling is a really bad idea. Normal via ferrata kit used with normal VF procedure is just not effective protection against serious injury in many sections of most VF routes. See details and non-normal options above under section Protection.

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