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Switzerland Via Ferrata 2018

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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356

My first time trying via ferrata routes in Switzerland. Thought I'd make some notes on each, fill in some some things not mentioned or out-of-date in the best-known English-language guidebook from 2005 (translated from Iris Kürschner's German-language guidebook published I was glad to also find the revised 2013 edition (only available in German so far), since there are some new routes. Things which might be useful for climbers visiting Switzerland and wanting to try some via ferrate routes -- or for me if I want to repeat some again on my own or with Sharon.

VF de Leysin : Tour d'Aï
. . . in the canton of Vaud. Ski-resort town of Leysin is French-speaking.
. . . Interesting varied pretty outing, also with interesting descent.

* described in the 2005 English-translation guidebook, Via Ferrata Switzerland, by Iris Kürschner.
* difficulty VF-specific rating 4 on a scale of 1 to 6 - (some steep strenuous sequences).
* lots of aid hardware (rungs + railings) in addition to the steel cable.
* lots of traversing, some downward.
* great summit view.
* starts by riding up a lift, but then there's some down-walking which adds to the total uphill labor.
* descent has some cable + hardware, and exposed sections.
* descent could be dangerous when wet (slippery grass + dirt).
* upper part of descent is along the NE side of the SE ridge.
* mountain bike could save some uphill labor + add some downhill fun.

* uphill vertical from lift to summit : +425 meters
* additional uphill to return to top station of lift : +140 meters
. . . . (not needed if walk down to bottom station or have mountain bike).
* vertical of serious climbing : +100 meters
* length of climbing : +120 meters

* Berneuse lift bottom station : (N46.3475 E7.0172)
. . . . with pay Parking close by.
* Berneuse  lift top station : (N46.3597 E7.0027)
* low point on the way to approach VF start : (N46.3647 E7.0018)
* VF bottom start : (N46.3716 E7.0016)
* VF top of climbing : (N46.3713 E7.0021)
* summit of Tour d'Ai : (N46.3721 E7.0020)
* low point of dirt road on return : (N46.3643 E7.0067)
. . . Could be good place to leave bike while doing the climb.

kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Klettersteig Fürenwand
. . . 5 km SE from the ski resort city of Engelberg in canton Obwald.
. . . . [ See on this Map ] . . .
. . . Well-known for endurance of steep strenuous moves. Also fairly interesting + scenic.
. . . Ride mechanical lift back down to parking after finishing this climb.

"Klettersteig" is the usual German word for Via Ferrata.

* English translation of 2005 edition of Kürschner guidebook includes this route.
* protection is fairly run-out (using normal VF kit with normal VF procedure).
. . . . So don't try this route unless sure you won't fall.
* vertical of serious climbing about +460 meters / +1500 ft
* total uphill vertical +725 meters / +2400 ft

* Fürenalp Lift bottom station : (N46.8017 E8.4494)
. . . Parking next to it free if purchase lift ticket for riding down after climbing route.
. . . . Otherwise could try parking farther lower northwest.
* Turn-off onto trail from walking on road : (N46.7985 E8.4580)
* VF bottom start : (N46.7987 E8.4619)
* VF top : (N46.8001 E8.4651)
* Lift top station : (N46.8012 E8.4682)
. . . with food + drink.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Klettersteig Graustock
. . . SW above the ski-resort town of Engelberg in canton Obwald.
. . . Interesting climbing in a spectacular setting, but
. . . Not so much climbing in proportion to the time riding (expensive) lifts + hiking.

* English translation of 2005 edition of Kürschner guidebook includes this route.
* Engelberg has several other Via Ferrata routes exploiting lifts, and the lift ticket purchase desk gave me a nice brochure describing them including nice maps.
* Difficulty by specific VF rating: 4 on scale of 1 to 6 (where 6 is Extrem) -- some steep + overhangs, but not so sustained.
* Along a ridge, but not much of the climbing was very arete-like.
* Above the top of main VF is a ridge hike to the summit, but didn't look so interesting for climbing, so I just saved time by starting dow the descent.
* mountain bike might raise the ratio of interesting fun to lift-riding time + money.

* vertical of serious climbing not more than +100 meter / +330 ft
* total vertical round-trip about +570 meter / +1850 ft
* total distance round-trip about 8.1 km / 5 miles

* lift 1 bottom station : (N46.8163 E8.3966)
. . . with pay parking next to it.
* lift 1 top station : (N46.7934 E8.3978)
. . . then hike aout 1.2 km to
* lift 2 bottom station : (N46.7910 E8.3879)
* lift 2 top station : (N46.7785 E8.3867)
* bottom start of cable main lower VF 1 : (N46.7830 E8.3798)
* top of main lower VF 1 : (N46.7834 E8.3791)
* bottom start main upper VF 2 : (N46.7860 E8.3754)
* top of VF 2 climbing : (N46.7862 E8.3751)
* Graustock summit : (N46.7880 E8.3690)
* junction for return trail : (N46.7874 E8.3730)  
. . . down SW then SE back to lift 2 top station
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Klettersteig Allmenalp
. . . above the W side of town of Kandersteg in the canton of Bern
. . . . . (by the car-train tunnel which goes south to the Rhone valley).
. . . Lots of hardware - in some creative configurations, much of it steep some overhanging.
. . . Short access, then after clmbing ride mechanical lift back down to (free) parking.

* Not in the print guidebook 2005 edition English translation.
. . . Map in the 2013 German-language guidebook did not match what I found there "on the ground".
* protection is fairly run-out (using normal VF kit with normal VF procedure).
. . . . So don't try this route unless sure you won't fall.
* difficulty by VF specific rating 4/5 on scale of 1 to 6 (where 6 is Extrem).
. . . . Lots of steep strenuous climbing especially in the lower part.

* vertical of serious climbing about +280 meter = +900 ft
* total uphill vertical about +530 m = +1740 ft

Approach hike is marked with signs ("klettersteig"): Starts in driveway near Parking, then after cross the little bridge, aim for the obvious waterfall. Bottom start of the VF is a ladder on rock wall to the right of the waterfall.

* Allmenalp Lift bottom : (N46.4893 E7.6611)
 . . . with free parking next to it.
* approach - little bridge : (N46.4901 E7.6612)
* VF bottom start : (N46.4916 E7.6570)
* VF top of climbing : (N46.4912 E7.6546)
* Lift top : (N46.4923 E7.6494)
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356

Area page on MP for Switzerland Via Ferrata.
Since I couldn't find any VF routes for Switzerland so far on MountainProject, and I wanted to create some Route descriptions for some I had done, I decided to create an Area on MP -- so that visiting climbers who wanted to try a VF would have an easy to place to look.

But in case MountainProject administration comes to have a different way to structure areas in Switzerland, or a different concept of what an Area page for VF ought to contain, I'm going to post sections of that page here, so that I can link to them from my own VF Route descriptions in Switzerland.

So that's what my next few posts on this thread will likely be. Then at least one more report.

First the overview section from that VF Area page . . .
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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 ( : 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.
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kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356

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 in a horizontal 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.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
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.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
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.
kenr · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 15,356
Göscheneralp: Bergseehütte + Krokodil + Bergseeschijen
. . . N above end of the road (N46.6491 E8.4991) up W from Göschenen town (by Andermatt  + N end of Gotthard tunnel)
. . . 3 substantial VF sections plus a couple short ones.
. . . Lots of single-pitch Sport and multi-pitch Trad in range of this hut.

I drove up to the end of the (sometimes narrow curvy) asphalt road to Göscheneralp trailhead (pay parking, non-pay if choose legal parking lower). Which is close to the dam at the E end of the Göschenersee lake (but the mountain + glacier scenery grabbed my attention more than the lake that day). Followed the main trail (marked red+white), came to a junction with a blue+white trail not mentioned in the German-language guidebook. Decided to try that and after passing below some bolted sport slabs, spotted a cable: new VF route ("Klettersteig Übung und Kinder" = VF Beginners + Children) not in the 2013 guidebook. So I climbed that, got many moves  free (interesting slab climbing with couple unusual sections), but some sections grasped the steel rungs or cable for Aid. Came out just below the Bergsee hut / refuge / mountain hotel, so I took a break there.

Near N side of hut found more blue+white markings and the word "Klettersteig" (German for Via Ferrata), so I followed those, rather nice approach to the bottom of another VF route ("Klettersteig Krokodil") -- No surprise, since this one is in the 2013 German-language guidebook (but not 2005 English translation). Fun moves on featured granite, and I got the whole thing climbing "free" (with hands + feet directly on the rock, using the cable or other fixed hardware only for Protection, not Aid). Lots of interesting sequences around  5.5-5.8, perhaps some a bit harder. But the placement of the cable-to-rock attachment posts was rather run-out -- I would have hit something bad + hard if I'd taken a fall wearing a normal VF kit. So I was glad I was using my special Skylotec Skyrider VF kit, which works something like a top-rope-solo self-belay device on steel cable of appropriate diameter.

Then scrambled up above cable to sit on top of the first (lower) Krokodil tower. Next down the other side following cable (which I gladly grabbed for Aid) to reach a small pass between the two Krokodil towers. Easily spotted the bottom of the cable for the next upward VF section. More fun moves on featured granite, upper part on a narrow-ish ridge. Again I got it all climbing "free", sustained interesting moves 5.4-5.5 maybe 5.6. Cable did not go to the cap of second Krokodil tower, and the final ten feet or so looked tougher than my "solo scramble" zone. Instead ducked thru a notch right and found the down-ward cable -- which led me to a bridge made of three cables suspended and lots of air below. Made it across that and a down a bit more grabbing the cable to reach a pass.

Saw the descent ("absteig") trail marked blue+white starting down the left (SW) side of pass, but I had plenty of time and great weather, so I wanted to go higher. I scrambled down the right (E) side with lots of loose rock + dirt (guess that's why it's not the normal descent route). Then traversed across a big field of talus (mostly friendly) and reached another set of blue+white markings, so folllowed those up north to reach a VF cable (in the 2005 English-translation guidebook) and climbed that "free" up to the Bergseelucke pass, on a somewhat narrow ridge. Talked with some climbers and hikers there. Saw that the blue+white markers continued down the other north side a bit. But the ridge itself rising up to the summit looked the sort of thing I would try in the California Sierra, so with no hints from any guidebook or website . . .

I next climbed west up the crest of the ridge. Some it was arete-like, with some short overhangs in a few spots (? 5.4 ?). Fun on featured granite, seemed more sound than many (fun) Sierra ridge scrambles. Made it to the summit of the Bergseeschijen peak, spent some time there chatting with Swiss climbers who had finished multi-pitch routes on the S face. One said that lots of the ridges in view all around were also climbable, all explored around the 1950s, might be covered in old guidebooks.

Next I followed two of the Swiss climbers down the normal route (marked with blue+white paint and with cairns), with another cable section of its own (nice to be grabbing the cable, but it would have been more fun if it were more fully taut like in the Dolomites, or like some descent cable sections of the Krokodil). Reached the Bergseelucke pass and rested a bit. Grabbed the VF cable returning down its S side, next happy jogging down the "friendly" talus. Then became more of a normal trail (bypassing the Bergsee hut), and met the main red+white trail between parking + hut. My jogging got weaker and with more excuses to pause and snack. Glad to reach Parking. Was glad to have not left my ticket on the car dashboard this time, so I could stick in the machine and pay (cash only) without an extra back-and-forth trip to the car. At last got the liquid + full snack I'd missed by skipping the hut on the way down. Great day of climbing.
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* most of this climbing is not in the 2005 English-translation VF Switz print guidebook.
* high-mountain scenery better earlier in the season with more snow (now that the glaciers have receded so much).
. . . Which can work because there VF routes tend to be SE facing.

more detail see these MP Route pages:
* VF Bergsee Hut Beginners + Children 
* VF Krokodil
* VF Krokodil 1 - free
* VF Krokodil 2 - free
* East Arete of Bergseeschijen peak (not a VF, No fixed hardware for protection/aid)

GPS tracks?
I had posted tracks for each stage of that day, but they got deleted by REI staff (as of Oct 3 anyway).
? Maybe they'll put them back someday ?

GPS waypoints: See the Route pages.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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