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The Via Ferrata of Telluride

Thursday • August 6, 2015

Tellurides Via Ferrata is a must do if you are an adventurous traveler. The adrenaline rush from being suspended solely by a harness and carabineers 500 feet above the ground cannot be replicated.

History 

The word Via Ferrata is Italian and means “Iron Road.” The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “A mountain route equipped with fixed ladders, cables, and bridges in order to be accessible to climbers and walkers.” The Italians created the first Via Ferrata so they were able to reach the top of mountains in harsh conditions that could not simply be climbed. The French soon used the technique, and many more followed the trend afterwards.

Our own Telluride version on the other hand was not made for any useful purpose except for the sake of a great time. Chuck Kroger was a climber and mountaineer that had traveled on many Via Ferratas in the Alps. After moving to Telluride he planned his very own iron road. He designed it and built much of the route, but sadly succumbed to cancer so his friends finished the project to carry out his wish. 

Find your way to the Adventure 

To access Telluride’s Via Ferrata follow the road that takes you to Bridal Veil Falls. There is a switch back after the bottom of the falls with a bit of a pull out.  From here you can access the unmarked trail. Eventually, the trial becomes narrow and you will see the metal bars jutting out from the sheer rock. Do not attempt without being in a harness equipped with carabineers! The Via is a climb that goes horizontal. Others around the world are actually vertical so some may say ours is easier!

My Experience 

Before I went, I thought it was simply going to be a fun time with friends on a hike/climb route. I was not scared at all, because I was told not to be and I’m not afraid of heights. However, I was definitely nervous at a few points along the course. I had to trust that my harness and the cable would keep me secure as I stretched my legs around corners of the cliff.  I tried not to focus on the fact that I was suspended by a thin cable 500 feet above the ground on sheer rock! There were a few times that I had to use my upper body strength to get me across a bigger leap, as I had less faith in my arms. However, I surprised myself how well I could actually hold myself up for time I needed to.

At times it was unnerving, but I prevailed. I didn’t know I was afraid of anything high, until I did this, but I overcame the fear and THAT in itself, gave me great satisfaction. The thrill of being so high and looking down at the town is hard to describe. Truly amazing!

Be Safe

I just want to make sure that if you decide to do this incredible adventure that you do it right. Though I think anyone that is willing to do this can make it through without trouble, you have to make sure you have the right equipment. There is a wire cord that goes across the hard sections and you have to clip a carabineer, which is connected to your harness, to it. If you have a default harness, or the wrong type of carabineer, it could lead to serious injury or even death.

I went with two very experienced climbers, with high tech gear, who had done the Via Ferrata many times. I had no doubts that I wasn’t in safe hands. I would suggest, if you have never done it you too should go with an experienced friend or guide. San Juan Mountain Guides offers trips with the local experts, so you can enjoy the experience with minimal worries.

Why do it?

It is dangerous, long, and high, but incredible. I have lived here for only a few years, but this is one of my favorite adventures. The Via is a good balance of just enough fear to give me an adrenaline rush, but not too much that it spoils the adventure.  I felt like a climber, though I know it was not nearly as hard as scaling up a rock, and I couldn’t stop smiling afterward. I think if you have to opportunity to go on Tellurides Via Ferrata, don’t turn it down for anything!