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A Beginner’s Guide to Via Ferrata in Colorado

Man climbs over a boulder using iron rungs from a via ferrata course in Buena Vista with other mountains in the background and blue skies

Moving to Colorado gave me many new experiences. I pretty much grew up and spent almost 30 years at sea level in Florida, island hopping and waiting for the fish fry we were about to have after a day on the Gulf. Florida offered many great things when it came to outdoor adventures, but nothing like what the Centennial State was able to provide, and after my first visit out here I was hooked. My first hike was Mt Evans, which is also home to the Mount Evans Via Ferrata. Now, being at sea level for 30 years that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do on my part. But I survived, and the thrill started becoming more addicting and eventually I needed more “thrill” or “adventure”. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to CO, like its altitude, geography, weather, and landscape. None of which to be taken lightly or underestimated. This leads me to one of the new Loves I discovered out here, the Ferrata.

Man on the top of a mountain doing via ferrata with a gopro 360 taking a photo

Via Ferrata is a growing popular adventure for many thrill-seekers, bucket listers, and people who are wanting to take the next step up from the normal hikes and scrambles, or to get that adrenaline fix. What is a Via Ferrata? Close your eyes and image being harnessed into the side of a mountain, hundreds of feet off the ground, and monkey barring or laddering across rebar. Not all via ferrata’s are created equal. CO now has 8 different Via Ferrata’s to choose from. One of the best via ferrata’s is only 35 minutes from Denver in the Idaho Springs/Mt Evans area. There is also one in beautiful Buena Vista near the Arkansas River called the Granite Via Ferrata. They each provide their own unique scenery and altitude. From Colorado’s gorgeous mountain peaks to the rivers below, each will also offer a different challenge and intensity so you definitely want to do your research on them before tackling and conquering your first one, or any for that matter. But that’s what I’m here for, to throw in some advice and recommendations so you can come back in one piece, with one of the best experiences of your life, safely and with a new appreciation of what Colorado’s mountains can offer.

Via Ferrata, which in translation means “Iron Path”, can be one of the most exciting adventures and thrills for any outdoor enthusiast but it is definitely not something you want to just jump into headfirst without being prepared or somewhat experienced. They can range from routes that are little more than paths, right into dramatic and exposed situations, to very steep and strenuous routes, overhanging in some parts, and some may require the strength & technique of a rock climber. You need to remember; altitude is no joke, especially when it comes to how your body and mind react to it. That’s why for many I would recommend going with someone who’s experienced or with a guide through an adventure company such as AVA Rafting and Zipline, for your first time.

 

Woman on the Granite Via Ferrata about to go around the cliffside suspended by iron rungs with a mountain face in the background

As far as clothing and gear are concerned. Most guides with adventure companies will supply you with the essentials such as a helmet, gloves, and harness. But if you’re doing the ferrata with an experienced friend you’ll want to rent or purchase these, as they will be a necessity. Hiking or climbing shoes or boots would work best, but sneakers would do, although I recommend wearing shoes built for the occasion as many sneakers are made for walking on sidewalks. You won’t find the same support, grip, and functionality with normal running shoes as you would with outdoor hiking/climbing shoes. As far as clothing, be comfortable and keep in mind the weather. Wear a short or long sleeve shirt, depending on the day’s temperature. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses. I recommend wearing something comfortable such as outdoor pants, leggings, or shorts. Remember, less is better, you don’t want to be having to tie down loose articles of clothing or gear while you’re at an overhang. I would use a small backpack or even just a fanny pack for personal items; car keys, a cell phone (maybe), a GoPro, snacks, and water, are usually the only items I carry with me. Remember, less is better. Use your best discretion based on your guide’s advice or friend’s personal experience on the specific ferrata you will be accomplishing.

Via ferrata’s are not for the faint of heart. Can anyone do it? Of Course! The adrenalin rush from the danger, the fulfillment of the accomplishment, just all hanging by a moment, is pure Joy. Will you be sore? Probably, if you’re not regularly climbing or doing these types of activities. So if you feel you may not be up to some of the challenging ones, hope I haven’t scared ya yet, start small, and work your way up. You don’t need to be a Solo Free Climber on Nat G to do these. Heck, you don’t even need to be a mountain person at all,… coming from a Florida dude remember. But I bet you with the addiction you get from it, you will be soon enough.

You can find answers to more of your questions in this FAQ.

A Fall Day in Idaho Springs
Where you can do Via Ferrata in Colorado

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