My girlfriend and I showed up at the outpost in Idaho Springs about 10 minutes before our scheduled trip time. Wow, the place was popping! So many people coming to and from their adventures. Most people looked like they were rafting today, but we were in for something different. Today we were doing the Via Ferrata.
There was no waiting around, either. As soon as we arrived we were checked-in, given our waivers, and then meeting our group and our guides Emily and Sunshine. After some quick introductions we headed to the gear room. Here we got our harnesses, helmets, gloves, and a whole bunch of stuff you can use to attach yourself to a whole bunch of cables. Suddenly we went from being dressed for a regular day to looking like proper mountaineers.
Now that we were looking and feeling ready, it was time to hit the course. A short drive up the mountainside brought us to the start of the Via Ferrata. After a short walk, we arrived at an exposed trail along a cliff with a fixed cable running along side for us to clip into. This would serve as the training grounds for all of our newly acquired gear. It was all pretty simple to use, and before long the whole group was cruising along the mountainside. Of course this was just the beginning.
The intensity level went up pretty quickly after that first training section. The next part of the Via Ferrata put us out on iron rungs on the side of a cliff wall 100 or so feet in the air. We scrambled from rung to rung, securing ourselves to cables along the way, until we made it to a wooden suspension bridge. We bounced across the bridge, minding the big gaps between the boards, over to a rocky outcropping and then scrambled across more iron rungs on to flat ground.
Flat ground doesn’t last for long on the Via Ferrata however. The obstacle coming up actually involved no ground, just a 50-foot free fall. We were told this part was optional, but everybody in our group went for it. One by one we walked out onto a wooden bridge that just stopped in midair. It felt somewhat like walking the plank on a pirate ship, knowing I was going to have to take the plunge. The only difference was I don’t think many pirates were named Sunshine, and Sunshine wasn’t armed. I was questioning if I had what it takes to jump when Sunshine started counting down from three. I jumped on cue without thinking, it was a rush. I floated to the ground, and then watched as the rest of my group worked up the courage to make the same leap.
Now we had to work our way over to the ziplines. Just a few obstacles lay in the way. First we had another scramble along iron rungs in the cliffside. At this point I was starting to get more comfortable up in the air, so I started using the rock for hand holds instead of the rungs. For someone who doesn’t rock climb, this really added to the excitement level. Once we traversed the cliffside, we came to another suspension bridge. This was less like a bridge and more like wooden boards floating in the sky. The bridge was about 100ft, and I thought I would try to run the whole thing. I made it about 20ft “running” before wisely switching to a walk.
On the other side of the bridge, we could see people on the ziplines below us. We just had to get down to them. The fastest way to do this it turns out is to rappel down 150ft. One at a time Emily clipped us into the rope, and Sunshine belayed us down. Once the group made it down, we just had to cross one more bridge to get to the ziplines. This last bridge was the bounciest one yet, just a bunch of logs hanging in the air on a cable. Without a doubt my favorite of the bridges.
After crossing our last bridge, it was smooth sailing for the rest of the course. Just two ziplines to the bottom. After exerting ourselves for the last hour, it was nice to let gravity do most of the work and this was also the best time to take in the view around us. One of the ziplines was a side by side zipline, so my girlfriend and I were able race each other. There is some debate about who won, so I’ll just play it safe and say I did. We finished the Via Ferrata by zipping all the way back to the outpost where we started. An awesome way to end an awesome day.