The Via Ferrata in WV – Part 1
May 28, 2008, 2:14 am
Filed under: Outdoor Adventure

I might have to drop out of skydiving next weekend.

I wasn’t expecting to be scared on the via ferrata and I was completely terrified.

I had forgotten that I am afraid of heights; this is a detail that I always forget until I’m staring into a deep gorge of some kind. Besides, wouldn’t any reasonable person feel some fear if she were hanging off the side of a cliff?

It wasn’t just a little bit of fear. It was intensive, heart-pounding, adrenaline flowing terror. I’m not a thrill-seeker. That’s not the reason I get myself into these things. I’m more of an explorer and skill acquirer, but definitely not a thrill seeker. I won’t even change my brand of moisturizer out of fear of the possible consequences.

Not being a thrill seeker wasn’t my only obstacle here. I’m also not a climber. I’ve been to the rock gym three times in my life, and each time, I’ve had to learn to trust the harness. During the whole duration of the via ferrata, I had no confidence that it would save me if I fell.

I’m pretty sure this is not uncommon. If you stopped a bunch of random individuals on the street and asked each one if he would trust his life to a couple of strips a cloth, I bet you’d have a whole lot of people in the resounding “NO!” category.

This means, if you’re about to climb, test the harness. Do this by clipping it somewhere stable and allowing yourself to hang from it before you start ascending. It’ll save you a lot of heartache (or even a more serious heart-condition).

I climbed the via ferrata like someone who truly believed her life was in danger (because I truly believed it). In some places, I only got myself through by pretending that I was only a few inches off the ground and remembering the soldiers that had climbed other via ferrata’s.

The European via ferratas were originally created to move soldiers over mountains. This means that regardless of desire or skill-level, some people had been forced to climb these things out of duty.

The harness decided that merely not helping me wasn’t enough. It went a step further to actually hinder me. Not only was I doing a difficult and frightening climb, but I was doing it with a rope octopus attacking me. It wrapped around my legs, it hung up on things, it draaaagggeed along the steel cable, and caught itself in places that I couldn’t reach without seriously compromising my comfort level.

My last obstacle was my height. I am 5’2 1/2″ and it seems that the via ferrata was designed by someone about a foot taller than me. The rungs and holds were ridiculously far apart. Many times, I only had my fingertips or tip-toes to support me.

In some cases, I had to jump a bit to get to the next hold. In most cases, I just had to some extra climbing.

More than a few times, I looked at the puzzle of the climb and said, “I can’t figure out how to get past this.” It took me a few extra minutes to find a way, but I always found one. I even found that my smaller stature and flexibility became an advantage on occasion.

This post is getting very long, so I am breaking it up.  Next post: The Via Ferrata; More than Terror and Rope Octopi.


1 Comment so far
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The only explanation is that you are all crazy. Seriously, though, congratulations for conquering your fear and getting your butt out of there. 🙂 When I finally blog about my own little journey I’ll be sure to let you know.

Comment by Nicole

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