“Come here,” my wife, September, beckoned. “I want to show you something.” I followed her into the sportzentrum in Mürren, Switzerland where a 32 inch flat screen monitor was waiting. “What do you think of this?” she asked, pointing at the monitor.
I looked at the image and considered the juxtaposition of a man smiling while clinging to the edge of a cliff.
“We could do that tomorrow!” September exclaimed. “It’s called a via ferrata and looks totally doable. You wear a climbing harness and are always clipped into a safety cable.”
Back home our family of four had been sporadic users of the local climbing gym, but to say we are climbers is like saying I’m a photographer, simply because I can snap a photo. “There clearly aren't enough lawyers in this country,” I muttered.
Since our arrival in Switzerland’s Lauterbrunnen valley, we had been partaking of the high-adrenaline offerings throughout the region. The following day, however, would be our last before returning to our cubicles in Silicon Valley. We had been planning a train ride on the Jungfraujoch, to the “Top of Europe.”
“I thought we were going do the Jungfrau thingy tomorrow,” I replied.
“This could be the highlight of our trip,” September replied.
Literally, via ferrata translates from its native Italian to iron road. A via ferrata is simply a mountain route with cables, steps, ladders and other aids traversing terrain that would be otherwise inaccessible to people with average abilities. Its austere beginnings are traced to World War I as a method of moving troops through the Dolomites. One hundred years later, vie ferrate (plural) are wildly popular in the Alps. Our introduction to them was traversing this route from Mürren to Gimmlewald.
Follow the Points of Interest to learn more about the equipment, how to use it, but more importantly, to learn about this fabulous route in the most beautiful spot in the world.
The via from Mürren to Gimmlewald is a great place for your first via ferrata experience. The route traverses the cliff that is the prominent feature of the Lauterbrunnen valley with a minimum of elevation loss or gain. It is easy enough that anyone in good physical condition can do it, short enough that you can tackle it in the morning and be done by lunch time, yet challenging enough to feel as though you really earned that T-shirt.
The via is strictly one way from Mürren to Gimmlewald and turning back en route is verboten. If you have doubts about your vertigo, Do. Not. Attempt. This. Climb.
You will need gloves as the cables will rub your hands raw without them. Via ferrata specific climbing gear is required. If you bring your own, no fees are required. You can rent high quality equipment at the sportzentrum in Mürren for CHF 50. Equipment rental includes a helmet. Fellow climbers above you will undoubtedly dislodge the occasional rock. Wear the helmet.
A guide is available for CHF 90 per person. Most people do not use a guide. This via ferrata was our family's introduction to the sport, did not use a guide, and have no regrets about that decision.