A Complete Guide to Via Ferrata

Via Ferrata is a fun climbing activity on offer at the jewel in the Lake District’s crown, Honister Slate Mine. Whether you’re simply on a walking day out or on one of Honister’s Lake District activity days, both the Classic and Extreme Via Ferrata climbing routes provide an exciting, adrenaline-boosting adventure which is accessible to all skill levels of climbing. Whether you’re a climbing enthusiast or a complete newbie, Honister’s Via Ferrata makes for a perfect activity day in the Lake District, pushing you out of your comfort zone in a safe manner, all with stunning views of natural beauty to top it off. Read on to find out more about what Via Ferrata consists of, the history behind it, the types of routes available, and what the experience is like at Honister Slate Mine.

What Is Via Ferrata?

Via Ferrata – translating to “iron way” in Italian – refers to a mountain activity which combines scrambling and rock climbing. A Via Ferrata route consists of a metal rail bolted into a mountain, which you clip yourself to and utilise as a safety line for the duration of the route.

Each participant wears a climbing harness and a Via Ferrata set with two carabiners, which attach to a steel cable running along the entire route. The cable features bolts at regular intervals, and participants have to unclip and reclip one carabiner at a time to move past each bolt, ensuring that they are always attached to the cable at least by one carabiner. If you happen to fall, the carabiners will slide down until stopped by a bolt

This provides more protection than a scrambling route which has nothing to catch you if your fall and it is also a quicker and easier experience than rock climbing, which requires various ropes and other gear. This makes it both an approachable and exciting experience, perfect for a walking day out, whether it be part of an activity day in the Lake District or the Italian Dolomites.

The History of Via Ferrata Climbing

Via Ferrata has existed in Europe for centuries, with routes in the Alps connecting villages to the higher points of the nearby mountainous regions. These routes began to be constructed in the nineteenth century to meet the high demand for Alpine tourism and exploration of the area.

An incarnation of via Ferrata became crucial in the First World War, as Austro-Hungarian forces fought Italians in the high altitudes of the Dolomites. During this conflict of extreme conditions, climbing lines were fixed to rock faces and ladders were installed to help soldiers ascend the mountains.

With additional iron ladders and rungs being installed, this network of Via Ferratas on the Dolomites was restored for public use after the war. During the 20th century, via ferratas grew in popularity all over Italy’s alpine regions and they became a type of climbing undertaken in its own right, rather than as access to summits or to climbs. From this, via Ferrata routes began to crop up in Austria, Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, the UK, and more.

Honister Slate Mine is host to the UK’s foremost Via Ferrata, helping the alpine practice evolve into a spirited adrenaline-seeking Lake District climbing activity for all of the family.

Some Via Ferrata Fun Facts

Italy features a Via Ferrata called the Lagazuoi Tunnel, a route which features tunnels and allows climbers to descend into and through the mountain. This arose from World War 1, as when Austrian and Italian troops were fighting for Mount Lagazuoi, they used the preexisting tunnels to try and close down the enemy by detonating explosives in the mountain.

Over 1000 via Ferratas currently exist in the European Alps, with the majority found in Italy and Austria.

Mountain Torq is the world’s highest Via Ferrata. It is located at Mt Kinabalu’s Panalaban rock face, Mala which starts at 3,200 metres and ends at 3,776 metres above sea level in Malaysian Borneo.

Is Via Ferrata For Me?

Whether for an activity day in the Lake District or the Dolomites, Via Ferrata climbing makes for an exciting yet accessible adventure for a walking day out. It requires no previous climbing experience but it helps to not be afraid of heights and are okay with being near steep, sudden drops.

At Honister, we understand that a via Ferrata experience might be intimidating at first, so offer two routes for differing skill levels. Honister’s classic route offers a gentler ascension and pushes you out of your comfort zone, whilst the Xtreme Via Ferrata Route goes up to the mountains near Honister Pass and has increased exposure, vertical climbs and cliff-edge ladders

Whether you choose the classic or Xtreme Via Ferrata route, these two options give you a choice towards the intensity of the climbing experience.

Other Important Information

It is also important to note that to do the Via Ferrata, there is a minimum age of 10 years and those under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a participating adult. It is also an all-weather activity – so be prepared for rain, and bring waterproofed clothing.

The Equipment

Unlike other climbing disciplines, Via Ferrata only necessitates simple and inexpensive equipment. If you plan on doing a classic or Xtreme Via Ferrata route at Honister, we would recommend wearing sturdy footwear and protective headwear for starters, as this will ensure you treat on rocks steadily whilst being safe from hitting your head on anything dangerous. Protective gloves are also a good addition, as the surfaces handled (i.e. rock, metal rungs, wire) whilst climbing a Via Ferrata route might be abrasive

You’ll be attached to the route with a strong, adjustable harness which is worn around the waist and the thighs. This is called a Via Ferrata set and consists of a lanyard and two carabiners. The lanyard has an energy-absorbing system, most commonly a tearing device which is a length of webbing specially sewn together to allow progressive tearing in case of a fall. The Via Ferrata set also has two arms which connect to the cable with the carabiners (spring locking mechanism that can be opened with one hand) as a means of connecting to the harness.

It is strongly advisable to take lots of water and food with you, as well as a range of clothes, to help stay comfortable in the fluctuating temperatures at different altitudes.

Honister’s Via Ferrata

Whilst it is now known for being a tourist attraction for activity days in the Lake District, Honister was primarily a slate mine which although officially opened in 1653, had evidence for it being used during the Roman occupation. The slate mined during the Victorian era was located at high altitudes, and the miners organized walkways and routes to get to and from work. It is these pathways which now make up Honister’s Via Ferrata routes.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as adventurous or haven’t climbed previously, there is amazing Lake District history in climbing Honister’s Via Ferrata. The climbing itself is easy to pick up and incredibly rewarding, with amazing, adrenaline-pumping views throughout the experience – not many Lake District activity days or walking days out could boast the vistas at Honister.

If you would like to learn more about its history, Honister is also the host of mine tours, which can help you gain a deeper understanding of Honister and the Lake District’s past.

Contact Us

If you’re interested in trying classic or Xtreme Via Ferrata climbing routes at the Lake District’s foremost location for an activity day, then get in touch with Honister today. At Honister Slate Mine, beyond the Via Ferrata climbing, we offer a range of adventurous and enriching activities, perfect for a walking day out! From mine tours to canyoning, and from cliff camping to an infinity bridge, there is a range of activities for everyone in the family.

Visit our Via Ferrata Classic or Xtreme Via Ferrata pages to book this exciting adventure, and find out more information about the other adventure activities offered at Honister. For any other queries, don t hesitate to get in touch with us at 017687 77230 or info@honister.com.