Cuts and scrapes. Check.
Aching muscles. Check.
Adrenaline overload. Check.
We did the Via Ferrata today! This was the deciding factor when I was choosing my trip, there was another organiser who had a similar trip but without the via ferrata. It just looked so much fun that I wanted to do it!
We took two lifts to get up to 2400m where the via ferrata starts. We were divided in three rope teams – beginner, intermediate and experienced. I was initially put in the beginner group (seeing that it’s my first ever via ferrata), but it was getting crowded, we were five people in it so the guide asked if there’s anyone who is not nervous about doing this. I raised my hand without hesitation and thus got upgraded to the intermediate team! The intermediate and experienced teams would take the harder route, while the beginner team would go the easier way.
So there I was, all happy and excited – and then we got to the first vertical wall.
Oh. My. God.
I got up, but not without making the beginner mistake of using my knees when I couldn’t find a foot hold. I’m not the most flexible person in the world!
Then we got to the Tibetan Bridge, I had seen pictures of this so I was prepared. It’s just a cable suspended between two cliffs, so you’re pretty much tightrope walking except that you have support on both sides, in addition of having two lanyards clipped on the safety line. So it’s safe, but it doesn’t mean that I was relaxed going over… especially when the other team members stepped on the bridge and it started swaying sideways. Holy smokes how tight I was squeezing those support cables!
And then it got difficult. I learned what “airy” means when describing a via ferrata. I thought it means stuff like the Tibetan Bridge, and narrow mountain ridges with a long fall on both sides. Turns out that it means overhang. A goddamn freaking overhang. I was stuck. I just couldn’t figure out how to get over it. I tried several times, but my arms would not hold. I knew that the right way is to push with your thighs, but with the overhang, it means you’re pushing yourself further away from the cliff and I just could not force myself to do it. My head was telling me it was safe (in the sense that I would not fall 500m down the mountain, thanks to all the safeties), but my body refused to move. I had my elbow hooked through a step to keep me up at all, because the cliff was protruding out so I had no support, nowhere to rest. And the longer I hung on, the weaker I was getting. Finally the guide realised that I was not going to make it on my own, so he tied an extra rope which he then used to winch me up. And the funny part… my hair got stuck between the extra rope and the team rope, so I was desperately trying to release my hair while being lifted. Seriously, it hurt a lot. More than the humiliation of needing help to get past the overhang, apparently. 😀 But I had no ego that could get hurt on this mountain, it was my first ever via ferrata and I did come up all the way, the accomplishment is not diminished by the overhang episode!
Luckily the overhang was the hardest part of the route, there were a few more vertical walls but those almost felt easy after the overhang. With me being the beginner, I was the first person in the rope team after the guide, which allowed me to get some help from the guide when I got in a spot I couldn’t figure out on my own. And I should also mention that my rope team mates were the best possible – they never got frustrated with me and I also got some helpful hints where to set my foot when I couldn’t see down to find a foot hold myself! I am really grateful for that. 🙂
It was absolutely one of the most difficult, exciting and scary things I have ever done in my life! Talk about pushing my boundaries. As I mentioned, I didn’t know what “airy” meant until it was too late. I might not even have booked this trip if I had known. Or I would have insisted on staying in the beginner team. But with hindsight, I am so happy that I did this and I did it with the intermediate team. Truly one of the highlights of my whole life!
- Today’s ascent: 335m
- Highest altitude: 2749m