SAFE via ferrata

Tips and advice for staying safe in the mountains

Safety and a fun experience are top priorities in the mountains. At its core, safety means the adherence to important rules of conduct and instructions, as well as accurate tour planning and adequate equipment.

Via ferrata climbing has inherent risks. For those who are insufficiently prepared, poorly equipped or behave incorrectly, there is a danger of falling! Qualified mountain guides can teach you all the necessary skills.

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10 recommendations for a positive via ferrata experience

1. Careful planning

The key to a safe and enjoyable tour is planning. Inform yourself in detail about difficulty and length, ascent and descent, as well as the weather and conditions. Via ferrata guides or the internet provide detailed descriptions of all via ferrata routes with topographical info. When planning, the difficulty rating is of particular importance, especially since "blocking" due to exhaustion is the most common emergency on via ferrata routes. As a result, make sure to focus on the degrees of individual difficulty as well as the persistence of difficulty and thus the overall requirements of any given route.

This checklist will help you to gather all the relevant information for your via ferrata tour:

Tour Current conditions Weather Group
Make sure to focus on the degrees of individual difficulty as well as the persistence of difficulty and thus the overall requirements of any given via ferrata route. Is the via ferrata dry? Is current weather appropriate for your planned tour? Have all group members both physically and mentally up to the given the via ferrata tour?
Are you well informed about entry and exit and the expected requirements? Is snow be expected along the via ferrata route? How about old snow fields on the ascent and descent? Are thunderstorms to be expected during the course of the day? Is the size of the group ideal for the chosen route?
Does ascending or descending require additional equipment such as crampons or picks? Is there a cold front approaching? One capable of producing snowfall in the mountains even in summer? Do high temperatures necessitate an early start or a shady route? Have you informed third parties about your tour destination?
Are there any unsecured passages during the descent that carry a greater risk of falling? Are there any children with you?
Do you aware of any alternative route possibilities?

2. Choose a destination that matches your personal abilities

Overly ambitious difficulty levels can ruin the experience or lead to dangerous situations.

A “blockage" due to exhaustion is the most common emergency during via ferrata! Long via ferrata routes with a lower difficulty rating but persistent difficulty often can lead to overstraining and thus to dangerous situations. Economical climbing, whereby the arms are mainly outstretched in combination with a fundamentally sound technique, saves an enormous amount of strength. Securing yourself by hooking with one arm in the rope anchorage while changing carabiners also saves strength. Caution: Although a via ferrata set prevents a “complete fall," unlike in sport climbing falls are actually taboo, because a fall during a via ferrata can result in serious injuries! Overestimating your own ability can lead to dangerous situations on the via ferrata.

3. Use a full set of standard equipment

© Georg Sojer

Harness, via ferrata set and helmet: only the consistent and correct use of the equipment will enable you to climb via ferratas safely. You need your first aid kit and mobile phone (European emergency number 112) for emergencies.

Equipment checklist

  • Climbing harness
  • Via ferrata set
  • Helmet
  • via ferrata gloves (optional)
  • Wear appropriate outdoor clothing including a change of clothes (waterproof trousers or gaiters)
  • Sturdy hiking or mountaineering boots with non-slip, treaded sole
  • Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, lip protection, hat)
  • Waterproofs (rain jacket/poncho, backpack protection)
  • Cold protection (hat, gloves)
  • Food & drink (sufficient liquids and snacks) – check for potential refreshment stops in the route descriptions
  • First aid kit incl. emergency blanket, bivouac sack and headlamp
  • Mobile phone with a fully charged battery
  • Hiking map, route description and information materials
  • ID, insurance card, cash

4. Don’t start if there’s a risk of storms

Lightning can be life-threatening. Rain, wet, and cold increase the risk of falling.

Thunderstorms are to be expected frequently during the course of the day on muggy, hot midsummer days. Check the forecast for thunderstorms and make sure that you are back from the tour in good time. Plan in a little extra time and turn back early if there are typical signs of thunderstorms such as the rapid formation of cumulus clouds or gusty winds. Cumulus clouds, an electrical charge in the air and sleet showers are all serious warning signs of an impending thunderstorm. Should you nevertheless be caught off guard by a thunderstorm, correct behaviour can save your life. In any case, avoid being unsecured in areas where there is a risk of falling!

A via ferrata is like an oversized lightning conductor. Be warned: Do not make the mistake of disconnecting yourself from the wire rope! The danger of falling always exceeds the danger of lightning.

Other possible Alpine dangers include:
Sudden weather changes, rain, snowfall, ice, avalanches, wind, and fog.>Every day, changing weather conditions alter the terrain. Assessing the safety of a given route is the personal responsibility of every via ferrata climber. Via ferrata at your own risk!

5. Make a critical check of wire ropes and anchors

Rockfalls, ice, snow and frost blasting can cause damage to the climbing system. Do not enter closed via ferrata routes for any reason.

As with all via ferratas, it is important to be careful and not to trust any hold or bolt blindly. Oftentimes, it is easy to judge the condition of the route within the first few metres from the start of the via ferrata. It is essential to check whether the via ferrata is officially "open" or - due to maintenance work or seasonal conditions - "closed". Damage to the via ferrata can occur in spring in particular. Pay particular attention to the steel rope ends after the last anchoring: Sometimes these become loose!


Mountain guides
Mountain guides

in the Wilder Kaiser region

Thorough training and years of experience are necessary to enjoy a safe and relaxed tour in the mountains. Our guides will be delighted to accompany you on your tour.

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6. Partner check at the start of the via ferrata

Check one another: belt fastened, connection between the via ferrata set and the climbing harness, helmet.

7. Maintain sufficient distances!

© Georg Sojer

Only one person is allowed to travel between two fixed points.

Make sure that only one person is on the move at any one time in the respective via ferrata segment (= section between two anchors). The second, lower person needs to maintain sufficient distance upwards to the climber above. Should the person above fall, he or she will fall a few metres below the anchorage in his or her segment due to the brake of the harness engaging.

8. Clearly communicate when overtaking

Communicating and being considerate prevent dangerous situations during overtaking manoeuvres or oncoming traffic.

Even if you can easily cope with the difficulties of the via ferrata, make sure that you are always secured when meeting other via ferrata users! Only overtake after a short consultation and use favourable passages for this purpose. Avoid heavily frequented, "overrun" via ferrata where traffic jams frequently occur.

9. Beware of falling rocks

Careful trail climbing prevents falling rocks.

Helmets provide protection from falling rocks. Careful walking prevents loose rock from being kicked up. Such consideration is important during the ascent and the decent of the via ferrata. In the event of falling rocks, the warning cry “beware of falling rocks!" applies. Instead of looking up, press yourself against the rock face until the rock fall is over.

10. Respect nature and the environment

© Georg Sojer

To protect the mountain environment: do not leave any rubbish behind, avoid making a noise, stay on the paths, do not worry wildlife or grazing animals, leave plants untouched and respect conservation areas. Arrive via public transport or car sharing.

Rubbish:
Nature is a precious. Please keep the mountains clean and do not leave any rubbish behind! After all, rubbish remains behind even long after you have gone!

Difficulty classification

A - Easy Simple secured routes. Comprising leaning (quite long) or vertical (short) ladders, railings and iron clamps. Some sections may be exposed but are easy to climb. Generally possible for surefooted mountaineers with a good head for heights to climb without via ferrata climbing gear. Suitable for beginners.
B: moderately Steeper rocky terrain with some smaller footholds and exposed sections. Comprising longer vertical ladders, iron clamps and footholds. Can be challenging and exhausting. Even experienced mountaineers need to use climbing gear. Climbing difficulty: around II-III
C: difficult Steep to very steep rocky terrain. Comprising mainly sections with smaller footholds, almost always exposed. There may be some slightly overhanging ladders. Iron clamps and footholds may be quite far apart. Very challenging in parts. Climbing difficulty: around III-IV
D: very difficult Vertical, often overhanging terrain. Clamps and pins are often far apart. Mostly consisting of very exposed sections. Often only secured with steel ropes. You will need very good arm strength, good climbing technique and a good level of fitness. Sometimes combined with easy climbing (I-II) with no securing.
E: extremely difficult Mostly consisting of overhanging, rocky terrain. Extremely taxing on strength, climbing technique, skill, courage and morale. Only for experienced via ferrata professionals. Requires optimum fitness level. Rest slings are recommended. All the requirements of D but to an increased extent. There is also the transitional difficulty level “F” for extremely difficult passages.

Schall scale – Austria

What to do in case of an emergency?
What to do in case of an emergency?

Safety in the mountains is paramount. Time and again, mountaineers are surprised or injured by a sudden thunderstorm or other natural forces only to be spontaneously faced with the question: "What is the Alpine emergency no.?”

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Please note that the information provided regarding safety in the mountains is a recommendation only on behalf of the Tourismusverband Wilder Kaiser. All information is subject to change without notice.

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