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Via Ferratas – you can for sure get into quite some heights on those. Equipped with a harness, helmet and a via ferrata set, you climb along a steel cable. But how safe is that? What keeps you safe is is your via ferrata set, which is fastened onto your harness and onto the cable which runs up them mountain. There are a bunch of different options and features to consider. 

How does the via ferrata set work?

Via ferrata sets are only used on via ferratas, also called Klettersteig. There are different difficulty levels, meaning the tour can be rather easy or very challenging. But they are all steeper than your regular hiking trail, which is why you need the set to keep you safe. It is fastened directly to your harness and is formed like a Y. Two stretchy arms go away from your harness and have a carabiner each at their end. These are then clipped into the steel line while you go up. Since the cable is also fastened onto the mountain, there are points where you are going to have to take the carabiners off to go past the anchoring in the wall. You take one off first, clip it onto the cable on the other side of the anchoring and then the other. If the set only had one arm, you would always be entirely loose when you go past these. By the way, always make sure you put the carabiners on opposing each other!

Generally, when doing a via ferrata, you do not want to fall. Sounds weird, but when sports climbing for example, occasional falls can hardly be avoided. But if you do happen to fall, what happens first is that the arms will go all the way down to the last anchoring. Then they stretch entirely and then fall damper opens up. That is the small package, which is fastened to the lower part of the Y. In it, another rope is stored which opens up when falling and damping your speed. The maximum fall distance according to current norms is 220cm. Via ferrata sets are built for people between 40 and 120kg of weight.


What different kinds of via ferrata sets are there?

In the end, they are all the same – or have the same functions. But still, there are a couple of details that differentiate the sets.

Carabiner: These are fastened onto the end of the arms, which you should be able to link onto the cable using one hand only. Make sure you pick a set where you like the handling of the carabiner. The small ones are usually harder to work with than the larger ones.

Extra joint: Some via ferrata sets have an additional joint at the lower end of the arms, where they come together. This moves with the arms, making sure they do not tangle while you climb. This mostly increases your comfort while going up.

180 degrees mistake: This mistake refers to when the climber only puts one arm in, and fastens the other arm to his harness. If he falls now, the absorbing mechanic will not work. Instead, your fall is only dampened by one arm, the break will not work. By now, there are some sets where this mistake is eliminated, making the fall damper work also when just having one arm on the cable.

You also need the remaining equipment to your via ferrata set

First off, the harness. Without a harness, the set is no use whatsoever, because you need it to fasten the set to your body. There are some harnesses that are built especially for via ferrata climbing, but regular or allround harnesses work fine too! You also need a helmet to protect you from rocks that fall down from above and other injuries that might occur, because you never know. And those who have done a via ferrata before know, that gloves are essential! And of course, you also need proper shoes. There are specific via ferrata, or approach shoes that are perfect for this kind of outdoor adventure. Many also use climbing shoes for especially hard routes and on easier ones, hiking boots are fine too.

Read more regarding via ferratas

Packing List for a Via Ferrata Adventure

Get vertical with the right pair of climbing shoes

Climbing Essentials: All you need to know

©Via Ferrata Set by Edelrid  ©Via Ferrata Set at the Adventure Park by Christian Pfanzelt 


Always make sure you put the carabiners on opposing each other!