Telluride Via Ferrata
UNCOMPAHGRE NATIONAL FOREST, COLORADO
Unlike most of the via ferratas in Europe, Telluride’s “iron way” is a horizontal traverse, moving along the top of Pipeline Wall, a popular climbing crag in a box canyon below 12,785-foot Ajax Peak. And unlike the majority of via ferratas in the United States, this one is on public land, free of charge. It was built by a local metal worker and climber, Chuck Kroger, who took it upon himself to install iron rungs into the rock in 2006. (His pals finished the route after he died of cancer a year later.) It remained underground and illegal for a decade, until the volunteer Telluride Mountain Club legitimized it and opened it to the public.
Follow the dirt road (FR 648) to Bridal Veil Falls, park at the first switchback after the cascade, and hit the unmarked trail. The adrenaline starts pumping soon after, as you begin the 1.5-mile traverse on a foot-wide ledge, then intensifies: Near mile .7, transition to the “Main Event,” a 100-foot stretch with no ledge at all, just iron rungs mounted across the rock face, 680 feet above the valley floor. Views of the canyon, the town of Telluride, and 365-foot-tall Bridal Veil Falls don’t get more dramatic than when you’re clinging to the side of a cliff. (Circle back on the access trail to return to your car.)
Trailhead Bridal Veil Falls (37.9222, -107.7657) Season June to October Permit None Contact telluridemountainclub.org
There’s no better view of snow-capped Ingram Peak than from the sheer face of Ajax.