Tel­luride Via Fer­rata

Backpacker - - The Survival Issue -

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.

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