ORIGINALLY USED BY ITALIAN SOLDIERS DURING WWI TO TRAVERSE THE DOLOMITE MOUNTAINS, VIA FERRATE ARE ESSENTIALLY IRON RUNGS ATTACHED TO THE SIDES OF MOUNTAINS. THEY ARE NOW A COMMON SITE WHERE THERE ARE SHEER-FACED WALLS. WEST OF 105 HAS THREE OF COLORADO’S FOUR.
GRANITE VIA FERRATA, BUENA VISTA
Arkansas Valley Adventures originally started running commercial whitewater rafting trips in Colorado 20 years ago. Expansion into ziplining, fly fishing and guided hiking eventually led to via ferrate. The Granite Via Ferrata just north of Buena Vista is the company's most recent expansion (trips started just this past summer) and is the company's second via ferrata.
Set at the base of the Collegiate Range (the highest concentration of 14ers in the country) and with views of the Arkansas River, Mosquito Range and the Sawatch Range, the three-hour course includes crossing multiple suspended bridges, a rappelling section, and even incorporates ziplining in addition to the actual via ferrata. Climbers must be at least 12 years old.
MOUNT EVANS VIA FERRATA, IDAHO SPRINGS
Just 40 minutes west of Denver, AVA's first via ferrata course is the Mount Evans Via Ferrata. With incredible views of the Continental Divide and overlooking Chicago Creek, this course features a 50-foot free fall, suspended bridges, and a 70-foot rappel in addition to the via ferrata. Built in 2017, the trip is also around three hours and also has an age restriction of twelve years old.
THE KROGERATA, TELLURIDE
Finally, there is the Telluride via ferrata. Free and open to the public, installation began in 2006 under somewhat dubious legal circumstances by local explorer and climber Chuck Kroger. A fierce advocate when it came to access to local wilderness and peaks, Kroger first discovered via ferrate in Europe back in 1967. When he settled in Telluride, he decided to build one there. An accomplished climber, Kroger fabricated the holds and then ascended the sheer rock faces to install them. The Krogerata, as it is affectionately called, is 1.5 miles long and will take an experienced climber around three hours to complete.
While you don't have to be an expert climber to enjoy via ferrate, it is always better to have a guide or someone who knows what they're doing to assist you. The good people at Telluride Mountain Club are more than happy to help with tips and advice, but they also know the best people in the area to go to if you want a guide. Three companies come highly recommended by Telluride Mountain Club: Mountain Trip, San Juan Outdoor Adventures, and Telluride Mountain Guides.
Photos (opposite page) Granite Via Ferrata, credit: Katie Schneider with AVA Rafting & Zipline; (this page, all): Mount Evans Via Ferrata, credit: Katie Schneider with AVA Rafting & Zipline