SARL Peak Transfer
44a Chemin du Lai
Chamonix Mt Blanc
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Okay, so you find yourself in Chamonix a climbing and mountaineering Mecca, it would be rude not to give it a go. If not just for bragging rights but for the spectacular views and thrilling experience you will gain and remember forever! Whether you are planning a family day trip or just looking for a bit of adventure to add to your summer holiday or hiking itinerary, Via ferrata is an excellent day out. Don’t worry you do not have to be a rock climber to appreciate this activity, but perhaps a head for heights would help! Via Ferrata tends to give you the thrill of exposure but with the added security of iron cables and iron hand and foot bars to assist your accent. So even as a complete newcomer to climbing or hiking you can enjoy a Via ferrata route as a novel way to summit or traverse the mountain.
‘Via Ferrata’ originates from Italy and translates to ‘iron-road’ also know as Klettersteig in Germanic speaking countries. It is an aided mountain (Alpine) route for walkers and climbers using fixed cables, ladders, and every kind of bridge/ traverse you can imagine (Nepalese, single and double suspension, wooden beam, Tyrollean and even zip wires in some cases). Modern via ferrata is generally a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically every 3 to 10 metres fixed to the rock. The cable itself can be used as an aid and often other aids such as iron rungs, foot plates or cut in steps. Lengths can vary from short 30-minute routes (normally used to aid passage on a high hiking route from one pass to another or to exposed summits) to those that take a whole day to complete. Be aware that there is also varying difficulty of Via Ferratas, some are just exposed paths offering a little more protection. However, the extreme end can require steep strenuous overhanging routes.
There are a considerable number of Via ferratas under an hours drive from Chamonix that are suitable for children of 10 years and over and those with no experience of climbing. However, the Mer de Glace and Passy via ferratas are most accessible and would be our initial recommendation.
Having walked or got the Mer de Glace train from Chamonix to Montenvers train station, a short descent down the cable car and steps and a traverse across the glacier to the Echellets you will find the via ferrata. This route is graded as D (Difficult) therefore is suitable for beginners with a competent guide (mainly due to glacier traverse and length of route). It is essential to check the glacier and snow conditions on this route as depending on the time of year and weather conditions you will also need crampons and rope to travel safely over the glacier (spring and early summer for instance). If you are not experienced in glacier or dry galcier travel then you must travel with a guide due to crevasses.Follow signs marked ‘Le Refuge’ the route ascends all the way to refuge Couvercle (4-5 hours) through the Balcon de la Mer de Glace via over 30 ladders. You can descend via a shorter route (3 hours) via les Egralets.
Starting at 1923m before descending down to the glacier and ascending back up to 2698m to experience the spectacular views of the Balcon mer de glace. Below is a video of the route (you might want to turn your sound off though).
A 30 min drive from Chamonix above the town of Passy towards Plateau d’Assy you will find a via ferrata (parking sign posted from main road) in its truest form. After a 20 minute (STEEP) hike well signposted you will come to the start of the route.
It is over 500m long and involves crossing a traverse exposing you to a vertical drop of over 180m in most parts. Graded at AD+ it is technically easy but a little exposed and should only be attempted by complete beginners if accompanied by an instructor or guide. Combining cables, Nepalese bridges, wooden beam bridges and ladders. You can only ascend this route and descend via a beautiful trail signposted back down to Plateau d’Assy or the car park, it is approximately a round trip of 1 hour and 30 minutes.
With Mont Blanc in all its glory as a backdrop this route is stunning as well as challenging. But if you have time Ruge Varan is only a 20 minute hike up offering even more spectacular views of the L’Arve Valley, Aiguille de Varan and Fiz mountain ranges. It is compulsory to have appropriate via ferrata kit and all participants to be attached to the cable at all times!
Note that when you hire a guide all the safety equipment is usually supplied.
Peak Transfer highly recommends the via ferratas in and around Chamonix. They are a half day ‘Must Do’ if you get the chance. Whatever age or however big your party have a go, stay safe and enjoy the mountains.