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Stories from Element 52

Stories from Element 52

Learn Seeking Sky-High Thrills at Via Ferrara

The name Via Ferrata—which means “iron way” in Italian—refers to protected climbing routes originally created in World War I by Italian soldiers, who used lines and steel ladders to scale the Dolomites. “Many of these traverses in Europe, where they’re far more common, are vertical, but the one in Telluride is horizontal,” Mike Levy explains. “That means it’s a little easier to navigate, although guides are still strongly recommended for inexperienced climbers, which is something we can help out with.”

Built over a decade ago by mountain climbing legend and ironworker Chuck Kroger, who carefully forged the rungs and steps in his workshop, Telluride’s Via Ferrata once only received a few hundred visitors a year due its forbidden status on federal land. A couple years ago, the route was assessed by a group of geologists and engineers to make sure its system was upgraded and strengthened. “Now that it’s recently legitimized, the route is more popular,” Mike says. “However, that doesn’t take away from the electrifying thrill of having to trust that your harness and cable will keep you safe and secure when you’re suspended at 500 feet above the ground.”

Still, the expedition requires a certain level of mental clarity and focus, as you clip and unclip your harness and shuffle along the metal rungs mounted onto the face of the canyon wall. If you don’t have the stomach to look down—“I couldn’t until the very end,” Mike admits—you’ll still be able to enjoy the jaw-dropping sight of Bridal Veils Falls and the majestic peaks around you. “There’s a true sense of accomplishment once it’s all over,” he explains. “It’s almost cathartic to push yourself well beyond your comfort zone and come out safe and sound on the other side.”

When you reach the end, you won’t know whether it’s the magnificent view or fear of heights taking your breath away. “But you’ll be glad you undertook the adventure of a lifetime,” Mike promises. “Just remember to breathe!”Stories from Element 52