A Via Ferrata basically consists of climbing a route equipped with a steel cable, or chain, anchored to the rock. The main function of the cable is to stop a fall, but can also be used as an aid for climbing, together with steel rungs, ladders and suspended bridges.
Despite neither Val di Mello nor Val Masino have via ferrata set up, it’s possible to try this funny activity within a range of 1,5/2 hours driving from our base. You can find them on Lake Como, in the nearby of Chiavenna or in, a more alpine terrain with a great view over glaciers, in Valmalenco.
Here follow a few ideas, in order of difficulty, location and with an average time:
Varenna, on Lake Como
Mese, near Chiavenna
Dalò, near Chiavenna
+ 500 mt.
Menaggio, on Lake Como
Via Ferrata Centenario CAO
+400m approach + 350m m – 1,5 h approach + 2,5 h + 2,5 h descent
Torrione Porro, Val Malenco
+ 600 m approach + 200 m via ferrata m – 2 h approach + 1,5 via ferrata
Funny and adventurous itinerary into a 50 meters deep canyon.
20 minutes hiking, one dizzy long rappel from a huge chockstone, a short via ferrata and several zip lines above waterfalls!
A bit of history…
This funny activity, half-way from hiking and climbing, is common on the Alps, but its ancient roots aren’t related to outdoor sports or tourism. Protected paths, with ladders and basic protection aids such as wood pegs and ropes, have probably existed in the Alps for centuries, to connect villages to their high pastures, to be used by hunters to reach remote wildlife areas, or to facilitate the crossing of alpine passes for trading or, more likely, smuggling.
Its sport origins date back to the growth of Alpine exploration and tourism in the nineteenth century, when in 1843 the first modern Via Ferrata was built in Dachstein (Austria) thanks to the use of iron pegs, ropes, carved footholds and ladders.
Via Ferratas become then sadly common during World War I across the Alps, and especially in the Dolomites. Italians and Austrian where fighting a fierce war in an extremely dangerous environment. Apart from the enemy fire, they both had to deal with the hostile winter climate and all the danger of the alpine terrain, such as avalanches, crevasses and rock falls. Steep rock faces are the typical features of Dolomites, so to help the troops moving in such a difficult terrain and extreme conditions, permanent lines were secured to the rock faces, together with ladders, suspended bridges and metal rungs. To complete the network, create shortcuts and give shelter, many tunnels have been dug too.
Shortly after World War II, this incredible network of via ferratas has been fixed up for touristic purposes.
After the Dolomites, the modern via ferratas have been created in many places, both to access to a summit, or to overtake a difficult section along a mountain trail, and both create a funny and protected playground for active outdoor lovers.