A while ago I did an article on Via Ferrata in America and threw in a Canadian one for good measure … but somehow this astonishing example of Via Ferrata escaped me! It is definitely worth a mention.
Before you see the video, you need to see the route!
Staggering, isn’t it?
This giant jungle gym, complete with swinging bridges, rappels and ladders, was designed and created by the Bobbie Burns Mountain Guides on Mount Nimbus in the Purcell Mountains. It is accessible only by helicopter from the Bobbie Burns Lodge, 35 kms south of Golden, BC. Never fear that this is some gung-ho, ramshackle set-up. The Bobbie Burns guides went to Europe to learn their trade directly from the Masters. Via ferrata was originally invented by the Italian army in the First World War when they needed to get across the mountains undetected and in a hurry.
Via ferrata is not hard-core mountain climbing, but it comes a pretty close second for those who want the buzz of an extreme climb (and the vertiginous Mount Nimbus is certainly that), but in a relatively safe environment. Each climber is given two lines attached to a harness around the waist and legs. Sturdy caribiners are the link between the lines and the steel cable that is permanently fixed into the rock.
“I was in total awe standing on the side of a precipice looking over 1,000 feet straight down and thinking, `I can’t believe I’m so calm and enjoying this so much,'” says P. Jongsma, one completely content cimber.
And now for the video…
The Mount Nimbus route is the most extensive route in North America. The route has re-bar steps drilled deep into the rock face and, maintaining an attachment to the steel cable for the duration of the route, climbers make their way up the steep (ok, near-vertical) rock faces and across suspension bridges. On the Mt. Nimbus route there is some down-climbing involved as well as an amazing 60 metre rapell down to terra firma.
Many feel that the plank-and-cable suspension bridge is the most terrifying part of the whole climb, but as one successful summitter put it as she reached the top of the highest needle: “Holy crap! The bridge isn’t the scariest part!”
The attraction to many of via ferrata as against mountain climbing is that the worst that can happen to you is that you slip and bang yourself on rocks. A small price to pay for the thrill of this adventure. “If you want the experience of climbing without the sheer terror that is sometimes associated with lead climbing, this is a fabulous way to do it. You’ve got terrific guides who coach and cajole you and make you keep moving until you realize you’ve done something you couldn’t do,” said A. Land on contemplating the climb later.
“Why are you not telling more people about this?! If this via ferrata route was in Boulder or some other U.S. mountain town there would be thousands of people here each and every day. We had a mountain range to ourselves,” says Nick M from Boulder, Colorado.
And how true that is… Because of its relative inaccessability it is to be hoped that it never becomes like the Half Dome in Yosemite!
Because I can’t resist it, here’s another video, different season…
Sensitive to opinions that via ferrata is harmful to the environment, Bruce Howatt, CMH Area Manager, points out that his team were careful to build CMH’s via ferrata in a remote area over the top of an old mine where hikers, climbers and backcountry skiers seldom, if ever, venture.
If you want more information, I suggest you go directly to the Canadian Mountain Holidays site… CMH is operated out of Banff.
Have a fabulous time!