Via Ferrata in National Parks: Should We?

According to the Calgary Herald, via ferrata is expanding in North America by government support and the encouragement from the promise of recreational attractions and tourism.  In particular, it is possible that the park superintendents of Banff and Yoho National Parks may exercise their new regulatory flexibility and allow businesses to establish via ferrata routes within the park.

Via ferrata is Italian for iron way.  It is a system of bolted ladders and cables that allows non-technically skilled climbers to ascend alpine routes or rock faces.  They were established in the Dolomites of Northern Italy initially for the military purpose of troop movement during World War I.  Shortly afterwards it became a convenient way for non-mountaineers to see the world from granite walls.

The expansion of via ferrata has been controversial.  This is especially true now that the ethics of clean climbing, by using removable chocks and cams have become commonplace.  These tools have replaced the use of bolts and pitons, which scratch and accelerate the erosion of the face.  Via ferrata is permanently attached to the rock slab.  Therein is the problem.  Some would argue that via ferrata defaces the environment.  It certainly scars the mountains.

However, via ferrata allows people — typically hikers without mountaineering skills — to see the world from the climber’s perspective.  This should not be discouraged.  For that reason, established via ferrata routes are very special.  For instance, climber boyfriends can take their non-climbing girlfriends up to see the world from the wall without weeks and months of toproping and deciding who belays when.

A well maintained via ferrata route offers its climbers an amazing experience without having to find the route or extensive commitment to the art of sending.  But should we put more of these routes up and make them accessible to the public for $70.00?  Should everyone be able to climb a ladder be able to climb up El Capitan or The Chief?

Regardless whether the route goes up a major peak or the often unnoticed granite face outside of Lake Louise, should the peak be climbed by everyone or should it be untouched and pure.  As a hiker and a climber, I love via ferrata.  If via ferrata was not there, I don’t think our park and our experience in the mountains would be lacking.

Enjoy the via ferrata that are established.  But we don’t need any more.

If you agree or disagree, please leave a comment or join the discussion by being a fan of the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).

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