After I step my feet into the leg loops of the harness and shimmy it up over my waist, I make sure it fits and is double-backed. My climbing experience is paying off once again as I prepare for my first via ferrata climb.
What’s a via ferrata?
Explorers of years past created a way to easily navigate mountains by building protected routes. Via ferratas are cables, iron, and sometimes ladders helps those passing over exposed terrain. The materials are anchored into the rock and cables line the route to clip carabiners attached to harnesses to prevent a deadly fall. All routes are different as one may be solely vertical and others may traverse.
Dachstein Mountains Via Ferratas in Austria
A sling is girth-hitched onto my harness’s belay loop with a carabiner clipped to it, and we debate if we should have a backup sling and carabiner for passing fixed protection. Our friend didn’t think it was necessary as it was a small section of cable wires and ladders ascending up a steep rock face, and I agree. I strap my skis to my backpack since I wouldn’t be needing them at the moment.
A little less exposed and covered with snow than the Dachstein summit, the route to Edelgrieß Gletscher was a ladder up a rock face to a tunnel carved through the mountain and a snow-covered traverse above a cliff. The sign at the bottom marked the tunnel as closed, but we decided to try it as there was another route up and over the mountain with a little more difficulty.
Looking back through the tunnel after passing through.
The metal gate through the tunnel is open. After passing through the tunnel, we briefly enjoy the views on the other side. Instead of taking a break, we take a few pictures and hoist our packs onto our backs to walk along the wide traverse, still clipping into the fixed protection.
A few men in matching snowsuits pass us with shovels. It may be the first day the tunnel has opened for the public. We reach the end of the fix lines and meet another group taking a break. I take my heavy backpack off and remove my skis from my pack. I clip my toe pieces into my bindings first followed by my heels.
It’s time to ski!
Skiing Edelgrieß Gletscher
I side slip down to a saddle to avoid the windblown cornices on the ridge. I reach Andy ahead of me as he unclips from his skis to navigate around a patch of exposed rocks. I do the same but start to have problems getting the heel of my boot out of my binding. I fidget with the binding but worry that if force it my ski will go flying down with no end in sight. Finally my heel releases but not before the plate and spring on my binding come undone. I pick them up and stuff the pieces into my pocket.
I walk past the rocky section and down to Andy clipping back into his skis. We decide to fix it later as the piece won’t prevent me from skiing. I step my boots back into my bindings as we make our way down. The first aspect is icy and hard, so I side slip most of it until I feel comfortable to turn. Side slipping is a valuable skill to have when skiing off piste.
Corn skiing is fun, especially when getting to it means a via ferrata in Austria.
Molly Baker harvesting corn.
It didn’t take long to find corn, or snow melting during the day and refreezing at night. We all took turns yipping and hooting as we descended with the rocky alpine towering above us. The route funneled us out to a groomed cat track. We ended by switching back to touring mode to climb the last section back to the bottom of the gondola.
We dropped our gear off at the car and stripped off some of our warmer layers as it the sun beat down on us on a warm spring day. The restaurant at the base was a perfect place to drink Hollunderwasser and prost beer after a successful day in the mountains.