Hiking Italy's Via Ferrata at Age 75!

Walking out after a day's Via Ferrate | Tim Macartney-Snape
Walking out after a day's Via Ferrate | Tim Macartney-Snape

Hiking Italy's Via Ferrata at Age 75!

Do we have a traveller tale for you! Mark shares his hiking journey along a via ferrata, a series of iron rungs and ladders in the mountains, in the gorgeous Dolomites region of Italy. It's not everyone's cup of tea but regardless of whether you'd like to do this walk yourself, it does make for great reading. 

The History of the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites

The breathtaking pinnacles of the Dolomites are well known to climbers around the world. During WWI, the Dolomite mountain range was the scene of heavy fighting and became an almost continuous front throughout the war, from Cortina d'Ampezzo in the west to the Predil Pass in the east. 
Making full use of their elite Alpine mountain troops, the Italians fixed iron ladders and wire cable to the rock to enable them to fight on the vertical walls. Today these Via Ferrata 'iron ways' have been turned into recreational climbs, allowing non-climbers to discover the mountains in safety and adding a new dimension to hiking the pristine alpine wilderness of the Dolomites. 
Climber making her way up the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites

How difficult is it to hike the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites?

This trip is designed for experienced walkers who are seeking a challenge. No previous climbing experience is required to undertake this trip. An above average level of fitness is required as days can involve up to 6 hours of strenuous exercise in rugged terrain. A high level of fitness and sense of adventure is essential!
You need to be sure footed and have a head for heights as there are some steep drops close to the paths and Via Ferrata. Weather conditions may be harsh at times (even in summer), and you will need to be comfortable walking in such conditions. We suggest up to one hour of strenuous exercise 3-4 times a week. 
The best exercise for trekking is long bushwalks involving relatively steep ascents and descents. It is also good to have a bit of upper body strength - though the Via Ferrata is mostly only ladders there are sections which are exposed/airy with the need to keep three points of contact.
Via Ferrate, The Dolomites, northern Italy |  <i>Sylvia van der Peet</i>

Traveller Tale: Mark hikes the Via Ferrata

At age 75, I wasn’t entirely sure that I would be able to manage a trip of this nature; however I agreed to accompany my friend who is somewhat younger than myself and I’m delighted to say that it all turned out well. 
This is not a trip for anyone who would find five consecutive days of walking up the equivalent of a fair sized peak in the UK a bit too heavy an ordeal, before of course starting the Via Ferrata climb of the day, rounded off (quite often) by a final modest climb up to the summit of the mountain. Although I knew I was more than capable of managing the Via Ferrata, the walk-ins came as a bit of a shock to the system. The Via Ferrata themselves were relatively easy and, as a climber, posed few challenges. I think I would have liked them to be a little harder but was nevertheless quite happy with what we did. 
A bridge crossing on the Via Ferrata climb
We were fortunate in having absolutely perfect weather for the week; had it been otherwise, it would probably have made the whole thing a rather tougher ordeal. 
There were seven of us in the group, four being German speakers, three English. Our excellent guide, Martin, spoke both languages fine and he communicated everything we needed to know very adequately. After each day’s activities we always visited a Gasthof for a beer or coffee and a chat which was a nice way to end. 
The Dolomites, northern Italy |  <i>Sylvia van der Peet</i>
We were accommodated in Dobbiacci / Toblach - places in this part nearly always having both a German and an Italian name, which can be mildly confusing until you learn this fact. The hotel was perfectly adequate and very much what one would expect. Nicely situated about 1km on the hillside above the town, there were lovely views but nothing to do outside of the hotel other than perhaps go for a walk. I did not visit the town but there wasn’t much there, judging from our daily drive through it to get to our day’s destination. The hotel itself boasted a good sized swimming pool whose water was heated to a delicious 31 degrees. There was also a sauna and small fitness suite, neither of which I used. 
Hiker walking in the Dolomites, Italy |  <i>Kate Baker</i>
The food was excellent and we were allowed to make up a packed lunch from the food laid out at breakfast. It came as a bit of a shock when our guide told us that we should be down for breakfast at 6.30am, ready for a 7.30 departure, and it was a bit of a panic organising our picnic lunch as well as eating breakfast, packing our rucksack etc in the hour we had, but after a day or two I was much better organised. 
Hiking by the Gran Fanes Alp in the Dolomites |  <i>Simone Antonazzo</i>
Although the day started early, it also finished early and on most days we were back at the hotel by around 3pm. Dinner was at 7pm and we were ready for bed by nine or ten.
Thanks to Mark Waters for sharing his epic tale! We look forward to hearing about his next journey.


Have you been inspired to hike the Dolomites, or the Via Ferrata? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Via Ferrata, Italy, Dolomites, Dolomites Walking Tour, Via Ferrata Walking Tour

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