If you want a rock climbing adventure, but don’t know your belaying ropes from your carabiner, then the first Via Ferrata or “iron road” in the UK might be just what you need.
What is an iron road: A “Via Ferrata” is simply a series of iron hoops drilled into the rockface in a similar configuration to a rope ladder, with a fixed rope which is permanently fixed to the top and bottom of the rockface. The users are attached with the usual climbing anchor and harness so if you slip you’ll only ever fall a foot or so.
This method of climbing simplifies getting up and down the rock as there is no need to find cracks for spring loaded camming devices, or anchors you need to hammer into the rocks. Of course someone else had to do this to get the hoops in, but some people like hanging from a rockface with few anchors.
The first iron road in the UK is at Honister Slate Mine in Borrowdale close to Keswick in the English Lake District. The hoops are designed for use by anyone with no prior knowledge required, although supervision and safety is taken care of by the owners of the mine with full AALA approval, as part of the Honister Slate Mine visitors centre.
For anyone aged 8 to 80 with reasonable mobility, this is the ideal way to see sights that even many rock climbers never get to see around the Buttermere and Borrowdale valleys.
Background: As the name suggests, the “Via Ferrata” was invented by the Italians for use in the Alps as an easier way of scaling regular cliff faces without the need for lots of specialist training or equipment. In some places in the Alps these still exist, but this is the first time they’ve come to the UK for public use.
Video of Via Ferrata in Borrowdale: