Dave takes a look at that most enjoyable rest day activity climbing Via Ferratas.
This guidebook covers 66 varied via ferratas in the French Alps. The routes are spread over six areas: Geneva and the Northern Alps, Chambéry, Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys, Grenoble and Briançon, amid the Mont Blanc, Vanoise and Queyras ranges. Difficulty ranges from easy, protected routes through to exposed, technical challenges.
I love Via Ferratas and will always seek them out on rest days, they have everything for me as a climber – that sense of exposure, upwards movement and getting into special places. Of course climbing Via Ferrata are an activity in their own right and many people enjoy them for the same reasons as I do without the rest day bit!
Via Ferratas of The French Alps by Richard Millar is a good, comprehensive guide covering routes throughout 6 regions of the French Alps from Geneva in the north through to Embrun in the south and this makes sense as they cover the two main airports of Chambery and Geneva.
The introduction covers all aspects of using the guide and gives some basic pointers on the equipment required and techniques needed as well as some of the dangers you might encounter on a day out. All well set out and easy to read, Miller uses the more commonly used grading system of a serious grading of A- C (where C is a remote, high route) and a technical grade of 1-5 with 1 being technically straight forward – say a family or beginners route and 5 having the full range of commitment and overhanging sections), he also add an exposure grade of 1-5. I feel this could have been incorporated into the seriousness grade and extended his levels to A-E as it would lessen the confusion. That said they were easy to understand and this is an area I feel the UIAA need to work on as the sport becoming more popular.
Each section has a good selection of routes with comprehensive route descriptions and other information on escape points, descents and topo photos as well as some great motivational shots. The topo diagrams were supported with symbols from a map key. This was difficult to find in the introduction and would have been much better placed on the inside front/back cover so I could get to see it quickly. The preponderance of symbols also led to some very cluttered looking photo topos. That said the route descriptions look easy to follow en-route and are very detailed.
So the Via Ferrata guide to The French Alps is a well written and easy to follow guide that should be a valuable addition to any Alps visitors list of guides to take with them. Whether you love them or hate them, it’s fast growing element within Alpine Sports and is very, very popular for all the right reasons. Richard Millars guide is well worth the money for english speaking via ferrata lovers. Now can we have one for Austria please!
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