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About Via Ferrata

This leisure mountaineering sport had its roots in World War I. The first via ferrate were built in the Dolomite mountain region of northern Italy during the First World War, to aid the movement of military troops. In 1917, the Italians (as part of the alliance formed by Britain, France and Russia) were fighting a ferocious war with the Austrians in the Dolomites.

Amidst harsh winter conditions and an escalating casualty toll, both sides tried to gain control of the peaks to site observation posts and field guns. To help troops move about at high altitude, permanent lines were fixed to rock faces and ladders were installed so that soldiers could ascent steep faces. These were the first via ferrate.

In 1936, the first via ferrata created for tourists was built by the Italian Alpine Club (a club that traditionally promotes mountaineering). Today the Dolomites probably still have the greatest number of via ferrate. The wartime networks of via ferrate have been restored and many new routes added. Steel cables have replaced the ropes and iron ladders and metal rungs have taken the place of flimsy wooden constructions used by the Italian troops.