Climbing on the Kicking Horse Via Ferrata

Climbing on the Kicking Horse Via Ferrata on Where Rockies

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Via Ferrata – Italian for “iron road” – has become a popular summer adventure for mountain enthusiasts. Essentially, this is a constructed climbing route that includes footholds and handholds and a metal wire that spans the entirety of the course. You are attached to this wire at all times with a harness, so in the event of a fall you are secure. Via Ferratas require zero experience and they add the thrill and exhilaration of climbing with the safety and convenience of man-made interventions.

This was not my first Via Ferrata experience, and I was excited to try the 3-hour Ascension Route at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. This is the longest route at Kicking Horse, and it’s the most technical with the greatest exposure. I couldn't wait to try it out!

The morning started with a ride up the Golden Eagle Express gondola. We were to meet our guide at the top of the lift, and the 12-minutes in the car gave us a chance to soak up the mountains as we rose to the top. Our guide, Zach, was everything you’d want in the person leading you through this experience. He was calm, experienced and had a great way of making people feel at ease with what was about to come.

Kicking Horse uses a unique carabiner system called the Aeroline system. Most Via Ferratas use a two-clip system where the user has to unclip and reclip at each anchor point. Ideally, you clip each piece one at a time, so you are never detached from the cable. There is a risk, however, that you can you can unclip both carabiners at the same time, leaving you in a very dangerous situation should you lose your balance and fall. With thousands of anchor points along a climbing route, there are plenty of opportunities to make a mistake.

The Aeroline system is unique because the carabiner is specially constructed with a gap, so you slide it through specialized plates at the anchor points. This gap is large enough to allow you to pass through, but it’s too small to fit over the cable. This creates a system where you are guaranteed to be attached to the safety cable at all times. It took a couple of anchor points to get used to this style of carabiner, but it soon became second nature. All we had to do now was enjoy the Via Ferrata!

The route started with a 60m / 197ft suspension bridge, charmingly called “Hanging Glory”. The long bridge spans a steep section of mountain where the rock falls away abruptly, leaving you exposed for the crossing.  The end of the bridge was followed by a steep climb up the face of the rock. At the top, Zach said this was the last point of return. He felt we were strong enough and confident enough to tackle the rest of the course. So on we went!

The Kicking Horse Via Ferrata has steep, technical sections, long traverses and great scenery as you climb along the cliff face to Terminator Peak. It was a tough 3-hour course, and we were met with some challenging obstacles along the way. The 2-wire bridge was fun to cross, and there were some jutting outcrops to climb around and even a couple of sections that travelled downwards and tested our upper body strength.

The Ascension Route has the most exposure, meaning we spent most of our time hanging off the cliff face with nothing but open air and mountain scenery around us. It was a liberating feeling to be exposed to the breeze, and I had to continuously remind myself that I couldn’t just stand and admire the view all day – we had to keep climbing!

Terminator Peak was a welcome sight, and we took a quick break at the top to take some photos and soak in the 360-degree views of endless mountain ranges. Zach told us about the amazing skiing that Kicking Horse has to offer, and the great off-piste routes that make Golden such a great ski destination.

We hiked back to the chalet at the top of the Gondola, swapping stories and admiring the views. The Via Ferrata was a great start to what turned out to be an amazing summer day spent at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort.

Kate Barker