Updated: Jan 7
It is rare to find me participating in activities I can’t pronounce, but after hearing about Kanab’s new Via Ferrata, I had to try it out.
Via Ferrata pronounced [Via fer-ra-tah] is a climbing experience, made popular in Europe, aptly named after the Italian term Iron Path. They are quickly gaining popularity in the US, with new climbing opportunities in places like Jackson Hole Wyo., Telluride Colo., Tahoe Calif., and Red River Gorge, Ky. Kanab’s Via Ferrata, run by ROAM Outdoor Company, will now be included on the list of top class outdoor adventure locations.
There is a sense of freedom when you’re climbing rocks in the wild and it’s never truer when it’s close to home, but remote enough to enjoy the freedom of no cell service.
Located up Cave Lakes Canyon, Kanab’s Via Ferrata is the type of adventure that lets you explore the scenery without requiring climbing experience. If you can climb a ladder, you can enjoy a Via Ferrata.
There are no ropes, knots, or belays. You traverse and ascend steep rock faces but do it while wearing a harness that attaches via two lanyards to a series of half-inch steel cables. If you slip, the short lanyards and cables arrest the fall. Where there are no rock ledges to grab or step on, you’ll find steel hand and footholds drilled into the rock — almost exactly where you need them.
I’m not normally one who shies away from adventure or adrenaline inducing activities, but this adventure got my blood rate pumping in a way that I hadn’t felt before. Rock climbing, bouldering, cliff jumping and rappelling all produce different sensations of fear and anxiety, but the Via Ferrata offered a new, different fear based reaction in my body.
You have to experience it to explain, and it’s hard to describe the loss of control and feeling of utter dependency you have by becoming one with the red rocks; essentially relying on the rocks to give you the power you recently let go of. In one spot, you dangle on the cliff-side by stepping carefully on the iron path, while desperately searching for a hand hole that feels comfortable enough to rely on. When you find one, you want to kiss it.
We all react to fear in different ways, and opposite of me in our group, one couldn’t stop talking, while I couldn’t muster any thoughts to say. Another said her leg froze in one spot, was petrified with fear, and had to kindly be talked into moving forward step by step. As our group of six slowly made our way to the end of the obstacle, grinning ear to ear from accomplishment, a cooler full of cold drinks awaiting us and couldn’t have tasted better.
To end the unforgettable experience, we rappelled off the very cliff we just ascended, and while I love the free-falling feeling that rappelling offers, the Via Ferrata offers a whole different sensation that has to be experienced to fully appreciate. Now that I can pronounce Via Ferrata, don’t try talking me into going scuba diving for sea anemones off the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.