Via Ferrata or Snakes and Ladders in the Alps: Val d'Isère

By: John Wilkinson

Ladders and cables were used, along with tunnels, in the First World War to move troops around the disputed area of the Dolomites in Northern Italy and have been improved since to create exhilarating mountain excursions, without the need of a rope and climbing equipment. A waist/sit harness and energy absorbing leashes with quick release karabiners allow the climber to self protect, clipping onto the cables, and additional help is often provided by ‘stemples’, large galvanised staples, for foot placement. The French have taken the concept and created a range of Via Ferratas (VF) from child-safe to acrobatic! The VF La Tovière is one of the most exhilarating.

The ‘jaws’ of the Val d’Isère valley, towering over the entrance to the valley at La Daille will be familiar to many, especially those who stayed at Chalet Hotel La Daille on the December TDC Instruction course. There is a serious VF on each cliff, but the most exhilarating one starts from the La Daille Residence car park, easily at first but then crossing steep granite cliffs to reach an impressive suspension bridge across to an enormous near vertical slab, with a small overhang. The following section traverses above the road with less equipment and intimidating exposure.

Let the Pictures tell the story! It’s a long walk down. Elsewhere other VF have zip wires to speed the descent!