Do something bold: Book a trip to the vertical world.
Blane Bachelor 1 / 4
Rocky Mountain High
Telluride Via Ferrata; Telluride, CO
Thanks to the late Chuck Kroger, an iconic Telluride climber and ironworker, the thrilling open-air traverse along the southwest face of 12,785-foot Ajax Peak is accessible to anyone who can handle heights. The out-and-back adventure starts out on a challenging hiking path (be on the lookout for the plaque honoring Kroger), which quickly turns into a narrow ledge before vanishing completely. The toughest stretch, known as the Main Event, is a 300-foot horizontal expanse over some 200 feet of open air.
Legendary Alpinist Jeff Lowe designed these three killer routes on a 1,484-acre private ranch not far from Salt Lake City. The experience begins with some time on a 30-foot training wall, familiarizing yourself with the special via ferrata safety setup (helmet, harness, locking carabiners, and shock-absorbing tethers, in case of a slip). Then, a guide matches you with the appropriate route to match your comfort and skill levels. The most basic option still offers quite an adrenaline rush, with plenty of exposure and several spots that require stringing together multiple climbing moves. No matter which route you end up on, expect epic views of a 350-foot waterfall and the Great Salt Lake.
With arm-pumping overhangs and a 300-foot-high suspension bridge, this may be the toughest via ferrata in North America. After a gondola delivers you to the start, there’s a vertical of more than 1,000 feet to overcome. First, you ease in with a narrow rock edge, which gives way to that wobbly, 295-foot-long, aptly named “Guts Bridge.” If that scares you, you should probably turn around. After Guts Bridge, it’s up the ascension, which involves a 1,525-foot vertical grind, with frightening exposure as you teeter along a narrow cable above 900 feet of open air. Once you top out, toast your accomplishment with a frosty Kokanee Lager at the Eagle’s Eye Restaurant, Canada’s highest at 7,700 feet.
Dozens of original via ferrata routes remain throughout the Dolomite mountain range in the Lake Garda region of northern Italy, most dotted with war-era bunkers, tunnels, and the original iron cables and anchors. One classic choice is the Fausto Susatti route, also known as Cima Capi for the peak it tops out on. It’s an all-day adventure and a fun mixture of via ferrata climbing and steep hiking. The VF climbing isn’t especially technical, but the entire outing is a big physical challenge that includes a 3,000-foot summit you can brag about later over pizza and cold Moretti. You’ll get views clear across the surrounding Dolomites and aquamarine lake, but it’s the history that leaves a real impression.