Via Ferrata – #3/52

The alarm went off on Saturday morning at 6 am, and I was excited.  A friend had told me about the Via Ferrata at Nelson Rocks Preserve in WV, and I couldn’t wait to try it out.  My excursion planned for the prior weekend had been postponed because of predicted thunderstorms; apparently, it isn’t a good idea to be attached to a steel cable with lightning in the vicinity.  Go figure.  At any rate, I pulled the kayak off the top of my car, stopped for coffee and Kashi bars, and headed west.

The Via Ferrata is a mountain climbing route relying on permanently installed steel cables; the climber is attached to this cable by harness and caribiners at all times, meaning that people like me, with little or no climbing experience, can complete the course in “relative” safety.  Still, if one slips, the drop can be from 5- to 10-feet…ouch!  Here’s a shot of the vertical ascent; the steel rungs in the face of the mountain are just visible:

I arrived at a small reception building just as a climbing group was about to head out.  At that point, I was dismayed to learn that my scheduled hike had been postponed again…but no one had called to let me know.  Luck was with me, however; I was able to tag along with a group of four NYC adventurers visiting West Virginia for the sole purpose of climbing throughout their weekend.  I couldn’t have picked more enjoyable people to share the experience!

Our guide gave us a safety talk at the base of the Via Ferrata and told us how to safely clip and unclip from the steel cable.  It felt very awkward in the beginning, but as the climb progressed, we all became more comfortable (and ambidextrous) with the skill.

The experience was intense, and I found it to be both a physical and mental challenge.   As I returned my climbing gear, I felt a real sense of accomplishment – as if I’d joined an elite cadre of non-chickens.  Yes, there was a rush in taking a physical risk (and in the wind gusts that reached 30 mph); I’m sure that was part of the draw for me.  But how can something like that not leave its mark?  If I can climb the vertical face of a mountain, I can deal with pretty much anything life throws at me.  It was definitely an excellent adventure; I’ll be back for more.

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