23 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide
While Europe at large is a paradise for via ferrata lovers, Austria is most likely the country with the highest number of routes. With over 500 different via ferrata, Austria is sure to be a delight for all – no matter your skills and no matter the level of thrills you are willing to experience. Innsbruck, in the Tirol region, is particularly well known for offering some of the most scenic via ferratas in the area and has become along the years a hotspot for via ferrata enthusiasts and beginners alike. Keep on reading to learn more about the practice and about the best ‘Klettersteigset’ out of Innsbruck.
What is Via Ferrata and who is it for?
Meaning ‘iron path’ in Italian, via ferrata is often considered more thrilling than hiking but less dangerous than free climbing. Indeed, a via ferrata is a climbing route following a steel cable fixed to the rock, on which participants are secured via a harness, as well as various climbing aides such as metal steps, zip wires and ladders that ease the way for climbers. They are an incredible way to explore the mountains and admire the panorama offered by high altitude climbs.
The security offered by the harness and climbing aides allows beginners to enjoy the adrenaline rush as much as experienced climbers do. Some routes also let children of 8+ years old participate, making via ferrata an exciting family adventure. While some routes are a good fit for beginners, experienced climbers and thrill-seekers should not shove this activity aside. Indeed, some via ferrata are much more challenging and can take up to 8 hours to complete, and it is even possible to embark on a multi-day expedition.
Via Ferrata in Innsbruck
Just like the rest of the country, Innsbruck offers countless via ferrata routes for all experience levels. Some of them, however, stand out amongst all others and should be on all adventurers’ bucket list – and we have detailed them for you below.
Difficulty: C – D
Duration: 5 hours
Season: June to October
If you are looking to embark on a via ferrata adventure in Innsbruck, you need to be familiar with the term ‘Klettersteig’ – the German word for via ferrata. One of the first routes coming up when discussing via ferrata in Innsbruck is the Innsbruck Klettersteig, a classic in the region and for good reasons. Offering unbeatable views over the city down below and over the Karwendel Mountains above, this via ferrata is challenging and incredibly rewarding.
To get to the start of the Innsbruck via ferrata, you will have to take the Hungerburgbahn or the Nordkettenbahn to the Hafelekar mountain station. From there, it is a 10 minutes’ walk to the start of the route. Starting at a height of 2269m and completed in about 5 hours, the Innsbruck via ferrata consists of two sections. The first one, rated C in difficulty, will take you from the Hafelekar station to the ‘Long Saddle’ via the Kemacher, a summit of the Nordkette range and the highest point of your via ferrata at 2480m. This part will lead you across a ridge and a suspension bridge and will be a good preparation for the more challenging second section. After reaching the top of the Kemacher, you will head towards the Frau-Hitt-Sattel, another peak of the Nordkette range. The second half of the route will require more effort and challenge you with many turrets, gaps, and chimneys. Because of these obstacles, it is graded D on the difficulty scale.
This is a great option if you have some experience climbing and are in great physical condition. If you do not feel confident about the second part of the route, no worries! You can descend along the Long Saddle after the first part without problem, so you can confidently complete the first part and decide on the rest of your adventure depending on how that went.
Kaiser-Max Via Ferrata
Duration: 2½ hours
Season: All Year
The Kaiser-Max route is reserved for those experienced in via ferrata, as it was one of the first pure ‘sport’ via ferrata in the country and is still to this day graded E – the highest grade on the difficulty scale. It is considered by some experts as one of the most difficult via ferrata in the Alps, so we can promise you that you will not be disappointed!
You can easily reach the start of the route by walking 5 minutes from the parking lot between Martinswand and Martin Bichl. You will get a lift from your tour company if you are going with a guide, and if you are supposed to meet him/her there directly, sufficient signage will allow you to find it easily. The first part of the via ferrata is extremely steep but not the most challenging, with sections graded A to C and a couple sections graded D. This is a great way to start as you will be able to evaluate your capabilities and can decide to exit the route after this first section via the Maximillians Grotto. If you are sure that you have enough strength and experience for the second part, get ready to be challenged by 100m of almost vertical slab terrain, tread-free and graded D to E. The descent from this second section is equipped with cable and is quite easy to tackle. It will take you to a hiking trail leading back to the starting point.
As mentioned earlier, this is a route designed for experienced via ferratists – even though intermediate ones can decide to climb the first section and descend at this point. The use of climbing shoes is strongly advised, and an experience in climbing is necessary as the climbing aides on this route are very limited.
Wank Via Ferrata
Difficulty: B – C
Duration: 5½ hours
Season: June to October
A great option for beginners in good physical shape and willing to tackle their next challenge, the Wank via ferrata will offer magnificent views of the Mieminger Plateau, of the Inntal and Gurgltal Valleys and of the surrounding mountains. The terrain is agreeable and was completely renovated in 2007, so it will make for a great experience for the whole family.
The start of the Wank via ferrata is at the end of a beautiful hike in the middle of the Mieminger Plateau. While walking through forest gravelly terrain, you will slowly grasp the amazingness of the journey awaiting you. Once you arrive at the Stottler, it is time to put on your via ferrata equipment and to start the real adventure. You will climb all the way to the top of the Wank Spitze via steep up and downs sections, crags and towers, channels and chimneys. Once at the top, the views of the Mieming mountains are breathtaking and will make you feel like a true climber. The descent from the summit is relatively easy, taking you over grassy terrain back to the Lehnberghaus and finally back to the parking lot where your hike first started.
The Wank via ferrata has sections graded up to C, but most of the route is graded A. This makes it ideal if you are trying out via ferrata for the first time but do not want to miss out on the views, as well as if you are tackling the expedition with a family and younger children (most tour operators will allow children of 8 and over). However, you will need to be in excellent physical shape and to have experience hiking if you want to fully enjoy the experience.
Duration: 4½ hours
Season: June to October
The Adler Klettersteig is a beautiful via ferrata offering views over the Wetterstein Mountains and the Mieminger Range, while making sure to give you an adrenaline boost from start to finish. This is also a great option for foodies, as you will pass one of the most popular mountain lodges of the region.
To reach the start of the via ferrata, you will have to walk from the parking lot below the Strassberhaus and towards Niedere Munde to the entrance indicated by a ‘Adler Klettersteig’ sign. You can decide to cover this section the day before and to stay overnight in the Neuen Alphutte. An overnight stay in this very popular mountain lodge will offer a shorter and more enjoyable ascent the next day, and incredible food for dinner. Even if you do not stay overnight, you must have lunch there on your way back! The food will not disappoint while recovering from your adventure. The ascent to the summit plateau follows 900m of cable steel and is mostly graded B or C, with a few D passages, and will take you between 2½ and 3 hours to complete. Ascents alternate with descents and all via ferrata enthusiasts will find an interesting challenge. Once at the summit, great views of the surrounding ranges await! The descent is quite straight-forward, taking you from the summit back to the flat part of the ridge and to the marked route towards Wetterkreuz. From there, you can head towards Neue Alplhutte or directly head back to the parking lot in Strasburg Haus.
This route is graded D but most sections are C and B. It is accessible to intermediate via ferratist with Alpine experience, but it is not recommended for children due to the length of the expedition. Make sure to take on this challenge when the weather has been dry for a couple of days, as wet conditions render this route particularly risky and difficult.
Crazy Eddy Via Ferrata
Difficulty: C or D
Duration: 2 hours
Season: June to October
Located in the now closed off Crazy Eddy fun park, the Crazy Eddy via ferrata has kept its popularity over the years. Its complete renovation and expansion in 2018 likely heightened the enthusiasm of via ferratists; but we believe that, mostly, its success is due to the challenge it offers to both beginners and experienced adventurers via the many action elements installed, such as the impressive two-rope rope bridge.
From Innsbruck, take the Inntal Autobahn to the Silz exit. Once there, take the road towards Crazy Eddy and park there. The via ferrata offers two variants, which makes it ideal for groups with different experience levels. The more difficult entrance, graded D, goes directly from the hiking path. Expect a very steep route with little good handles. If this sounds too difficult, you can take the easier variant – graded B to C – by continuing for a few meters on the hiking path and finding the climbing tracks to the entrance. This route runs parallel to the D-graded route. At the end of the via ferrata, both routes rejoin and the path leads you to the rope bridge – the highlight of the expedition for many! Once you have crossed the bridge, you will head back down on an easy descent, where you can also decide to climb into the wire rope spider web if you have the necessary equipment.
Because it offers two options, this route is great for everyone in the group. It is not recommended for children, however, as the distance between the two ropes on the rope bridge might make the crossing difficult for them.
Via ferratas from Innsbruck come in many levels and variations, and we are pretty sure that you will find a route challenging enough for everyone in your party. This is a definite must-do while in the city, as it will let you admire some of the highest peaks of the region while giving you the thrills every adventurer is looking for.
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9 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide