Construction of a via ferrata

Do you want to know how to set up a via Ferrata?

In this article, we will guide you through the various phases involved in setting up a via Ferrata, including who the authorized workers are and the necessary steps to carry out the project.

A via ferrata is an equipped climbing path that allows climbers to ascend or cross rock walls safely. The structure is composed of metal cables and anchors, ladders, Tibetan bridges, footpaths, and aids permanently fixed onto the rock and calculated according to engineering principles.

In this article, we will provide detailed information on how to build a via Ferrata, including the equipment and techniques required to ensure the safety of climbers.

A short overview of information

How do you build a via Ferrata?

The construction of the Via Ferrata is articulated in several phases. In summary, briefly:
1. The first step is to place fixed ropes along the route (note, not the metal cable), removing any unstable rocks.
2. Holes are drilled to host Via Ferrata anchors.
3. The metal cable is laid out and tensioned.

Lavori in ferrata

How to set up a via ferrata

In-depth information on the construction of a via ferrata

Here is how to build a via Ferrata. The construction of a via ferrata involves several phases. The first step is to place the fixed ropes along the route (note: not via Ferrata steel cable). This is where the professionalism of the mountain guide comes into play, as they are accustomed to moving confidently on the rock. The worker anchors the fixed ropes to the rock using bolts, traditional rock pegs, and sometimes even natural anchors such as trees. Static ropes are preferred, as they are not subject to elongation when loaded. If necessary, unstable rocks and stones are removed first.

Once the route is equipped with fixed ropes, the guide can be attached to them and begin the arduous task of building the via ferrata.

After the cleaning operation is finished, the work continues with powerful gasoline drills, essential for drilling the holes where the via Ferrata anchors will be inserted. The metal cable will be connected to the anchors.

The depth of the holes varies depending on the quality and compactness of the rock. Via ferrata anchors must be sufficiently close together to ensure safety in the event of a fall.

In summary, building a via ferrata involves several phases, including positioning fixed ropes, drilling holes for anchors, and attaching and tightening the steel cable.

I’d like to point out that in Cortina, where the first via ferrata in the Dolomites were created, the best ferrata bolts were also born. Thanks to the experience gained by the Cortina Mountain Guides in many years of work on Ferrata, and thanks to the skill of the blacksmith Poloto–Lacedelli Leopoldo, who has been building Ferrata anchors for over forty years, the “Chiodo Cortina” was born.

The characteristic of this peg is that it is a unique and universal anchor. It is fixed to the rock in a practical and fast mechanical way: just drill a 20 mm hole in which to insert the peg, which, once hammered, immediately becomes usable, eliminating the typical waiting times of the resin pegs and making the equipped path promptly usable even in cases of integration or replacement of pre-existing anchors. The Chiodo Cortina (Cortina Peg) peg is considered the best peg for building via ferratas due to its practical and fast mechanical installation.

However, for specific needs or if the rock is friable, the peg can also be “resined”, by drilling a hole of 22 or 24 mm depending on the resin used. Once the Ferrata bolts are installed, the metal cable is attached to them and then tightened.

Equipment for setting up a via ferrata

The essential equipment for setting up a via Ferrata includes a petrol-powered drill with enough fuel mixture, high-quality drill bits up to 22 mm in diameter, keys to secure the bolts, a hammer to insert the pegs, and a tensioner, a tool used to tension the metal cable.

Adding up the weight of the equipment to the weight of the metal cable, rungs and pegs, bolts, and clamps, it is easy to understand that transporting all of this to the site requires considerable effort. Fortunately, nowadays the arduous task of transporting the heavy material is greatly facilitated by helicopters, which deposit the gear at various points on the mountain.

Maintenance of via Ferrata

Now that you know how to build a via Ferrata, let me add a few words about the maintenance of equipped routes.

In Cortina, the maintenance of via Ferrata is carried out by the Guides of Cortina.

The work starts regularly at the beginning of the season, to repair the damage caused by winter snowfalls and frosts, and continues whenever necessary; lightning strikes and falling rocks are the main causes of damage to via Ferrata.

Sometimes, unfortunately, a newly repaired via ferrata may require a repair intervention only a few days after the first maintenance, due to a violent thunderstorm.

Requirements for the creation of a Via Ferrata

To be constructed properly and in compliance with current regulations, the implementation of a via ferrata must:

  • firstly take into account any landscape constraints and the possible fragility of the environmental area affected by the project;
  • be subject to preventive analysis to assess the geological risk related to the area in which it is being built;
  • indispensably require a feasibility study in terms of environmental impact, both during construction work and in terms of use (number of visitors, access infrastructure, etc.);
  • provide a technical analysis to choose the most suitable materials based on their chemical-physical modifications. The location of the path, the type of rock formation, altitude, and potential snowfall should all be considered;
  • include an analysis of objective hazards in order to define the most usable itinerary for leisure time;
  • the construction of the via Ferrata must provide a plan and methodology for periodic inspections, monitoring, and repairs.

The design and construction of a Via Ferrata

The design and construction of a via ferrata require a well-defined process that follows some mandatory steps. First of all, the figures who will be involved in the project are defined, which are:

A geologist, for the evaluation of the geological risk related to the area where the via ferrata is built.

A technician qualified for the design of civil engineering structures and works. In fact, in Italy, the Ferrata currently fall under civil engineering works, especially if they are built from scratch.

A mountain guide-mountaineering instructor specialized as per Italian Law 6/89 art. 10 letter c. The project is signed by the qualified technician mentioned above.

What are the requirements for personnel involved in setting up a Via Ferrata?

The employer is obligated to train workers and supervisors involved in the installation of the via Ferrata.

Professionalism and expertise in various fields are required for the maintenance and construction of a via ferrata, including agility in moving on rocky walls, knowledge of knots and the use of mountaineering ropes, competence in assessing the quality of the rock where the anchor points are placed, and experience and ingenuity in identifying the best route.

A worker with authorization for access and positioning on ropes can perform the role of a technician and, if further trained, a supervisor for work at height, provided they are part of a company context.

Overall, the design and construction of a via Ferrata involve a team of experts from various fields, including a geologist, a qualified technician for civil engineering, and a mountain guide or mountaineering instructor.

The employer is responsible for training workers and supervisors involved in the installation and maintenance of the via Ferrata.

Related pages:
The ultimate online guide for Ferrata in the Dolomites.
Via ferratas open and closed in Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Via Ferrata photos and images.