Written by Tiffany Pearson
At Alpenglow Expeditions, we firmly believe that the outdoors are for everybody. As such, we are proud to offer our very own Via Ferrata as a way for those of virtually any skill level to get outside and be part of a unique, engaging, and unforgettable adventure.
Over the span of written history, it is evident that humankind’s fascination with high mountain ranges is universal and has only strengthened with time. The last three centuries, however, have seen exponential growth in terms of the safety equipment and technology that allows us to answer the call of adventure and go where none have gone before. Mountains have always been embedded within the culture of the people who call the ranges home, and so it is only natural that we have designed increasingly advanced ways to navigate them safely, creating and maintaining routes for people to share and pass through. Many of these are today used for recreation, and a large sum of these protected routes fall under the term ‘via ferrata,’ an Italian phrase meaning ‘iron path.’
While it is likely that protected climbing routes have existed in the mountains for centuries, the term ‘via ferrata’ has been used since the First World War, when these high mountain routes were constructed across the Alps by and for the Italian military. Over the years, alpine organizations have taken to restoring and preserving these routes, replacing wood and rope with steel cable, anchors, and ladder systems for public use and recreation. Since then, via ferrata-style climbing routes have opened up all over the world, from their birthplace in Europe all the way to South America, Southeast Asia, to right here in Olympic Valley, California.
So what sets the Tahoe Via apart from the wealth of adventure opportunities in the greater Lake Tahoe area? When it comes down to it, the Tahoe Via is in a league of its own thanks to its unique risk:reward ratio and its versatility of adventure options. High-quality guide service and cutting-edge safety systems coupled with the exposure and views of a client-catered full-on rock climbing experience in the beautiful Olympic Valley make the Tahoe Via a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
When you arrive at the Tahoe Via check-in booth located across from the Aerial Tram in the Palisades Tahoe village, one of the first things your guide will ask you is simply, “Have you climbed before?”. This is not for the purpose of excluding anyone from climbing the Via. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: a shining feature of the Tahoe Via is that it requires little to no prerequisites to fully enjoy the climb. With very little technical skill required, a climb on the Via is perfect for families, friend groups, and individuals alike. Because this is a guided tour, climbers can trust that their personal safety is always accounted for.
So what makes Alpenglow guides so special? As the only AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) accredited business in Northern California, our guides must adhere to a strict set of safety guidelines and exhibit a high degree of proficiency and professionalism while on the mountain. AMGA accreditation means that Alpenglow has voluntarily demonstrated that we conform to the industry standards: engagement in industry-leading technical practice, rigorous and standardized guide training, and the promotion of ethical business practices.
But what exactly does this mean for clients, and what is the direct impact? For clients, Alpenglow’s accreditation means that clients can feel confident in hiring a well-trained and experienced guide who is dedicated to upholding the high standards set by Alpenglow Expeditions. From routinely checking the gear conditions, completing maintenance on the Via Ferrata itself, and ensuring that all guides are well-trained and capable of performing in a rescue situation, Alpenglow is committed to providing adventure done right. Additionally, clients who have never climbed or felt exposure in the mountains can rest assured that their guides will coach them through any intimidating or challenging parts of the Via tour—no one will be left behind.
Our guides aren’t the only aspect of our advanced safety practices. Though most via ferratas worldwide use a dual-carabiner system to move clients across the cable, the Tahoe Via features a system called continuous lifeline. Clients are locked onto the lifeline throughout the entirety of the tour, and thus are able to create leverage using the steel cables, ladders, and footholds to propel themselves along the route without worrying about becoming detached. In fact, the continuous lifeline ensures that at no point is a client detached from the cable, especially on exposed terrain. Clients can enjoy the stunning views and the thrill of exposure high above Olympic Valley, aided by the security of a top-of-the-line safety system.
While many via ferratas around the world are restored mountain pathways that have since been adapted for recreation, the Tahoe Via was constructed with adventure at the forefront. As a result, the Tahoe Via now boasts four unique routes that climbers can experience depending on tour duration, physical ability, and client interest. Alpenglow offers two, three, and four hour guided tours every day of the week throughout the climbing season. Route versatility is yet another way to ensure that Alpenglow can cater expeditions on the Tahoe Via to clients of almost any skill level.
So, how do you know if the Tahoe Via Ferrata is the right adventure for you, your family, or your friend group? Let’s recap. If you are looking for:
-An outdoor adventure with minimal prerequisites or technical knowledge required
-A unique experience led by a world-class mountain guide adhered to the highest standards of safety
-An opportunity to connect with those around you as well as the natural beauty of the Lake Tahoe area
Then the Tahoe Via Ferrata is the climb for you. Above all, perhaps, a Tahoe Via Ferrata climb is the ideal opportunity to explore one’s limits, push barriers, and inspire new goals. This phenomenon—of pushing and breaking limits within the natural world—is exactly the type of experience Alpenglow Expeditions strives to create. At Alpenglow, we believe in a strong sense of community, and that through these shared experiences of thrill, spirit, and challenge, an inclusive outdoor community with a focus on environmental stewardship can grow and flourish.