Stairways to the summits

4th August 2011, by john

My wife, Gerry, enjoying a via ferrata

My wife, Gerry, enjoying a via ferrata

Despite the myth, the French Alps has lots to offer the summer visitor; clipping in to some ironmongery (aka via ferrata) is a neat way to combine easy climbing and hiking to get you up the mountain. WTSS reader John Elgy and his family gave it a go near Les Arcs, plus a quick whitewater rafting trip with Arc Adventures.

For those who haven’t tried ferrata it is a fantastic way to experience the thrill of vertical rock faces and massive exposure. They are graded in difficulty from easy to extremely difficult, but with a bit of experience most people can do almost all of them.

A quick visit to Amazon will find suitable guide books; the equipment can be hired if you don’t want to buy your own. I really recommend anyone visiting the Alps in summer to give it a go.

Although there are very good ferrata near Les Arcs we have done most of them several times, so we drove over the Col d’Isèran to near Mondane for the exhilarating via ferrata du Diable – from the Redoute Marie-Therese. Also here are some very exciting zip wires right across the gorge. I must give them a go but the ferrata here act like a huge magnet. A fantastic day. We also spent time in the magnificent Chartreuse doing the Roche Veyrand route.

Some of the party wanted to do an extreme ferrata, so we drove around to Champagny and did the Grosses Pierres. This is a short route that always threatens to get harder but never quite tests the body as much as you wish. This is probably the easiest extreme ferrata in France, but my wife declined to attempt it and did the slightly easier Bettières near Vallandry instead. To really test your endurance try the Tovière in Val d’Isère. 

The weather has been very bad in the Alps this year and Arc Adventures cancelled our planned trip down the Canyon Pussy (no sniggering in the back row). We took the 24km rafting trip down the Isère instead. Once you have tried rafting down the rapids of the Isère you will never visit a theme park ever again. Incidentally Arc Adventures has a very good programme of summer activities as well as winter ones. Phone them from the UK to arrange anything from the adventure playground to a guided ascent of Mont Pourri. They speak good English and are always very helpful.

Links: Arc Adventures

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