Piz da Lech Via Ferrata

One of the beautiful things about hiking in Europe is that there are so many ski resorts in the mountains here that it’s possible to do lift-assisted hiking in virtually every town you come upon in the summer in this South Tyrol region. Doing that, you can then spend the bulk of your time up in the views! (And get strudel at the base… just thought I’d mention it! It’s Germanic Italy here, after all.)

Piz da Lech is a via ferrata that begins near the town of Corvara. Perched above the town, it is easily accessed by taking the Boè gondola, followed by the Vallon chair lift, up to a point on the mountain that is within a short hike to the start of the VF route. It has outstanding views from the top of the Sella group of mountains, with their dramatically-cut stone pillars and deep chasms. The Sellas are mountains that remain hidden from view until you summit up top… and catching a glimpse of them from way up there is so well worth the effort!

Having successfully gotten our feet wet, so to speak, on a short 2A via ferrata the day before, we thought we’d up the ante and try a 3B rated VF, one with a long, airy ladder part to experience.

Taking the Piz Boè (pronounced “peez bow-eh”) gondola up is the way to go!

Taking the gondola and chairlifts up meant that we’d conserved a lot of strength & stamina that we could put into the more challenging climb (both from a difficulty standpoint, and an endurance/ length-of-route standpoint).

I love the trail markings on the rocks here. They’re primitive, and yet beautiful in their own way.
We exited the chairlift and found ourselves in the middle of a cloud! Talk about WOW! The sun was burning through its pillows of moisture, and it was an ethereal experience.
There was no mistaking which way we were to go!
It was a short walk through a dramatic setting to get to the start of our VF, over on the left, at the base of this cliff.
A quick walk around the base of the cliff and we were there.
We watched people start up the VF before us.
It’s always the first moves that are the toughest ones. And I’m learning. As in, “plan where you’ll be when you re-clip above or below a bolt!”
Bill, coming up behind me, reaches for a solid hand hold to use to pull himself up.
Soon we were heading steadily upward.
Sometimes I found myself so intent on the climbing, that I’d forget what I was carrying. My backpack got a bit stuck here and I had to come back down a bit and figure out a different way!
The holds were generally quite solid. You can see why you need your finger tips here… that being said, my fingers did get fairly chewed up on this rock with a few nicks and cuts here and there… especially when a hand hold broke off, bouncing off Bill’s helmet on its way down! Yikes!  But this was a good route on which to try using the rock, and only the rock (rather than reefing yourself up using the cable).
Of course, at times, the cable was just what I needed! Getting up onto a ledge brought welcome relief from time to time.
And some of those ledges were spectacular!
Bill is about to emerge on one of those ledges.
Getting up there is a little harder than it looks like it should be!
(And of course, it wouldn’t be a typical post for me if I didn’t spot flowers growing in a precarious place! These ones were on a wall at one of the ledges.)
Looking down on Bill as he begins another climbing section.
Sometimes you’d look and think, now what!? But it’s a fun way to experience a landscape, puzzling and thinking your way through it… being mindful of your moves, plotting your ascent.
Here Bill emerges onto a rocky spine. It’s not quite as simple as it looks.
First, there’s a careful walk up over the first lip…
… then another short climb….
… a few good toe holds…
… a few more steps, pulls and grasps…
… he’s almost there…
… and then he’s made it!
Here a climber emerges up that same rocky spine behind us. We let him go past us at this point, as he and his partner were speedier than we were.
But not until he’d taken our picture!
When we got up to the top of the first, long, via ferrata section, we came out on a narrow, rocky spine of sorts that led to the infamous ladder section.
Look carefully here, and you’ll see the ladders as they head up the cliff.

The ladders aren’t difficult, but they are long and they stand out a fair ways from the cliff. Holding the ladder while clipping and unclipping and looking down, way…way..way… down was a tricky thing to wrap your head around. The rungs feel a wee bit sketchy from an exposure perspective. And then some of the points where you’d exit a ladder and get back on the rock for a bit until the next ladder felt a bit airy, to say the least!

You can see the body movements required to go from one ladder to the next. In this photo, the ladders look angled, but they’re not. They’re completely vertical.
Coming up from one section of ladders and heading to the next was a little unnerving, as you had to cross a deep chasm across a horizontal iron ladder.
Bill coming into the horizontal ladder bridge part of the VF.

Once we exited the ladder section, we were finished the true climbing part of the via ferrata. The rest was light scrambling and a little walking to make it to the summit.

A scrambly walk took us to the top of the VF cable.
Then it was a matter of following the red dots.
And we were up in the views!

From then on, it was just a moderate mountain walk up to the top with fantastic panoramas, heart stopping views over the ledges of cliffs that overlooked the Sella range, long looks that went so far down to the scree below that your stomach does a little flip flop, and glimpses of deep chasms between pillars of rock. A dramatic setting, to be sure!

There were a few scrambly sections, but nothing too hard.
We were certainly up high here!

For a while we stopped, caught our breath, took in the scenery, and watched the clouds form. Yup. Watched the clouds form. They’d waft in, get thrust up by the thermals coming off the sunlit land below, and dissipate… after some spectacular billowing. Take a look…

We went through a bit of snow up there, even though it’s early September.
And then we’d made it! With the Sella mountains across a deep chasm behind us, the views were amazing!


We walked along the edge of this cliff, looking onto the Sella Range. It was spectacular, and looking down, way down its sheer drop-off, was enough to make your stomach do a little flip.
The Dolomites are really something!
Soon we were following a series of cairns to the summit.
Approaching the narrow summit, Bill looks down on our approach. We were heading to join that group for lunch at the base of the cross.
We made it!
Our lunch spot views.
And a little company… clearly the ravens that joined us on the peak were quite used to getting fed! Open up a plastic bag, and they’d flutter in, landing close by, and hop right up to your feet!
It was truly a beautiful spot to share with them!
Soon it was time to head down. Our route down would take us along this long, scree ramp. Can you see the people down below?
We had a little more snow to head through.
There are a couple of down-climbing sections on the way back down.
One had more ladder stemples.
But the views down to Corvara were amazing.
Looking back across the gully, we could see people on the via ferrata route we’d done. Look carefully and you’ll see some coming up onto the rocky spine, down low in the photo, and some people coming up over the top of the first 2 ladder sections. It was hard to imagine I’d made it up that!
Should you get to the end of the hike-out route and find yourself still having energy at the Vallon chair lift, bypass the chair and hike out, following hiking route #646 to the gondola station. It takes you through beautiful scenery like this. Can you see the crazy limestone pinnacle formations in the middle of this photo that look like a medieval castle?! (You’ll have to zoom in… they’re in the dark shadow.)
You can also hike to the Lake after which the area is named, before riding the gondola back down the mountain to the town of Corvara.

This via ferrata was not too physically demanding, though I did go through a lot of water on the way up the climb. I found some of the climbing parts a bit challenging, but not impossible. Some moves just took a few tries, that’s all. I do not climb as much as Bill does, and he felt they were easy. As a last resort, you can always reef yourself up, using the cable like a rope to haul yourself to the next bolt.

It seems to me that the difference between a ferrata that is 2B and one that is 3B is that the 2B is more like tough scrambling with exposure, and 3B has full-on climbing sections, with exposure. It is still most definitely do-able (especially if you’re flexible and have a good level of basic fitness and are comfortable with “airy” exposure sections), as there were a lot of solid hand and foot holds on this route.

IMG_8181Should You Go:

Via ferrata grading is easy to understand. Difficulty is rated on a 5 point scale (1 being easy and 5 being the most difficult). Exposure (as in how steep the drop offs are, or how catastrophic a tumble might be) is rated as an A, B or C, with C being the most exposed.

If you are interested in trying via ferrata, read these excellent posts for beginners from the Severe Climber: Tips For Via Ferrata and Via Ferrata Virgins.

This ferrata was graded a 3B. So moderate climbing challenge (say, a 5.7), and a bit exposed and “airy,” as they say.

It has 200m for the via ferrata climb itself. For the hike in, 150m elevation gain from the chair lift to the VF start. The summit is at 2910m.

Location: Start at the parking lot for the Piz Boè Gondola in the town of Corvara.

Hiking route: Look for hike #646 for the route down to avoid the chair lift.

Timing & Logistics: The gondola opens at 8:30am. Go early, for opening. You pay for a return ticket at the main building beside the parking lot, just for the gondola. Once you’re up top, you purchase a second one way ticket at the chair lift itself. From the top of the chair lift to the VF trailhead is a 10 minute walk, tops. There are no washrooms up there, so use the facilities at the top of the gondola before heading up the short chairlift. It took about 2 hours to do the ferrata climb. It took about an hour and a half to hike out, down the ramp from the mountain peak to the chair lift. Keep your harness and VF gear on for the hike down as you’ll need it to descend in 2 places on the way out.

For more on our 2017 Italy-Slovenia Trip go here: Venice & The Dolomites 2017. And for other places we’ve been around the world, poke about under the Travel tab of my Blog.

9 Comments on “Piz da Lech Via Ferrata

  1. Pingback: The Col Rosa (Ettore Bovero) Via Ferrata – Trail to Peak: The Adventurous Path

  2. For a split second, some of the red paint on rocks look like blood from a bleeding hand or forehead. Glad it wasn’t the case. Spectacular and “airy” scenery indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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