|Activities:||Hiking, Mountaineering, Aid Climbing|
When I heard of this via ferrata, I was surprised. I always imagined those iron ways in Dolomites, or some other parts of the Alps, but here in Colorado, and so close to my current home? I definitively had to go and see it.
Via Ferrata was supposed to be somewhat of a San Juan secret. Many people talked about it, but very few knew of its location. The route became recently more popular and also more busy with locals and tourists. And once you find its start, it is easy to follow. When doing my research on this "Iron Way", I came across statements like it is installed somewhere (not to be revealed) in the mountains of Colorado. I believe that this is not true anymore, I know many people who did it, and I have seen many people on its trail.
The concept started in the Dolomites. In World War I, the Austrians and Italians fought a feroucious war in the mountains of the Dolomites – not only against each other, but also against the hostile conditions. In the particularly frigid winter of 1916 thousands of troops died of the cold, falls or avalanches. To help troops ascend at high altitude, permanent lines were fixed to rock faces and ladders were installed. These were the first vie ferrate. The wartime network of passages is now maintained by Club Alpino Italiano, and many new routes have been added. Via ferrata are graded according their difficulty. Grade one usually involves nothing more than assisted walk. Grade five demands serious climbing skills.
France developed vie ferrate as well, and they also developed its rating:
F – Facile: Easy, suitable for initial introduction
PD – Peu Dificile: slightly difficult, suitable for beginners and possibly children
AD – Assez Difficile: moderately difficult, suitable for accompanied beginners
D – Difficile: difficult, for those accustomed to the sport
TD – Tres difficile: very difficult, physically demanding, for regular participants
ED – Extremely Difficile: Extremely difficult, very physically demanding, and suitable for experienced practitioners with a high level of fitness.
Many other countries developed similar mountain ways: Austria has many (I have done one in Hohe Wand, Austria), there are some in Canada, even China, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and Peru, and now even USA. I guess the cable route on Yosemite’s Half Dome is a via ferrata.
Those who embark on a via ferrata are advised to use normal climbing equipment (climbing harness, helmet, appropriate shoes etc.). You don’t need rock climbing shoes, light hiking shoes are fine. I have dome some via ferrata’s in keens. You can purchase via ferrata kit, which consits of two short length of rope or webbing linked to the harness, with a locking carabiner at the end of each line. This arrangement allows the user to always have one of their safety lines attached to the safety cable.
You can also use rope, or create your own via ferrata system with two long slings with locking biners. It is not very comfortable to take a fall when using the slings.
Chuck Kroger – local explorer and climber – first came across European Via Ferrate back in 1967 on trip to the Alps. He traveled the world looking for adventure, but once he settled for good in Telluride, Kroger became a trail building fiend and an advocate for access to local wilderness and peaks. He eventually decided to built via ferrata here. Starting in 2006, Kroger used his climbing skills to ascend sheer faces, packing a rock drill. He wasn’t’ just a renowned climber but also a master ironworker. Kroger forged and fabricated holds in his workshop and tried to make the route as safe as possible, using 5 ½ inch bolts versus the 2 ½ inch size used in most climbing holds. Then cancer took hold of Kroger, but his friends helped him finish putting up the Via Ferrata before he became too ill. He died Christmas Day 2007. The route he left behind is his legacy and all who travel it pay tribute to his vision. Locals call this iron way The Krogerata.
Charles F. Kroger pulled into Telluride in 1979, ready to start another chapter in his life that was already crammed with offbeat escapades and exploration. He was scruggy from river trips and time on the road, and Telluride wasn’t much different. It still sported the dust and edginess from mining days. Telluride later lost much of its roughness, and nowadays is known as a place which attracts rich and famous people.
During college, he and his friends pioneered the sport of buildering: traversing a chapel ledge, climbing the Golden Gate Bridge, and spelunking trips through the vents than linked Stanford’s campus buildings. By his senior year, Kroger was the president of the Stanford Alpine Club. When he graduated in 1969 in geophysics, one of his professors remarked that Kroger spent more time climbing rocks than studying them. By his early thirties, he was climbing his way into record books. A quiet and unpretentious legend among late-60s climbers, he had several first ascents in Yosemite and the Sierras ans was the first climber to ratchet four big wall routes on El Capitan in one season. Climbing took him to Alaska, the Alps, the Soviet Union, South America and eventually Colorado.
Before discovering Telluride, Kroger took a climbing trip in the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. He and his buddies scaled three peaks in 45 days. The extreme climbing filled them with fear and loathing: they ran out of food, ate from a trash pile, and were hoping for some miraculous rescue. They eventually walked out – irrevocably changed. Three of the six men married within weeks of their return. Kroger was one of them.
He met his wife in the Grand Canyon. Kathy was working as a parking ranger, and Kroger was hiking remote canyons and basing himself out of a beat up VW van. After a backpacking permit incident, they realized they had a lot in common. They married in Las Vegas. The two of them found their way to Telluride in 1979.
When in Telluride, he was employed by construction companies. eventually BONE (Back of Nowhere Engineering Construction) emerged with Kroger and Kathy as owners and host of employees. The company’s projects are distinct for their quality. Kroger was a self-taught welder who’d often be seen in the late night darkness of his shop, surrounded by arcing sparks and the white glow of a welding torch. He’d experimented with the concentrated heat until he had what he wanted.
As an artist and craftsman, Kroger’s joyful creations were infused with his philosophy that art should move and be humorous. He donated his pieces to nonprofits throughout the region. He volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and an organization called Corazon in Mexico, where he built and repaired houses for those less fortunate.
A six-time finisher of the Hardrock 100 – a grueling 100 mile race wit a 33,000 foot elevation gain, the Imogene Pass Run and other mountain competitions.
With his love for mountain trails, Kroger enlisted friends to clear new routes and build new paths. One of his final feats was a series of custom crafted steel steps and handholds, modeled on via ferratas from Dolomites.
Even though some of its sections resemble a hiking trail more than a rock climb, make no mistake, this climbing route requires technical abilities and gear. An accident of this route could easily have fatal consequences. Once you find its start, the route is easy to follow.
Telluride’s VF is unique in that it traverses horizontally rather than climbing vertically. This creates its own set of potential hazards, such as increasing the chance of your self belay attachment being severed in a horizontal swinging fall, or of not being able to regain the route if you have fallen below it.
The start is located past Bridal Veil Falls above Pipeline Wall Pipeline Wall . Once on the Krogerata just follow the trail, which at the end of the cables gradually descends to the road leading to town. Telluride Mountain Club suggests to retrace your way back to avoid crossing private property, which is located on the descent towards Telluride.
Count about 2 hrs for the actual via ferrata. Don't take small children along - some sections of the exposed part require long steps and long reaches. And remember it is very exposed.
Nice map and illustration of its location is here.
So, Telluride's secret is revealed. I found the route exciting and challenging enough. I was proud of my son being able to complete it (yes, I have heard of people turning around). The autumn when the aspens are turning gold is particularly beautiful part of the year to explore it. Thank you Chuck for creating this fun adventure.
Adendum Please note that this is not a walk in the park. Read the Telluride's mountain club information (link below) prior attempting this route, and consider hiring a local guide.