Telluride's Krogerata

Telluride's Krogerata

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities 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 most exciting section
Viewing Via Ferrata through the aspensCliffs where it is located - you can see a small ledge between the aspens


Brief history of Vie Ferrate

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.


Via Ferrata de la tour du Jalouvre, France
Via Ferrata in France

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.

Story behind Telluride's Via Ferrata

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.

Man, what are you standing on?
Just a little lower...


Who is Chuck Kroger?

Plaque to Chuck Kroger
Plaque in the memory of its founder

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.

Telluride's Krogerata

The scenery of Telluride iron way
The scenery of Krogerata - Bridal Veil Falls

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.

External Links

Telluride Mountain Club info on Via Ferrata.


Gallery - as you are going through the Krogerata

Bridal Veil FallsBridal Veil Falls
Autumn aspensGold aspens
Looking back to the parking lotParking lot below
The unmarked turn offThe unmarked turn-off
Boss on a strollBoss on a stroll
Bridal Veil FallsBridal Veil Falls
Telluride belowTelluride below
SwitchbacksSwitchbacks on the road
Hiking partEnjoying the views
Easy section of the via ferrata
Kroger s benchKroger's Bench
Man, what are you standing on?
Just a little lower...Difficult down climb move
some steps were long to reachSome moves required a long step
The most exciting sectionIt does get exciting
Horizontal Via FerrataHorizontal traverse
Telluride belowAnd another fun traverse
Another fun section
Crawling sectionCrawling section
Another hiking section
Leaving via ferrataLeaving Via Ferrata
Deer on descent trailDeer on descent trail


Post a Comment
Viewing: 41-51 of 51

jmille90 - Aug 28, 2012 11:01 am - Hasn't voted


Hi, What is the approach to the route like? That's to say, the sections without cable? I've been climbing for many years and still get spooked by unprotected exposure. Is it a narrow trail with big exposure?

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Aug 28, 2012 11:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Approach

I don't think is very exposed for this one. But there is another via ferrata with a spooky approach. Good luck.

Alex Wood

Alex Wood - Sep 4, 2012 12:57 pm - Voted 10/10


The Via Ferrata was sweet, but I wish there was actually more "Via Ferataing" (if thats even a word. Most of it seemed like it was hiking. Still worth it though! Its a great idea. Word on the street says that there is another one going up on the Waterfall Wall

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Sep 5, 2012 12:14 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Sweet

Thanks Alex. I agree, most of it is walking, but those couple of short exposed sections make it really interesting.

beach girl - Jul 23, 2013 2:54 pm - Hasn't voted

advice for trip this month

I have been living in the mountains for 7 years now and have been getting into rock climbing. I am thinking of doing this hike with my friends. Some of which are rock climbing guides. I am not as technically good as they are but I enjoy the sport. Liba I noticed you said your son has a fear of heights as do I. But rock climbing has help with that fear tremendously since I have the security of the harness. However, the fear is still there. I would love to do this and I have no doubt that this would be the toughest thing I would have to endure as far as my fear goes. One of my concerns is my height. At 5'3" do you think it would be doable with the far hand or foot reaches? Do you think that will be a major issue for me? I have looked at a bunch of pictures but it is hard to see what the foot holds and hand holds look like? Is is mostly the iron bars to hold or are there plenty of natural foot and hand holds along the horizontal traverse? If you slip along the traverse is it hard to get back up to the route with the hand holds since the straps holding you are 4 feet? What kind of shoes are best for this hike? It looks like in most pictures people have regular shoes on. I have all the appropriate professional gear for this it is just a matter of conquering a fear and my height of 5'3".

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Jul 23, 2013 10:33 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: advice for trip this month

Hi, I don't think your height will be a problem. Make sure that your friends have you well secured... most people here do not own a specific via ferrata set. It is mostly an exposed hike with sections of metal rods and bars, at some places it can feel a little bit like rock climbing, at some places you have to step on those metal bars.
Don't look down... Trust yourself and your friends.... And enjoy the views... Good luck.

Aaron Ihinger - Jun 26, 2014 12:04 pm - Hasn't voted

in winter, at long last . . .

Hi Liba,

Please know that although I was formerly known as the "San Juaneer," I have been Aaron all of my life, and I was unable to login under my old account because my email address has changed, and SP does not have an option for that dilemma.?! I have had a crazy couple of years anyway, but here is a quick detail which is the same as it appears on the Blog-page of my new website,

I don't yet have all of the gear available which I soon hope to, but check it out, and comment on my Blog-posts if you like . . . .

After completing many traverses of Telluride’s Krogerrata in all of the other three calendar seasons, I had waited for reasonable winter conditions for four years, and then three friends and I finally had proper conditions on Friday the 13th, in January of 2012. We parked at the winter road closure, next to the Pandora Mill, and hiked two switchbacks up the road, then traversed left over to Marshall Creek, and skirted up its right side to the old Marshall Creek road. We followed this road up for a few more switchbacks, and then kick-stepped up the Good Book couloir, and onto the Krogerrata. This is about 1,000 feet of gain, but it is a nice introduction for the traverse. I have never even done this line from east to west anyhow, so this is how I am inclined to do it in any month, or season of the year. Avalanche conditions were benign, and although much of the approach trail was snow-covered, it still went very well for us. We roped up as two separate parties of two, just in case, but we successfully crossed each of the snow fields along the approach. We scurried across all of the cabled sections out in the sunshine, including “the Main Event,” and then we descended the only snow slope which even reaches the Krogerrata out alongside of the Pipeline Wall. 1,000 feet of descent brought us back to the vehicle in less than two miles round-trip, for a fun half-day winter tour that was well-worth waiting for.

Liba Kopeckova

Liba Kopeckova - Jun 26, 2014 4:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: in winter, at long last . . .

wow… thanks for the information. Sounds like a nice trip. I still have not ventured back, so many things to do…
Hope your knees are well. Liba

Aaron Ihinger - Jun 26, 2014 6:39 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: in winter, at long last . . .

Thanks Liba,

The knees are doing well, though it's the foot which could have used a better diagnosis. $130K was not enough for a radiologist (who shall remain nameless) at St. Mary's Hospital in G.J. to even bother looking at my X-rays. He told me that I had a "sprained ankle," and no broken bones in my foot. I was a general contractor in Mountain Village, and even I could see that four bones were snapped in half when I saw the x-rays 3 months (to the day) later. I am just venting because I really miss my climbing . . . However, I am doing well back in college, with a 3.97 in my sophomore year at Ashford University (online). I have only received one A- in the last 14 months. Now I just need some income in the meantime to balance it all out.

I think that I saw a really nice photo from the Czech Republic which you had posted just a couple of days back. I guess that it is already tomorrow over there.

Thanks for the well-wishes (from the future)!

solo - May 24, 2015 4:06 pm - Hasn't voted

spring 2015 trail conditions

Just completed the traverse today. 35 minutes from road to canyon. Still some snow on the trail and two snow filled draws at the very end that were quite treacherous to traverse with fatal runout.


Nelson - Nov 7, 2018 10:54 am - Hasn't voted

Golden Gate Bridge

Hi Liba,
I don't get on SP much these days but happened to be here and saw this on the front page.

In 1974 I lived in the same house with Chuck Kroger in East Oakland. I was one of the people who climbed the Golden Gate bridge with him, so it was fun to see that mentioned here. We started at the Presido and went to the top of the southwest tower.

He had recently completed the first ascent of the Heart Route and I was in awe of him. Amazing guy.

Viewing: 41-51 of 51



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