My very first Via Ferrata
I've never been a massive fan of heights. I have even been known to leave my own mother on the Runaway mine train ride in Alton Towers worried that I couldn't handle the heights. As the years have gone by I will now accompany people on rollercoasters and hike along some questionable edges but traversing an exposed cliff edge whilst already thousands of feet in the air, I was already very reluctant to believe I would ever enjoy such an experience...
Now for those of you that don't know what a Via Ferrata is its a climbing route found in mountainous areas, and its pretty much a steel cable which runs along a route fixed to the rock. There is a special VF kit you need to use in order to secure yourself to the cable. There are also other climbing aids like iron rungs, pegs, bridges and in our case ladders...
They pretty much make dangerous routes accessible, but also they allow complete novices like me the chance to enjoy dramatic positions and access to difficult peaks that normally only serious mountaineers could reach. Part of me knew how much I would hate it but as always my competitive side hates the idea of losing face so Charlie and I compromised on a 3B (it goes up to 5 so we were in the middle)
I had done a bit of climbing during my time working at the Chill Factore, but this was mainly children birthday parties on a very small, easy wall so I wasn't quite ready for the initial rock face that started off the VF. After the initial self doubt about my abilities to climb and control my 'disco leg' which shaked uncontroably once I noticed how high I was I began to get into it. The protection was good, and the exposure wasn't as bad as I had dreaded. The real test came when we hit the big ladder section...the ladder section Charlie had failed to mention to me previously.
I wasn't the biggest fan of the ladders, normally if you climb a ladder the furthest you are going is into the attic or at best the top of the shed. These ladders seemed never ending and they were perfectly vertical. They have what the book described as 'slight awkward and airy exits' in Sophie's terms these were 'terrifying exposed death gaps' that you have to get your shaky disco leg over whilst dangling over a cliff edge. Not my most graceful of movements.
Physically it wasn't that hard but mentally I really battled through it, it fustrates me that I get this crippling fear of heights and the older I get the more I want to try and conquer it. It held me back a lot when I was younger and when I tell people about it they are often shocked because it doesn't suit my personality. I'm normally pretty reckless, so its something I really want to try and push to get over. This was a massive step towards that and although it wasn't the toughest of challenges it felt huge for me.