Via Ferrata climbing route opens Monday at Squaw | SierraSun.com

Via Ferrata climbing route opens Monday at Squaw

Work to complete the first of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows' Via Ferrata routes up the roughly 1,000-foot Tram Face is complete, and beginning Monday guides from Alpenglow Expeditions will take climbers of any ability on an ascent of one of Squaw's iconic features.

"It's phenomenal," said Alpenglow Expeditions Via Ferrata Manager Sam Kieckhefer. "The view of the valley and the perspective that you get being up there is so unique. Really, very few people have spent time up there in that area, so it's pretty cool to be able to offer that experience to the public."

Via Ferrata, an Italian term meaning iron road, is a protected climbing route with permanent steel anchors and cables that allow participants to be safely connected to the rock 100 percent of the time via a Continuous Lifeline System.

The Via Ferrata at Squaw Valley, which is the first in the Tahoe area, is unique in using a system where climbers never unclip from the cable as they ascend Tram Face.

"Your carabineer, which is clipped into your harness via a lanyard, actually never comes off the cable the entire time," Kieckhefer said. "There's no way you can unclip, you are connected the entire way. A lot of Via Ferratas you have two lanyards and two clips, and you clip one over the other over each bolt. Ours you actually pass around the bolt … it eliminates the opportunity for any human error."

All climbs will be led by Alpenglow Expeditions' experienced team of American Mountain Guides Association trained guides, who will teach participants how to navigate the rock face while introducing basic climbing techniques. By design, ascent groups will be kept small, according to Alpenglow, at a six-participant-per-guide ratio, which ensures safety and maximizes the learning opportunity for all.

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On more difficult sections of the route there are steel rungs in place to help climbers, helping ensure those with no experience make a successful ascension.

"Say, you're going up a steep slab, or you have to move from one side to another of an arête, there's steel rungs or custom manufactured steel pieces, to aid in your climb," said Kieckhefer.

"There will be places where you're just on rock, and there will places where you're climbing more like a ladder. Lots of variety, tons of different features. The route also consists of one monkey bridge, where you have a cable for your feet and a cable for your hands, and you shimmy your way across. We'll be adding more features like that in the future."

The Via Ferrata will ultimately consist of two routes, each ascending Tram Face. Work on the second route, along with expansion of the first, is ongoing, according to Kieckhefer, and expected to be completed later in the fall.

The first official guided tours will be at 9 a.m. No climbing experience is necessary, but basic hiking fitness is recommended. Tours will run seven days a week during October and will take place at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. There are also options for half day and full day tours, along with private tours.

During October, Alpenglow will offer residents of the Truckee-Tahoe area a special of $99 to ascend the route.

For more information about the Tahoe Via Ferrata and to book your adventure, visit tahoevia.com or call the Alpenglow Expeditions office at 877-873-5376.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com.