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Not recommended for anyone with vertigo, the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites, consisting of iron wrung ladders, footpaths and rope bridges, are an exhilarating series of routes that allow non-mountaineers to experience the higher peaks and most dramatic scenery of this most beautiful of mountain ranges.
The original series of 'iron ways' through the mountains were originally used by locals to cross from valley to valley but the routes were significantly expanded during the Tyrolean campaign in World War One, one of the most vicious arenas in the entire war that saw the Italians and Austrians slugging it out in often appalling conditions. The routes were used to move supplies, ammunition and men around, and the war years also saw the creation of opposing trenches, many of which are still clearly visible today, often astonishingly close together.
The Via Ferrata in the Dolomites vary in difficulty from sedate mountain footpaths to challenging overhead multi pitch climbs, and these more difficult routes are what attracts US and UK special forces to the Dolomites for mountain warfare training courses.
The historical element of any exploration of the Via Ferrata is fascinating enough, but the real stars of the show are the breathtaking views around almost every corner. We can arrange for Via Ferrata of varying degrees of difficulty suitable for complete beginners or pro climbers and everyone in between. It might all sound a little adrenaline-fuelled and nerve-wracking, but the most simple routes - little more than mountain footpaths - still offer stunning scenic views, and when the going gets a little more difficult, there are metal railings that you can hook up to, adding an additional level of safety. Even better, all the trips are lead by highly qualified and extremely knowledgeable mountain guides who know the area intimately.
Days trips are possible, but it's well worth considering longer itineraries with overnight stays in charming rifugios. These remote mountain lodges are a far cry from those in France and Switzerland, and rather than dormitories full of snoring Germans, you can expect private rooms and delicious Tyrolean food and wine that will feel particularly well earned after a day traversing the stunning Dolomites.