My second August adventure started with me standing on the yellowing grass on a curb. Cars sped fast around a bend and into a tunnel, which was, coincidentally, why I was standing where I was. I eyed up the tunnel in trepidation: I had no idea what was coming from the other side, and the tunnel was just long enough that I was sure in the middle I would not be able to see ahead or behind. I was not pleased, and the Italian drivers made it very clear that they were not, either.
I was aiming for a via ferrata, which google maps had helpfully told me was just a few minutes away, omitting the fact that it was on the other side of the railway tracks. The cross between hiking and walking is probably my favourite solo activity at the moment. Unfortunately, the locals were right, and without a car it is not really that easy to access all of the ferratas which are scattered across the surrounding area.
Following my march/jog along the side of the road and through the tunnel where I could not see the traffic on the other side, I arrived at the base of the Orrido di Forressto via Ferrata. The trail is old and well defined- it was a military trail during the world wars, and shut to the public in the seventies and eighties because the wear of so many boots had made it dangerous. However, a push to increase tourism led the local CAI (Club Alpine Italiano) to reinvest in the route, putting up new cables and steps. As a result it has become one of the easiest routes in the area, only gaining difficulty because there are several vertical, slightly overhanging climbs.
It felt shorter than the Susa di San Michele route, but was far more spectacular. Unlike San Michele, which heads up the ridgeline of the mountain, this route was built into a gorge. It follows the river up into the mountains, climbing along and past water falls. To add to the touristic appeal the CAI have added three wire bridges crossing back and forth. Hidden from the sun, the route is cooler and shorter, although it has a similar height gain. The different roped sections are a lot closer together, and the drops are less significant, but the rock harder to scramble over. As such, the fact that there are so many metal steps is very helpful. There are sections where you can easily traverse, hopping from metal spoke to metal spoke with nothing but air below you for several meters.
Tempting as it was, I didn’t take out my phone to take pictures at those points. I felt sure I would drop it. Not to mention that my climb was a reminder of group stupidity. I did the San Michele ferrata all by myself, after work. It was late and it was hot, so I did not encounter anyone on the journey. In contrast, I did Foresto on a national holiday, midmorning. I had not even reached the start of the ferrata when I met two others who clearly intended to do the same thing.
I don’t know if they were very experienced or complete novices, all I know is that we were all a bit idiotic on the start of the route. Like so many other routes, the beginning is delightfully easy. Hoping to put some distance between me and the others so that I wouldn’t feel followed and stressed on the entire route, I free climbed almost all of the first section. The others did the same. This stressed me out for two reasons. One, I was taking risk and although I was comfortable with the climbing, I questioned my motives, and two, I had no way of telling if the people behind me were making the same calculated decisions, or were simply copying me. Nervous, I clipped some of the more technical sections to remind myself of the feeling of comfort on and off the safety. I focused on myself until I reached a section which was an unbolted walk from one area to the next. Here I turned to watch the others and realised they had started clipping as well.
By the time I reached first bridge I was fairly certain that they were copying me, and very certain that their presence was screwing with my personal risk assessment. From the description of the route I knew that this rope bridge was where the route started being higher from the water and more physically demanding. I decided I needed to stop and let the other team go ahead.
I fastened myself to an extra loop of wire above the bridge and sat on a rock on the side, using the photo opportunity and a snack break as an excuse to remain perched while the others passed. When I noticed that the second climber was climbing with slings and carabiners and was using a second carabineer to extend the reach of his ‘safety’ equipment, a carabiner which I was not sure was weight bearing, I decided I had definitely made the right call. These were either novices or overly cocky climbers who felt they didn’t really need protection.
I waited for a while longer before starting at a much more leisurely pace, making much better risk assessments, and feeling a lot more comfortable on the rock. I was still making great time and catching up to the others every now and again, but it was all on my own terms, no longer due to an invisible pressure of the group. I enjoyed the rest of the climb, took in my surroundings and the smells of the water and the rock. Definitely a learning experience.
For anyone who is interested in doing this ferrata themselves I recommend this site, all the correct safety equipment, and the good sense to use it properly.When you do, it truly is a fantastic route.