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VIA FERRATA IRON Alpine Want to explore the mountains off the beaten track, but can’t climb? Hendrik Morkel explains why Via Ferratas are the ideal way to bridge the gap. 36 OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST March / April 2016 T he word Via Ferrata is Italian and means “Iron Path”, which gives us a little insight into the origin of these fixed-rope routes: La Grande Guerre, and the grim battle between the Italians against the Austria-Hungary Empire in the mountains of the Dolomites and the surrounding Alps. Both sides fought for the control of the summits in order to observe and strafe the enemy. These iron ladders, pegs, staples and ropes were fixed to the mountains to enable faster and easier movement and supply. After the war these precipitous paths were neglected, but many years later mountaineers begin to equip these paths with steel cables to enable faster travel to their climbing routes. It’s fair to say that since the mid noughties, Via Ferrata has experienced something of a renaissance. Equipped with the latest in safety kit, mountain adrenalin junkies can now explore new attractions in addition to the old, refurbished routes: Suspension bridges over deep