So you get a house booking for a group that includes a friend and think “yay” and then the friend mentions she is going to be doing a via ferrata and would love it if you could join in and you think “eeeeekkk!” Put it this way, if you are scared of heights – absolutely do read on ….
Honister Slate Mine, located in the most spectacular surrounding landscapes in the centre of the Lake District, is still a working mine, where you can buy slate products, but it also offers mine tours and is host to two via ferrata routes around the mountain edges, a mine climb and an infinity bridge for the more adventurous.
In our group of twelve, that had only met the night before, we immediately started to bond over conversations of who was scared and what footwear should we wear. The real bonding happened as we went round the via ferrata, sometimes swearing, sometimes laughing, but often supporting each other as we tried to place our hands and feet in the right places. There is a guide who takes you round and explains the points where you can exit if it is not for you and more importantly, the point of no return.
We were all thrilled that we all successfully climbed the Honister Via Ferrata and given that one lady in our group had to be walked over the Burma Bridge step by step by our guide as she was so scared, we felt this was an awesome achievement. I (Joanne) have mentioned on many occasions that I don’t like heights and yet I got round this and am amazed when I see the photos that, that is me on that rock face. Yeah I know I’m in a harness, but when you have an irrational voice in your head, it doesn’t make any difference.
So what are our tips and what can you expect if you take this on:
Gloves are useful and a non-slip, thin, even neoprene style, help you grip the iron rungs.
Footwear needs to be sturdy but flexible. Big boots may get in the way and many of our group were fine in trainers. A good non slip tread is useful and flat soles for the Burma Bridge mean you can feel the wire better.
Layers of clothes are better as the weather can change as you progress around the route.
Be brave and take on the via ferrata extreme as opposed to the classic. In my opinion, once you stepped over that first edge, you can achieve all of it. Yes the Burma Bridge makes you swear, but at no point did I feel I was in danger.
Do not push your arms so tightly to the wire on the Burma Bridge if like me, you bruise like a peach. (Yes I came away with two lovely underarm bruises as I obviously gripped on too tightly.)
Go with a big group of friends as this means you get to take on this challenge with people you know around you, rather than with strangers who may not be sensitive to how you feel whilst climbing.
Arrive on time to give you plenty of time doing the climb and to make sure the guides get a break between groups.
The guides take photos as you go round and they are absolutely worth buying to see yourself on the via ferrata.
You do need a basic level of fitness as it is climbing after all and there are points where you have to use your arm strength and push up with your legs.
Do stop and look around because the landscape is pretty stunning!
To quote my adventure loving friend who I am now so grateful for roping me in to this activity …
” ‘Don’t look down’ is not an option, but you can look down without seeing the floor. You don’t actually use your harness unless you fall. (None of us did by the way.) A terrifying experience with a great bunch of people. An awesome sense of achievement! Loved it afterwards.”
I would absolutely recommend it and who knows, one day I might be back to take on their Infinity Bridge!