Typical Harald. He's just discovered the joys of via ferratas, and now he’s going on as if he'd invented this alpine sport himself. Our gang of mates is spellbound, hanging on his every word, or rather, on his rope. Yes, now he's officially one of the "ferratisti", too, as people who love climbing these fixedrope routes like to call themselves.
...I think to myself. Until today, I didn't even know that these "via ferratas" even existed. Discreetly, I pull out my smartphone and, under the table, find out that they are protected climbing routes constructed on natural or artificial rock. Apparently, even people who aren't expert climbers or mountaineers can venture up a vertical rock face, provided they have the right kit!
While Harald indulges himself painting a dramatic picture of the spectacular backdrop to his via ferrata experience, the waiter brings us our pizzas. I'm slightly distracted as my eye is caught by his face mask, which features rocking salami slices, prancing grapes and applauding olives. It makes me smile. Suddenly it strikes me like a revelation how much I'm actually enjoying the fact that today, at long last, our gang isn't obsessed by Covid but by an altogether more cheerful topic, and that's why I'm finding Harald's enthusiasm so infectious! When my mate sitting next to me raises a glass of Barolo as if to drink a toast and comes up with the suggestion of spending a via ferrata weekend together, spirits around our table soar.
While we three greenhorns excitedly scramble along behind Harald in our rented via ferrata gear, the pro, as you might expect, has his own gleaming kit.
Here and there, iron stirrups and short ladders have been fixed to the rock, and we cross the occasional exposed passage with the help of a hand rail. I'm certainly not one of the fittest representatives of my generation, but somehow it all seems quite easy. I had expected a bit more physical exertion, more of an adrenaline rush. I don't mean to be cocky, but I do wonder
aloud why we – confident hikers with a good head for heights – actually need to bother taking safety equipment with us at all?! Harald, who has paused just a few steps ahead of me, hears my remark and promptly gives me a disapproving look.
Then, as if the mountain had heard me, this is quickly followed by a definitely more exciting section of rock face:
but we move smoothly up the elaborately secured via ferrata, still in the best of spirits. We soon get the knack of securing ourselves: clip the carabiner hook on to the fixed wire cables, climb up and clip on somewhere else for the next section. How we would have liked to post a selfie, but we don't have a free hand! Instead, we give free rein to our enthusiasm and wait for the echoing holler back from the mountains. The valley beneath our feet gradually gets smaller and smaller...
After a lot of intense physical exertion, we reach a fantastic panoramic viewpoint with a little alpine hut. We sit down on the rocks to eat our picnic, somewhat tired but feeling on top of the world. We raise a refreshing drink to our incredibly amazing mountain adventure and thank Harald for being such an excellent leader on the via ferrata. Obviously, "via ferrata reloaded" is on the agenda for tomorrow! But for today we decide to round off our adventure with a leisurely ride down in the cable car. And, for the finishing touch, we invite Harald to a beer fondue this evening.