Via Ferrata – Honister

After living in the Lake District for over 10 years, Honister Slate mine’s Via Ferrata had been on my “to do” list for quite some time. My interest was peaked after speaking with a few guests of the hotel returning from the experience – they used words such as “exhilarating”, “challenging” and “rewarding”. It all sounded fabulous and it was at this point the matter was decided – I would take a day trip to Honister to try this “route” for myself.

I must admit, I had a loose understanding of what a via ferrata actually was and, after a bit of “googling” around, assumed that this experience would offer a fun and challenging route up the side of Honister’s surrounding fells and quary via a mix of pre-defined rocky pathways and ladders built into rock faces…which seemed like harmless fun at the time.

The most horrific thing I’ve ever done, it was fantastic!

When the opportunity presented itself Jack (our restaurant manager who I had encouraged to join me) and I found ourselves stood in Honister Slate Mine’s equipment room donning harnesses, helmets and gloves with a small group of other unsuspecting visitors who would be joining us for the experience. An informative and thorough safety briefing before we set-off had us feeling well prepared for what we thought was ahead.

Our adventure started with a quick journey up towards the mine via a “Honister” bus, transporting the group to the start of our route where we were met by our instructor for the day who was waiting for us at a cliff edge on Fleetwith Pike- at this point me and Jack were still feeling very confident, it was a feeling that wouldn’t last very long!

Our route started by stepping out to the cliff-edge onto what looked like a large metal staple – we were secured by a metal cable that runs the entire course, attached to our harnesses by metal clips. I had “invited” Jack to head the group and I couldn’t help notice his facial expression change when he started his decent, I started to worry what I might of signed us up for…

When it was my turn to step over the edge, it was clear that the “path and ladder” assumption I had made earlier was somewhat incorrect – it was also at this time I also remembered other words guests had used to describe their experience…such as “terrifying”, “exhausting” and “never again!”.

As I looked down five things became instantly apparent:

  1. We were high up, very high up!
  2. A little bit of preparation would have been wise, the course is challenging for a first-timer
  3. The chain we we were attached to was there simply to stop us falling from the cliff…the possibility of slipping was (or felt) very real!
  4. The entire day was going to be much more physically demanding than thirst thought.
  5. Getting to the end was going to be a real challenge.

The first stretch was a real eye-opener for what was to come – the cliff face bowed in and out; trying to move down, across and back up the cliff face was a tiring and somewhat relentless task that part of me wanted to end quickly, the other curious to see how far we could go. I continued, trying to hide any visible trace of fear or exhaustion…Jack confirmed he was doing the same.

The first stretch of the climb lead us towards Honister’s “Sky Bridge”, a long cable bridge stretching a gap between the cliff face. When stepping onto the bridge it is hard to ignore a sense of vertigo thanks to the height the bridge is set (photos and videos do not show this well). After taking the first few steps onto the bridge it also becomes apparent that the “walk” will not be as simple as expected – thanks to the length of the cable bridge (it is not possible to see the end of the bridge when you set-off), the bridge wobbles and shakes with every step. Jack and I both found ourselves stopping occasionally to stop any falls.

The first stretch was a real eye-opener for what was to come – the cliff face bowed in and out; trying to move down, across and back up the cliff face was a tiring and somewhat relentless task that part of me wanted to end quickly, the other curious to see how far we could go. I continued, trying to hide any visible trace of fear or exhaustion…Jack confirmed he was doing the same.

The first stretch of the climb lead us towards Honister’s “Sky Bridge”, a long cable bridge stretching a gap between the cliff face. When stepping onto the bridge it is hard to ignore a sense of vertigo thanks to the height the bridge is set (photos and videos do not show this well). After taking the first few steps onto the bridge it also becomes apparent that the “walk” will not be as simple as expected – thanks to the length of the cable bridge (it is not possible to see the end of the bridge when you set-off), the bridge wobbles and shakes with every step. Jack and I both found ourselves stopping occasionally to stop any falls.

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