Movement on a klettersteig (via ferrata)

As with every hike in the mountains, it is critical to watch and observe the surrounding terrain and what’s happening in it, and adapt one’s movement to it. In these circumstances you cannot forget to include other people as well. It is good to follow the course of a protected route with a view ahead, and if we are in front of any site where there is risk of falling rock from other people above, wait until they get past. Certainly do not ever enter a place where rocks are falling. These places and the movement of other people must be predicted. The principle also applies that on the steel cable in the section between the anchoring only a single person should be moving. On the one hand when climbing with a steel cable people tend to bounce markedly, so another person could have trouble keeping their grip. Another reason for sufficient spacing is the danger of getting hit by a falling person. Here it is necessary to bear in mind that it is not enough by far to have a distance of only one anchor to another anchor of the steel cable. A climber is attached to the steel cable by a lanyard typically around 1 metre long, and the next approximately one metre has been prepared for being taken in to the fall absorber. As a result, if he or she falls, he or she will reach far deeper underneath the lower anchor, and will be caught. For this reason the spacing should be one length between the anchoring and an additional approximately 3 metres under the lower anchoring.

Falling on a klettersteig doesn't involve a fall merely from anchor protection, but rather far below it as well. Never get caught in a high-risk area!

Falling on a klettersteig doesn’t involve a fall merely from anchor protection, but rather far below it as well. Never get caught in a high-risk area!

On traverses, i.e. a horizontal angle of progress, where there is no risk of a free fall, the spacing need not be so big, but nonetheless 2 metres are recommended, since after sitting into the lanyard of a klettersteig kit a person can cause a smaller pendulum fall, swinging back and forth, and can thereby crash into any people close nearby.

Passing another climber is an unpleasant moment. If you can see ahead that you will soon reach a spot where there will be comfortable and safely unprotected place to stand, do not hot-headedly pass the other climber, but rather come to an agreement with the slower climber that you will make the change in an orderly manner at the spot you located. If you can see far ahead that there will not be any safe spot for an unprotected stance, proceed as follows: agree with the slower person that you will pass him. It is good to select at least a somewhat suitable spot for this. Sometimes it is enough for the person who is being passed to crouch so that the lanyard of the klettersteig kit will be long enough for her to pass and climb past him. If the lanyard is not long enough to pass, another lanyard must be available, ideally one with sufficiently strong webbing sewn into a loop, and one extra klettersteig carabiner.

It is good to carry out the following manoeuvre at an anchor point of the steel cable. The slower climber moves away tight above the anchor point. The faster climber climbs up to him, and also tight above the anchor point; and replaces the carabiner of the slower climber with an additional sling into which she then clips her own klettersteig kit carabiner. She will thereby have a greater range of sling which will enable her to climb around the slower climber. For a certain brief moment, the faster climber must simply accept that she will be protected only by a single anchor, the additional sling. For this reason it is good to carry out this manoeuvre close to the anchor, in order that any resulting fall might not be too far. After the faster climber makes it ahead, she will return the carabiner of her klettersteig kit to the steel cable, and shall pull out and put away the additional sling.

The unwritten rule applies that the slower climber must consent to the passing manoeuvre on the climbing spot. (On a klettersteig the principle in cross-country skiing, where the faster skier calls “track” and the slower skier must vacate the route, most certainly does not apply. Whenever climbing and belaying, the slower climber shall take precedence!) Only on a lighter segment should the slower give up his place so that no dangerous congestion will occur.

Resting during a climb on a klettersteig

An important matter, particularly when climbing more complicated klettersteigs, is resting while climbing. If you miss the typical rest spots such as various rock bridges, shelves, and steps, then resting in a hang will require particular caution.

A klettersteig kit with cowstail.

A klettersteig kit with cowstail.

A climber on a klettersteig can rest by sitting into a hang. The first option is to sit into the lanyards of the klettersteig kit after we have clipped the carabiners on the lanyards close above the anchor point of the steel cable. Here, of course, there is one problem – the lanyards are typically about as long as an outstretched arm, and therefore after sitting into them we hang a little lower than is ideal. The situation can also occur when we lose strength in the middle of a segment between anchor points, however at a spot where there is another anchor point enabling us to clip the carabiner (typically iron stepping stemples). Except that if we had clipped a carabiner of one of the lanyards, then it will have to come off the steel cable, and then what happens if the stemple breaks free from the rock? On the steel cable there will only be a single lanyard left! The principle would then be violated that in the height above the anchor point of the steel cable we should have both lanyards with carabiners clipped in to the rope in order that they might back each other up. For this reason a number of climbers have a normal cowstail clipped to their seat harness in addition to their klettersteig kit, and if needed they sit into and rest in it (and they have their lanyards in order, both on the steel cable). So that it will not be necessary to pull along with you and have a cowstail in your equipment, certain manufacturers have included a cowstail right into a klettersteig kit. Such a klettersteig kit therefore has a third lanyard which is short, and serves only for resting.

Resting during a climb on a klettersteig.

Resting during a climb on a klettersteig.

Whether we’re using an external, separate cowstail or if we have a klettersteig kit equipped with an integrated cowstail, we cannot have the carabiner of the cowstail connected to the steel cable when climbing. On one hand this is due to the fact that this cowstail need not be connected to a fall absorber that is part of the klettersteig kit. And since the cowstail is usually shorter than a lanyard, in the event of a fall it would be loaded first, in other words the climber would catch a fall without his fall absorber! This cannot be allowed to happen, as an impact without a fall absorber is dangerously powerful.

What’s more, the carabiner on a cowstail may not be of the “K” type, and therefore may not have the dimensions to withstand a powerful, and atypical side load such as might occur on a klettersteig. In short, under usual, normal circumstances the cowstail should serve only for resting, not for belaying during the climb.

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Title Part 4Mountaineering Methodology – Part 4 – The Mountains

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MMPublishing, 2013

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Title Part 4 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 4 – The Mountains

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MMPublishing, 2014

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