Outdoor adventure regardless of experience should be about three things. First, it should push you out of your comfort zone. Second, jaw-dropping views of naturally scenery is a must. Last, but not least, you should feel accomplished at the end. Via Ferrata Telluride checks all those boxes and more for some summer fun in the mountains.
Inspiration Behind The “Krogerata”
Italian for “iron road”, the original idea was born out of war-time necessity when the Austrians and Italians fought a ferocious war deep in the Dolomites during World War I. Instead of letting this “iron road” decay, a group called Club Alpino Italiano maintained and actually created new routes. It was when Colorado climber and mountaineer Chuck Kroger experienced these himself that he knew he had to create this idea back home and that’s how Via Ferrata Telluride started.
Who Is The Man Behind It
First, let’s give this man the credit he is due. He is the epitome of a mountain bad ass. A pioneering climber, ultra runner, cyclist, master craftsman, and overall mountain renaissance man. Even in his Stanford University days, he served as President from 1968-69 of the elite Stanford Alpine Club. Part of the “College boy climbers”, Kroger and his pals would often best full-time climbing residents during their weekends in Yosemite. In fact, he was the first to climb four routes on El Capitan in a single season. He then arrived in Telluride in ’79 along with his wife Cathy Green.
The Idea is Born
Over the years, he explored his “backyard” of the San Juan Mountains alongside balancing his hard work in carpentry and welding with mountain exploits. His wife Cathy Green isn’t sure exactly when Chuck noticed the perfect spot for a Via Ferrata. He saw the perfect break of horizontal rock layers beneath Ajax Peak at the end of the legendary box canyon. The narrow rock ledge slants towards the abyss hundreds of feet below making it the perfect site.
Armed with this idea, Chuck and his wife Cathy fabricated two sets of rungs in their basement – one for hands and the other for feet. They then took those and bolted them into the granite face. Always a man that liked to thumb his nose to authority, he built the route illegally on public land.
It was around this time Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Luckily, his friends helped put the finishing touches on the route before he became too ill. Chuck passed away on Christmas Day 2007. While he’s gone, his memory can be felt in every bolt of this route, and so in honor of Chuck, it’s now informally known as the “Krogerata.”
For years, it was a local secret, but today it’s now maintained and managed by the Telluride Mountain Club so that everyone can enjoy. With the popularity of Via Ferratas exploding across the United States, the local community needed to figure out a way to help protect, preserve, and maintain this legendary route. As of 2019, the Telluride Via Ferrata Sustainability Fund was founded. In an effort to help keep the via ferrata open for the long-term future, partner guide services have added a $5 per person donation allowance so that it can continue to be free.
Like any great rollercoaster, the journey begins slow. A beautiful hiking trail that becomes narrower and narrower until it tapers off to a ledge. And after a bit further, that ledge disappears altogether as well.
The Main Event
If you’re feeling uncomfortable on the first stretch, it might be a good idea to retrace your steps back. Providing a “rest point”, you can sit on “Kroger’s Bench” and take in the views of the town of Telluride and Bridal Veil Falls. From there, peer around the corner to see the most harrowing section, known only as the “Main Event.”
Turn It Up!!!
A sheer cliff face that drops nearly 200 feet below! On that rock face, the only way across the chasm is to navigate 300 feet of ladders and rungs with only air below you. This is definitely the most intense segment of the Via Ferrata Telluride.
Rinse and Repeat
After this segment, the course “mellows” out a bit but is still challenging. The route alternates between a shoe-wide trail and sections of a ledge with a few more ladders. And if that wasn’t “rough enough”, you have to turn around and head back the same way you came to avoid crossing private property.
Not For Everyone… But Everyone That’s Prepared
This isn’t a normal hum-drum Via Ferrata either. Chuck wanted to add a taste of true mountaineering elements. There are sections where you’ll find no cable at all meaning you NEED harnesses, carabiners, shock-absorbing leashes, and an understanding of how to use footholds and handholds.
Before You Go
The entire adventure takes about 3 to 4 hours to complete. This isn’t a walk in the park. Be sure you’re fairly fit and NOT a stranger of heights. If you aren’t an experienced rock climber with your own equipment, we HIGHLY recommend hiring a mountain guide. Be that as it may, you don’t need rock climbing shoes, but a good pair of hiking shoes are essential. It’s not a bad idea to even bring gloves and rain gear just in case.
There are a few tour companies and mountain guides that you can hire if you’re interested in attempting the Via Ferrata Telluride which includes the following companies:
Born in 1973 as an Alaskan Daydream, this outfit invests in resources and training opportunities for their guides as well as a family feel to the company. As a result, their lead guides are among the most experienced and respected in the climbing community.
San Juan Outdoor Adventures
Where you’re a small family or a large group of buddies. An avid outdoor junkie or never gone beyond your desk, this crew will cater an experience fit for you that you’ll remember forever.
Telluride Mountain Guides
As the name suggests, TMG is a group of guides that combine artful movement, composure, and technical proficiency in the mountains. A mix of hard skill, patience, playfulness, and a lifetime spent in the field offer you a trusty partner for adventure.
San Juan Mountain Guides
Founded in ’86, they are “well known” as the local experts for climbing and mountain adventures not just in Telluride but Ouray and Durango areas as well. Considered the premier provider of Ouray Ice Climbing courses and private guided programs in both the San Juan’s and Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll be in good hands with this crew.
Peak Mountain Guides
A company built around the idea of connecting clients with talented, motivated, and personable guides who have a genuine interest in helping people achieve their goals. And this includes experiencing the Via Ferrata. As they say, “there is nothing cookie cutter about what we do.” They place the utmost value on relationships and strive in every way possible to facilitate the experience each individual guest is looking for.
When To Go
Being in a ski town, the best bet for you to attempt the Telluride Via Ferrata is to go in June through early October. This will make sure that the weather is nice, and there’s been enough time for the winter’s snowpack to recede.
How To Get There
From the historic town of Telluride, giddy up onto Bridal Veil Falls road. Follow the road another switchback past the Bridal Veil Falls Park. From there, you’ll cross a wooden bridge and look for the steep trail about 20’ past the bridge.
Why Do It?
Like we said above, this is a dangerous, long, and acrophobia inducing adventure. At the same time, Via Ferrata Telluride provides an incredible experience as long as you do it right. This means go with someone who has A LOT of experience, or better yet, hire a guide. While not as hard as scaling up a rock face, this might be the literal kick in the pants for you to get into the sport of rock climbing.
For more Via Ferrata trip experiences in the US and Canada, check out our in-depth guide found here: