Via Ferrata Glencoe - risk free adventure, now there is an oxymoron

Why would anyone call a Via Ferrata ('iron road') climbing; or in todays environmentally aware climate think it remotely acceptable to damage natural rock faces which have taken thousands of years to evolve, by drilling steel steps into them? Lets riddle the rock face with iron steps fixed ropes and all manner of other garbage so that coach loads of punters can 'waddle' their way up the mountain and call themselves climbers.

Where is the skill in that, on the other hand, in this egalitarian society where skill stands for nought and losing is a 'deferred opportunity', possibly this is a view of the future. What is the next step - escalators or lifts?

All climbing routes are graded to take account of a combination of difficulty and exposure etc. With this in mind perhaps these Via Ferrata routes should have their own unique grading system such as a '4 Big Mac' route or take a leaf out of the Stannah/Otis book and call them a '4 person/350 kg' route

In the past on a 2 person rope, one took the lead and the other followed, often taking turns at leading. Because the leader was exposed, runners (wedges etc.) were put in place so that if they fell the drop would not be too great. The trick was to ensure these runners were securely wedged in existing cracks of the rock so that most of them held if one came off, and they did not all 'pop out' leaving the second with the unenviable task of breaking ones entire fall themselves - say 10-12 stone dropping 30-40 feet resulting in huge wrench on the second and rope burned hands - and not a pleasant experience for the lead either

When it came to the seconds turn to climb, their task was to remove all the runners put in place by the leader leaving a clean rock face for others

Climbing is all about ability and not introducing a plethora of additional ironwork because you don't actually have the skill to reach the top without creating your own artificial stairway. 

Many years ago in the days of Joe Brown, Don Whillans etc. any aids such as simple pitons were generally frowned upon even in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, good practice was to clean up after yourself and not to leave your debris scattered all over the rock face. Leaving permanant ironwork & scars on the rock face was not really acceptable - this in turn lead onto correct footwear so as not to damage the rock face (i.e. sandstone etc.) as well as using specialist boots simply for grip.

The thinking at the time was, if you cannot climb this route under your own steam then don't do it. Certainly do not nail yourself a staircase up the rock face to compensate for your own inability - after all there may be those coming after you who do have the skills to climb the route and by hammering metal into every fissure you have just destroyed the route for others and damaged nature

Yes in the past Via Ferratas had a defined purpose to ensure safe personnel (troop) movement in times of war over difficult terrain, but as for the recent opening of a recent new route in Glencoe - why? - money of course is the answer?

Clearly todays mindset is all about the selfishness of 'me' - I want to do something and never mind the fact that I do not have the requisite ability. I will just go ahead and damage whatever natural resources I choose for my own goals - nothing short of vandalism and certainly not 'at one' with the environment where a light footprint must surely be the aim?

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So now mountaineers climb over the dying to make their bid for the summit?

Who else feels ashamed at the conduct of Leanna Shuttleworth and her father in their bid for the summit of Everest.

Once upon a time there were ethics and a code of conduct in the mountains in much the same way as at that of seafarers, however it would seem as those days are gone and it's every man/woman for themselves nowadays

'.. There was another man who was almost dead ..' said Shuttleworth ... '.. but as we passed he raised his arm and looked at us ..'

What a damming indictment of their behaviour

The only person who seems to have acted with any code or honour was Nadav Ben Yehuda, the 24 year old young Israeli, for whom the decision was simple when he saw Aydin Irmak slumped on the ridge below the summit

'.. I realised that the expedition was over for me ..' said Yehuda who put the other climber on his back and carried him for eight hours down to South Col

Quite frankly the Shuttleworths should be ashamed of themselves and the fact that their ego's took precedence over the lives of other mountaineers. One can only hope that they never encounter the same callous disregard they show to others if they themselves ever get into a problem on a mountain

Nevertheless I am sure it will look very good on Leanna Shuttleworths CV but I for one would certainly not employ her. Perhaps it is just as well she has opted for a veterinary career rather than that of a doctor, because would you want to be treated by someone who puts their ambitions above simple humanity?

Shuttleworth said she was briefly elated when she reached the peak. '.. I actually walked onto it with my dad, and for a moment we were the only two people standing there ..' But the day will haunt her for life, she believes. '.. You’re thinking, ‘Is there anything more I could have done?’ It’s put me off Everest. I really, really didn’t enjoy summit day because of that ..' 

Yes Miss Shuttleworth there is something 'more that you could have done' - forfeit your bid for the summit to assist those who were in trouble

No doubt we are all sure that the relatives of those she left to die will sympathise with Miss Shuttleworths disappointment at the inconvenience of having to see fellow mountaineers dying and the fact that it marred her day - how inconsiderate of them!

Not a very edifying episode in mountaineering history

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