Utilizing both natural features and European-style amendments, including the 75-foot “Skybridge,” first ladder-bridge of its kind in North America, climbers spend essentially the entire route hanging from iron rungs while attached to a cable for protection, with movement constantly varying between vertical and horizontal terrain.
The route is directly across from the Ouray Ice Park, a world-class ice climbing attraction in the winter. The brainchild of passionate local climbers and built in conjunction with savvy engineers and designers, each element of the route has been meticulously tested and built to high international via ferrata standards, while also being fun and imaginative.
There are over 1,500 different via ferrata across North America, and we’re lucky to host two of these routes in the beautiful San Juan Mountains. For those who have enjoyed the Telluride Via Ferrata, you’ll find the Ouray Via Ferrata to be a complimentary, but different adventure. While the Telluride route gains elevation along the base of Ajax Peak, high above the valley below, the Ouray Via Ferrata follows the course of the Uncompahgre River, through a deep gorge, sometimes only a couple of feet above the sluicing rapids. While Telluride maintains the feeling of an adrenaline-laced, assisted, airy traverse, the Ouray route feels more “physical,” more like a proper rock climb rather than an exposed hike.
On the Fletcher/Smith Italian Via Ferrata Rating scale, the Ouray Via Ferrata is rated as 4b, which means the route is quite technical and physically difficult. By comparison, while the Telluride Via Ferrata, rated as 2b, has much more intimidating exposure, the Ouray Via Ferrata has more actual climbing on rungs. But we’ll let you make the comparisons yourself!
The route, in length, travels only approximately 0.8 mile (1.25km) along the canyon wall, but typically takes between three to five hours to complete, and perhaps longer for larger groups.
Managed by Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata and owned by the town of Ouray, the route was made possible by donations. The route is managed by a daily Via Ferrata Ranger, who helps check people into the route, ensures that everyone has the proper gear and completes the route from south to north in one direction, and that access is closed at the end of public daily hours.
Certain groups may require a greater guide ratio to be compliant with the Ouray Via Ferrata. Route regulations also mention that participants should have a 62” reach, and that those under 85 pounds and greater than 265 pounds may need an additional belay for the vertical climbing sections of the route. The route mandates the use of a proper climbing harness, helmet, via ferrata-specific load-limiting lanyard attachment (provided by Mountain Trip), gloves and proper footwear. We suggest that participants bring along a daypack to carry water and snacks to last you the duration of the trip, a rain jacket (just in case!) and a camera to capture special moments along the way.
We don’t have a strict age limit imposed, but please let the office know if you plan to join us with children under age 16 in your group so that we can discuss how we can provide your family the best possible experience.
Check out the Telluride Via Ferrata for another way to take in the splendor of high country of the San Juans from above.