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LumDimSum's experience sharng: Via Ferrata Outdoor Climbing Sport in Yanshan

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发表于 2014-10-9 20:22 |显示全部帖子
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Via Ferrata in Beijing: Rock Climbing Made Accessible

One of the coolest things I’ve done recently, Via Ferrata is something I highly recommend for anyone based in Beijing who’s seeking more outdoor adventure activities. Suitable for almost everyone (via ferrata has had kids as young as 6 years old complete their routes!), this is an awesome activity for families looking for a day trip escape out of the city (it’s only about 1-1.5 hours outside the city) or if you have visiting friends and families who have already been to see the Great Wall but love exploring the gorgeous mountain landscapes just outside Beijing. It’s incredible that so much natural beauty is right at our doorstep and via ferrata is a great way to experience it.

An outdoor activity that The Hutong Education team organizes for 7th grade students, I was first introduced to this sport last month. After completing the training and rescue course with my adventurous colleagues, I surprised one of my best friends with a via ferrata trip for her birthday. Nervous at first, she was doubting her ability to complete the activity both from her perceived lack of strength and her fear of heights, but after completing the experiment course (designed for first timers), she was both confident and excited to continue on and complete both the intermediate and most difficult via ferrata climbing routes in Yanshan.

Honestly, if you happen to have a fear of heights, Via Ferrata is probably your best option to try and conquer your fear. Just like stepping up, down and across a ladder, this climbing sport gives participants all the perks of rock climbing without the actual physical strength and endurance that outdoor rock climbing generally requires.

The photos may look intimidating, but it’s perfectly safe and it’s an incredible experience. The combination of the adrenaline rush and thrill you get from climbing great heights and the unbelievable natural beauty you are completely surrounded by makes via ferrata an unparalleled outdoor sport.

Each time I get out there, I can’t help but think how incredible it is that the Prisme French team installed all the hooks, pegs, ropes and iron rungs in these great mountains. They thoughtfully used the natural slopes of the rocks to complement their routes and the suspended ropes were as exhilarating as they are nerve-racking.

LDS 1-on-1 with Beijing Via Ferrata Club (BJVF)'s founder:

LDS: For someone who has never heard of Via Ferrata, how do you best describe what it is?

BJVF: Via ferrata is an Italian word, which means “iron road”. It used to be a military infrastructure back to World War I and became a mountaineering facility in 1950 – 1960. French people made it a low altitude, tourism infrastructure since end of 1990′s (France was the 1st county to issue technical & safety guidelines for via ferrata in 1998, by the French Tourism Board) .

LDS: Is it safe?

BJVF: Via ferrata is safe when the routes have been properly designed & installed, and the users respect the safety guidelines, using the proper personal protection equipment (PPE).

Via Ferrata: Yanshan, Beijing
LDS: How is it different from rock climbing? Can anyone do it? What are the limitations (age/height, etc.)?

BJVF: Compared to rock climbing, via ferrata is much more accessible: almost every one can do it. All routes should have been designed, with a defined difficulty & its target climbers. For instance, in Lijiang, the experiment route is designed for climbers starting from 1.2m. Secondly, there are much more varieties in terms of climbing routes (vertical, horizontal, different bridges) than rock climbing, last but not least, much more autonomy: you can go on your own, climb at your own speed & reach some cliffs which might be out of the reach of rock climbers ;-)

The weight limitation in via ferrata comes from the manufacture of PPEs. For Yanshan, it’s 130kg.

LDS: Has anyone ever fallen before?

BJVF: There are few via ferrata accidents worldwide (none in Yanshan), all due to the non respect of safety guidelines, in particular the rule number 1: always have at least one karabiner safely attached to the lifeline cable. That’s the reason why we insist so much on the importance of changing the karabiner one by one, using always the same hand.

Via Ferrata: Yanshan, Beijing Via Ferrata: Yanshan, Beijing

LDS: What happens if someone freezes and can’t continue on? How often does that happen?

BJVF: It’s normal that people can freeze when they get to over 10 m (1st wood plank bridge in Yanshan VF Experiment) or 15m high: for most of us, it’s the 1st time we climb so high in our life. People can continue if they are properly accompanied or encouraged: the duty of our guides & the Base Camp manager is to identify very quickly, during the 1st 20 – 30 meters of climbing, people who needs special attention & help. Our guides will get next to the person when necessary. Generally speaking, encouragement should be enough to help people to build their self-confidence & to finish the experiment course. We will let the climber return back if they can not climb beyond the 1st wood plank: since 3 years of operation, in total less than 10 people made the U turn in Experiment course. No case of rescue in height happened. However we organize regularly the rescue exercise, ensuring our guides are ready & capable to intervene whenever necessary.

LDS: Where is your favorite place to do Via Ferrata in the world?

BJVF: Via ferrata of the cave Jules Carret in France is my favorite. It is rated as one of the most difficult via ferratas in Europe, the 8th one for our 2009 via ferrata discovery week.  Actually I had been blocked at the overhanging part of this via, overcome it after 3 trials. The rest karabiner had been very useful during this experience: I fully realized the importance of relaxing the body & mind even in very stressful situation, more importantly the necessity to release hold to catch the next anchor: the over-hanging is such that you can’t catch the next anchor if you don’t release one hand, and no one can help you except a helicopter rescue team 有舍才能得,really as a Chinese saying said. We learned afterwards that that was the place where local helicopter rescue team has to come in average 2 – 3 times per year to get climbers out.

My experience at Jules Carret was the catalyst for us to realize that via ferrata is not only an outdoor activity for fun, recreation, but also a very interesting learning experience to challenge people, to empower us to move beyond self-imposed limitations, to enhance initiative, self-reliance and compassion for others.  Which is in line with our own key values in life : Care, Share & Grow 关爱, 分享, 成长。

By the way, in 2012, I had an opportunity to re-visit via ferrata of Jules Carret in helicopter and had a very good view of the whole itinerary from the aircraft. For sure we will re-do it again in the future.

LDS: Do you plan to set up Via Ferrata in other locations in China? And if you could pick any place in China to set up Via Ferrata, where would it be?

BJVF: We are promoting via ferrata as a new mountain leisure, a catalyst adventure experience to inspire people to achieve their greatest potential in life & at work. Our Via Ferrata for China dream would be to build a via ferrata in Huashan 华山: Chinese ancient people created  ”plank road on the cliffs” 长空栈道 over thousand years ago, without however consideration for user’s personal protection (quite a lot accidents in the past). We’d like to improve the safety of this historical route together with the French team and to add an extra length to allow mountain lovers to better appreciate Huashan from a completely new angle :-)  

LDS: If someone would like to organize a trip to try Via Ferrata, what do they need to know?

BJVF: To organize a via ferrata trip: we need to have at least 15 confirmed climbers to open Yanshan Via Ferrata during weekdays, and 10 for week-end/public holidays.

Inquiry email: feilada@viaferratachina.com, phone number: 134 3696 1329 for English, 156 1156 1595 for Chinese, or through WeChat: Feilada for reservation & booking; ViaFerrataChina for public account (where information on price, FAQ, driving route is available).

Pricing: For groups less than 10 people (including 10), a via ferrata day trip cost would be RMB 126 (VF Experiment, 1 hour climbing), or RMB 526 (free climbing of all via ferrataroutes in Yanshan), including park entrance fee (26/adult, 13/teenagers, student, senior visitor), route usage, personal protection equipments, safety instruction & practice, insurance. For groups between 11 – 22 people, the cost would be RMB RMB 486 for the 4 hours course

LDS: What are some of your favorite hobbies other than Via Ferrata?

BJVF: Traveling around the world, meeting different people, keep on discovering & learning new things, including food ;-)  

LDS: Top favorite restaurants in Beijing?

BJVF: Yulingdao (郁陵岛)for Korean barbecue and Xiao Changcheng (小长城, the Chinese restaurant which is next to Sheraton Beijing). Both Yulingdao & Xiao Changcheng are SMEs in business since 1990s, we are very happy to have witnessed their development, and the consistency of their food quality over the years.

Via Ferrata Contact Details:

Driving Directions:

English: Yanshan Via Ferrata is located inside of the North Entrance of Tianchi Xiagu Parc, 75 km from downtown Beijing. You can take Jingcsheng Motorway, get off @exit 15, direction G111 Yanqi Lake / Fengning. After Huaibei Ski Resort, Hefangkou Tunnel, Yougu Shentan Parc, there is traffic lights. Get off the main road after the traffic light, you arrive at the South Entrance of Tianchi Parc. Continue 200 m, you can see the sign board of Via Ferrata & the north Entrance: drive in directly & parkings are available next to the Base Camp.

Chinese: 燕山飞拉达位于怀柔区天池峡谷景区北门内,G111国道旁。从京承高速15号出口下高速后,走G111国道雁栖湖、丰宁方向,过怀北滑雪场、河防口隧道、幽谷神潭景区后,即可看到天池峡谷景区指示牌,沿指示牌可到天池峡谷景区南门,继续前行200米,即到北门。车辆可以直接停到飞拉达大本营旁的停车场。

◦Email: feilada@viaferratachina.com

◦Tel: 134 3696 1329 (EN), 156 1156 1595 (CH)

◦Wechat: ViaFerrataChina (info about prices, driving directions + FAQ’s available), for private reservations: Feilada

Via Ferrata: Yanshan, Beijing
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