Climbing Via Ferratas in Val D’Aran (Spain)

Climbing the Via Ferrata in Unha. Photo © Siena Anstis.
The valley around the town of Unha–view from the top of the Via Ferrata. Photo © Siena Anstis.

Via Ferrata Unha

Just shy of 800 meters, this via ferrata proceeds in three stages (with escapes after stage 1 and stage 2) to climb up to 2220 meters. There is one Tibetan bridge, a dangling ladder, and a few challenging overhanging sections, among other obstacles to conquer. There is nothing quite like the sensation of gripping to rock and metal hundreds of meters above the valley floor. Requiring intense concentration, the ability to wipe mind of fear and anxiety for several hours, and a certain physical consistency in movement, the final ascent over the crest of the via ferrata is deeply gratifying and a psychological release. As we climbed, we spotted a soaring eagle and swallows playing in the wind, rushing over our heads and near our clips. The wind picked up as we climbed higher, bringing the sweet, fresh smell of a summer afternoon in the mountains. From the top, a view of the beautiful valley around the charming town of Unha.

Via Ferrata Les

Another via ferrata near Vielha and accessible by bus from there. While less magnificent than the route in Unha, it presented its own challenge. The first section includes an intimidating overhang that benefited from strong upper arms and solid confidence. I ended up spooked before we had even really started to climb the first section, so we descended and began with the second section which was much simpler (leaning towards dull after Unha). After that, we returned to complete the first section and then took the escape route back down to the valley floor. It was beautiful up on the top, but the view slightly marred by a quarry and heavy construction in the valley floor.