Munkstigen is a type of climbing path that’s internationally called via ferrata. Via Ferrata is Italian for “iron road”.
In Via Ferrata, a mountain is equipped with fixed fasteners such as steel wire, eyebolts, ladders, and bridges. This equipment is then used to climb the mountain in the most secure and predictable way without having to possess significant climbing skills. Normally being in a good physical shape and having good motor skills is enough to climb Via Ferrata.
This activity means that ordinary hikers can follow steep climbing paths without using ropes, wedges, and other climbing equipment. Meaning that “regular people” can perform a climb without exposing themselves to the same risks associated with regular rock climbing and rappelling. Via ferrata is usually based on a “one-way” trip principle, meaning that you can only climb one way. In many cases, the via ferrata route is not part of a larger mountain trip. Many times there are also so-called regret or return paths that are basic hiking paths to the starting point. In some cases, the return may be based on rappel or zip lines. Via ferrata can be found in a number of European countries such as Italy, France, Austria, Slovenia, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Norway, and Poland, as well as other continents such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Japan, and Malaysia. The world’s tallest Via Ferrata is located at 3,800 meters altitude at Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia.
The safety equipment needed for Via Ferrata a climbing helmet and climbing harness with a Y-sling. The Y-sling has two ropes with carabines that ensure that you always are securely attached to the metal wire at all times. The Y-sling is designed with a damping device that will dampen possible falls. The helmet is used to receive any head stroke in case of a fall or from loose objects falling from the mountain (rocks etc.)
The first Via ferrata paths were built in the Dolomites of Italy during World War I, in order to improve the accessibility of the army infantry in the mountains. During the First World War, there were fierce struggles in the Dolomites between forces from Italy and Austria. In 1914, the Dolomites were still part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, but both parties attempted to ensure control over this important mountain area during World War One. During the very cold winter of 1916, more than a thousand soldiers died as a result of cold, climbing accidents or avalanches. In order to make the mountain easier accessible, and safer for the soldiers. Fixed devices were then built into the mountains containing ladders, anchor points, and metal wires. This was the start of Via Ferrata.
In recent times these routes have been renovated and new ones have been built. Old wires and fragile wood constructions are replaced with steel and metal structures. Today there is an extensive network of Via Ferrata in the Dolomites, and more and more of these places also include accommodations. By using this network, regular hikers can cross the Dolomites at high altitudes and in steep terrain, and sometimes with very airy paths. Some via ferrata resorts are linked to popular ski resorts and are also open during the summer to provide easier access to the Via Ferrata network.