A Taste of Rock Climbing in the Lake District – Via Ferrata Extreme at Honister!
I really wanted to include an adventure activity during our visit to the Lake District and the Via Ferrata Extreme at Honister more than satisfied our adrenaline thirst! This was such a great thing to do, we had so much fun, and the setting…WOW! What a way to enjoy this scenery!
What is Via Ferrata?
Italian for Iron Path, Via Ferrata is a mountain climbing route consisting of anchored cables, metal pegs, ladders, rungs, steps, and bridges. This means that people with little or no experience of rock climbing can take on routes which would otherwise be dangerous…as our guide explained to us as well it can serve as a great introduction to rock climbing, it has definitely whet my appetite! Check out this article from Fodor’s Travel on the world’s ten best Via Ferrata routes! With Honister included!
It was an early start as we were staying at Lumley Fee Bunkhouse near Kendal, but still it is only one – one and a half hours drive, Honister being near Keswick, and the drive was along the A591 and Honister Pass which is ranked amongst Britain’s best drives. It was pretty special, the sunrise was beautiful and there was fog hanging over the lakes, a really scenic drive, up there with the best I’ve experienced in the UK.
So the action takes place at Honister Slate Mine where slate has been mined since the 1700’s! You can visit the mine and buy products still produced there, and the stories of the people who worked the mine and the conditions they used to work in are mind blowing.
So one of the hardest parts for some people was that initial stepping off over the edge! I have to admit there was a slight shake in my legs as I started off but our guide was brilliant and everything was fully explained to us before we started off. The Via Ferrata follows the original miners track up the side of Fleetwith Pike and most of the time you are climbing along a cliff face, there are even some points where there is a slight overhang…and there are some serious heights involved…The summit of Fleetwith Pike is 648 metres…and looking down…things look really really small!
During the Via Ferrata you where a helmet to protect you from falling rock and a harness round your waist from which you are connected to a cable pegged into the rock face. You are connected by two carabiners and each time you reach an anchor point or other obstacle you clip one carabiner off and then re-clip it the other side of the anchor point, so you are always connected to the cable throughout the climb. The climb is made up of ladders and metal pegs hammered into the rock face, there are some places where you step on the rock and hold onto the pegs with your hands as well. It is challenging at times…but very much achievable and we finished with a real sense of achievement.
The scenery is really spectacular and we were very very lucky with the weather…near total clear blue skies, views which stretched for miles! Getting outdoors and having a go at activities like this is the best way of enjoying this incredible landscape.
There were two big highlights for me and the first was this Burma Bridge! Clipped to a cable running above your head there was a cable running either side of you at waist height to hold onto and then one cable to walk along…walking the tightrope! The drop beneath is quite something and I did have butterflies in my stomach before stepping onto the cable…not everyone managed to push themselves to do this…but once I was on it…it was brilliant! My brother Alex joined me on this trip…he was born in the Chinese year of the monkey…there’s definitely something in that…he has inherited some monkey skills for sure and was putting them into full use here! At one point as the bridge began to sway he was even balancing on one foot…show off!
Look out on social media I’ll be posting a video of this part from my Go Pro soon!
This sign looked far too new for comfort!
After another near vertical ascent on pegs and ladders we took on a giant cargo net, something different and fun! That was the thing about the Via Ferrata, it really was a case of having a go, with no pressure, being totally safe, in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty…what a way to spend a day! What a place to try something new.
After the cargo net there was a short walk up a stair way through a pitch black cave, and then a fairly steep walk up to the summit, it got the heart rate going! Once at the top though the views were absolutely incredible…every time I look back over photographs from the hills of the Lake District it makes me think you could be anywhere in the world. I think there are a huge number of people who think that they would have to leave the country to find scenery like this, rugged beauty, the perfect setting for an adventure!
Once here our guide pointed out another peak, known as Black Star or Honister Crag, and told us that if we could push on slightly further to this summit as we were so lucky with the weather, we may well be able to see as far a Scotland! He told us he thought we should do it…our team agreed…and once we were there it was another huge WOW moment to add to the growing list (think I need a wow moment section of the website!).
Fjord like, mountainous scenery which it is oh so easy to forget exists in this country, it is awesome that places like Honister are making the most of the area and creating activities and attractions to draw people to the area and experience this beauty.
The Via Ferrata Extreme is £45 for adults and £37.50 for children and takes around three – three and a half hours. Pre-booking is essential and can be done directly on Honister’s website. There is also the option to take on the original Via Ferrata Classic which is a little less challenging, a little less scary and also slightly cheaper at £37.50 for adults and £29.50 for children. I would definitely try and push yourself and go for the extreme, it is really good value for money, fun, and rewarding. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to go rock climbing and not known where to begin, this has to be a great taster, it has got me looking into places to have a go at climbing.
For adrenaline fuelled fun which the whole family can get stuck into, the Via Ferrata at Honister has got it covered! It really was an awesome way to spend a morning!
Thanks for reading! Now get outdoors and have some fun! Happy Travels!