Of the brochures I kept from last years trip to New Zealand, “via Ferrata - Queenstown” alone survived the trash bin. Linda and I enjoy climbing via Ferrata. I probably more than Linda enjoy scaling an almost vertical cliff face. The rungs of steel and cable eliminate the majority of an otherwise very risky adventure.
Driving north along Gorge Road, just minutes from Queenstown the towering cliff bands of Queenstown Hill come into view. Already geared up we walk along the sidewalk path to a series of foot hold cut into the steep grassy hillside. “The approach is worse than the climb” our guide calls out as he disappears into the underbrush. He isn’t joking as we make our way toward the first cliffband.
via Ferrata’s in New Zealand are private, for profit ventures set up for tourism. Unlike their European counterparts which were generally set up for climbing. With the right equipment you can climb for free at places like Piz Trovat. The Dolomites are known for their spectacular, if not overly crowded routes, along the iron road. But here in Queenstown a locked gate blocks the entrance to the via Ferrata which Linda and I are paying several hundred dollars to experience.
There are five of us in the group, including the guide. All four of us “tourists” are experienced via Ferrata climbers so the briefing is short and to the point. Linda and I mentioned our experience with Wild Wire last year and our guide simply noted that todays climb will be “slightly” more difficult, including some overhangs. Difficult is okay but I’m always cautious of the risk/reward scenario. If the risk becomes to great then the reward drops downward dramatically. Risk/reward are not two side of the same coin - equal in measure. More like to ends of the same stick. The further along the stick the fulcrum slides the less that remains on the other. That’s why a small risk hike to a beautiful summit can still yield immense reward, and a high risk climb can leave you breathless and glad to be alive totally stealing the reward. At least that’s how it works for me.
The climb itself is about 300 meters total and follows the cliff bands toward the upper section of Queenstown hill. The bands are divided by grass and tree covered “plateaus” which is nice to hike along - unclipped - and enjoy the views before arriving at the next series of climbing rungs.
We soon fall into that smooth routine and order of hiking/climbing in a group. It pleasant to hike/climb with an experienced group as the small delays for questions are removed and the endorphin educed calm surrounds us all. We are making good time and because of this our guide asks if we want to do the extended portion of the climb which includes an overhang. Of course we are all in agreement and while the guides angles up for a spot to take pictures, he directs us to another section of the climb.
The overhand is a fun traverse below an outcropping of rock. Well laid out, I am able to clip off and take several pictures of Linda crossing beneath the massive slab. Excited we all finish out of breath and happy for the small extension.
Still ahead of schedule our guide offers one more extension - a zip line. “To the bottom?” I ask. No such luck, but we all agree that a zip line would be a great way to finish off the day. Hiking down through the thick trees and then angling up to a small ravine, we spot the zip line set up. It’s probably a hundred feet or so, but zip line-ing is fun so we wait our turn to be hooked up and sent off the ledge.
After the zip line and a few more minutes of hiking through the trees, we emerge onto the large path of Queenstown Hill trail. The trail is crowded and we get more than a few odd looks with our rappelling gear and harnesses, the looks are worth it as we walk and laugh about our great adventure.