Spencer McKee traverses around “The Main Event” on the Via Ferrata route in Telluride, Colorado.

Spencer McKee traverses around “The Main Event” on the Via Ferrata route in Telluride, Colorado.

 
 

According to the US Forest Service, one of Colorado's 'most extreme' attractions may soon see some major changes. On May 9, Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest officials announced a virtual meeting and commenting period as various operational aspects of the Telluride Via Ferrata are being reconsidered.

Created 'unofficially' by Chuck Kroger, the Telluride Via Ferrata is an extremely exposed route that consists of rugged trail, metal rungs, and cables, traveling along a cliffside that's located 100s of feet above a stunning valley floor. Those hiking the route use a via ferrata harness system that allows them to stay connected to protection on the wall during the most dangerous sections. This makes the route relatively safe for someone that's experienced with the right gear, though risks can still exist.

As the route has gotten more popular since its 2007 completion, a number of concerns have been raised, including challenges related to safety, limited parking, erosion, and impacts to wildlife.

The plan that's being introduced aims to incorporate the route into the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service trail system, with the goal of upgrading the route to meet agency requirements and engineering standards. While creator Kroger was known as a skilled climber and route builder, some have questioned how the route will be maintained. Others have also expressed that the route is too dangerous for the public, in general.

In 2019, the Telluride Via Ferrata Sustainability Fund was created to help provide resources to sustain the route and keep it free, but additional efforts are now being pursued.

While accidents are very uncommon on the Telluride Via Ferrata, the route is treated as an 'at-your-own-risk' experience. Guides are strongly recommended by the Town of Telluride, but many visitors still opt to tackle the route on their own with their own equipment, some of whom may be unfamiliar with technical climbing gear and the via ferrata clipping system. Additionally, degraded sections of trail along some segments of the route without safety protection can pose a fall hazard.

In August of 2021, a 53-year-old woman slipped and fell approximately 200 feet from the route, dying. It is unclear exactly what caused the fall, but officials did state that there were no hardware failures or gear malfunctions during the incident.

A virtual public meeting is set to take place on May 11 from 5:30 to 7 PM, starting the discussion about the future of the Telluride Via Ferrata. The public is also able to submit an official comment on the project online or via mail through June 1. Find more details here.

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(1) comment

Pirate

I wonder if this influx of hikers/ mountain climbers won't have negative action like Black Bear Pass has. Those of us that drive OHVs have to park at the creek and walk into town. But Black Bear is one way. The citizens of Telluride, I believe are the ones wanting Black Bear closed, to keep people out of town. I wonder if the same won't happen to those wanting to do this "trail"??

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