How Via Ferrata came to Tahoe
A lifetime ago (or at least 12 years ago) I was spending my summers and winters guiding in the in the European Alps. The Alps provide unparalleled access to phenomenal climbing and skiing in high mountain terrain (rock, ice and snow). Clients hired me to guide them on the classics – Mt. Blanc, the Matterhorn, the Eiger and many other peaks that alpinists have tested themselves on for decades. Like the world’s greatest mountain ranges, bad weather is inevitable and, when the weather was bad, or we were tired from a big day in the mountains, we would invariably head to some of the famous via ferratas scattered throughout the Alps. On these cabled routes through exposed terrain we would adventure alongside adults and kids, most who had no experience rock climbing or mountaineering. Over the years I heard it time and time again – even from my highly experienced mountaineering clients; our days on via ferrata were often their favorite days in Europe. Taking away the risks of climbing, and the requirement for technical experience, while still allowing efficient movement through exposed rock terrain makes for so much fun!
When I moved to Tahoe in 2008, I immediately noticed Tram Face at Squaw Valley, an iconic rock face that towers 1000’ above The Village at Squaw Valley and has been off limits to climbers, hikers and skiers for decades. As I began exploring my new home, I dreamt of ways we could someday play and adventure on this amazing wall. But it took a decade to make it happen!
What’s been going on in the intervening years? First and foremost, the guide company I founded, Alpenglow Expeditions, needed the right team. It took years to find the partners, office team and guides that could make this dream a reality. Second, we needed to curate a relationship with Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows to let us bring people to this formally forbidden terrain. Third, we had to undergo a long process of permitting, environmental studies, and educating governing bodies of what via ferrata is and why it is a safe activity for locals and tourists to experience here in Tahoe. Fourth, the fun part! We had to learn every inch of the Tram Face, to find the best, cleanest and most enjoyable routes where the via ferrata would be built. And finally, over the past few months, we (along with a stellar team of via ferrata construction professionals) actually built the routes – placing metal footholds and handholds where needed, installing some incredible cable bridges over spans, and laying the continuous lifeline steel cable that all participants are connected to while on the face.
Finally we are here! We’ve been guiding groups on the Tahoe Via Ferrata all day every day since opening to the public on Monday October 1. It has been a blast sharing this adventure, and life dream, with you! For climbers and non-climbers alike, for adults and kids alike, and for visitors and locals alike, the Tahoe Via Ferrata will be a highlight of your time here!
– Adrian Ballinger, Founder of Alpenglow Expeditions and the Tahoe Via Ferrata