Via Ferrata

Since the early 2000s, the number of people climbing “vie ferrate” has rapidly increased, and this manner of approaching mountains is becoming more and more popular among mountaineers and hikers, in particular among young people and in different parts of the world.

The terms “via ferrata” and “sentiero attrezzato” (or equipped path) indicate that a set of fixed equipment (metallic ropes, ladders, chains, bridges, …) is installed along an itinerary in order to facilitate its ascension, guaranteeing at the same time a good margin of security.


What is via ferrata?

A via ferrata route is fully – and permanently – provided with facilities and equipment fixed to the rock in order to facilitate the climb and increase safety; this equipment consist in a metallic wire anchored to the rock through specific pitons, ladders, bridges, hooks, and more in general any necessary artificial mean. Specific equipment must be used by the climber (harness, helmet, ferrata kit).

Scales of Difficulties

Mountaineering associations have defined and adopted different scales and grading systems. Among the most known are the following scales:

  • Italian Scale
  • Austrian Scale (Kurt Scnall)
  • German Scale (Eugen Hülser) – German Scale (Paul Werner)
  • French Scale

Because of its completeness, in 2016 the UIAA Mountaineering Commission decided to adopt the Italian scale for grading the difficulties of Via Ferrata as its international standard.

Italian (UIAA) Scale

In Italy, the Italian Alpine Club – CAI, UIAA founder member, has adopted a scale based on several parameters. The main criterion refers to the overall engagement, and is given in the scale F, PD, D, TD and ED. Then, there are other parameters (in grades from 1 to 3) related to the technical engagement, the physical engagement, the exposure, and the environment.

Definition of the Italian Scale


Equipped path, with low exposure and long walking tracts. Good fixed protections, consisting mainly in metallic ropes (or chains) used only to increase safety


Short Via Ferrata with low exposure. The itinerary usually presents couloirs, chimneys, short vertical tracts where chains, ropes, pegs and stairs help the progression.


Via Ferrata with a medium-long length, requiring a good physical condition and technical competency. Often, the itinerary is vertical and over-hangs may be present. Equipped with metallic ropes, chains, pegs and stairs.


The itinerary presents exposed and technical sequences; a very good physical condition and technical competence required. The itinerary is vertical, and overhangs are climbed with few artificial aids. Equipment consists of metallic ropes, with pegs and stairs


The itinerary presents several exposed and technical sequences, possibly created on purpose; in order to increase the engagement, only few artificial pegs/ stairs are in place. Therefore, a very good physical condition and some climbing technical competences are required.

Additional Descriptions & Grades

Technical Engagement

  1. Null or low technical difficulty, very good equipment
  2. Equipped with pegs, stairs, bridges: sometimes it is required to climb using natural holds
  3. Many vertical or overhanging segments; it is necessary to climb using natural holds; advisable a minimum knowledge of rope techniques

Physical Engagement

  1. It requires a physical effort equivalent to a moderate walking excursion
  2. It requires a good physical condition (force and resistance)
  3. It requires a very good physical condition (force and resistance


  1. Low exposure
  2. Moderate exposure, some aerial steps
  3. Very exposed, with many aerial sequences


  1. Low altitude, often warm and safe weather; easy escape
  2. Mountain environment, altitude between 1000 and 2000m; beware of thunderstorms, wind and cold weather
  3. High mountain environment; altitude higher than 2000m; possible presence of snow section; beware of thunderstorms, wind and cold weather