I had quite the time last week tackling the Via Ferrata set in Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park. Before we get into it, you need to know two things.
First: Saguenay Fjord is not a Canadian national park à la Parks Canada, but a provincial park in Quebec. Don’t ask me why they call it a national park. Perhaps it’s a conspiracy to make anglo journalists look foolish while live tweeting the adventure and tagging the wrong parks agency?
Second: Via Ferrata is not some new fangled Italian charcuterie board or cocktail. ’Tis a kick butt outdoor adventure well suited to anyone who loves the mountains, but perhaps isn’t as fit as they once were, such as yours truly (as previously detailed here).
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What Does Via Ferrata mean?
Via Ferrata is a climbing route along a mountain face. Translated from Italian, it means iron road, which is particularly apt, as mountaineers have forged these iron roads amid the Alps for centuries. During WWII, they were well used as secret communication routes.
Canada doesn’t have as many Via Ferrata’s as you’d find in Europe, but we’re catching up. There’s a great course at Mount Norquay, Whistler has got one, as does Nordegg, and there’s a new one at Kicking Horse Resort. You can even do a heli-mountaineering route with CMH along Mt. Nimbus in the B.C. Rockies, but it’s la belle province that has the most in Canada.
What To Expect
Before you begin the experience, you’ll have to make your way into Saguenay Fjord
Provincial National Park, a rich tapestry of colours and textures, where the boreal forest touches the glacier inlet.
A gal’s gotta give credit where credit is due, and this course was way more challenging than I anticipated. It’s still got all the safety features you expect with a Via Ferrata, such as metal ladder rungs drilled almost a foot into the rock face and a wire cable beside the course to clip your carabiners into.
From a safety perspective, Via Ferratas are a fantastic gateway to legit, hardcore mountaineering. “This type of thing is made for people who don’t climb a lot,” affirmed my guide Hans Bissegger. The exposure is real, yet much of the risk is taken out of the equation for you. All Via Ferrata courses go through intense testing and certification. Naturally, Quebec has made their own Via Ferrata certification, while all the other Canadian province operate under the same banner. Ah, Quebec.
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During the Great Slab, four-hour intermediate route your confidence is tested as you journey along the vertical granite wall 650-feet above the fjord. There are monkey bridges along a thin wire, where you’re grasping at another wire cable above your head (a mean feat for us ladies whose arms hurt after blowing out our hair) and a fun, super long suspension bridge to traipse across.
During the 350 m in elevation gain, you’ll have to take several leaps of faith when grasping at footholds not necessarily matched to your gait. And then there’s the inverted ladder offering magnificent views of Eternity Bay.
The Saguenay Fjord Via Ferrata is an adrenaline rush like no other and one you should attempt to tackle yourself the next time you’re in Quebec.
Big thank you to Tourisme Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Fjord-du-Saguenay National Park for allowing me to experience this natural high. As always, my opinions are my own.