The new Ouray Via Ferrata delivers another “Iron Path” to western Colorado

On Memorial Day the state of Colorado will add the Ouray Via Ferrata to its growing list of via ferratas. A via ferrata, which is Italian for “Iron Path,” is a method to navigate a cliff face that would generally be accessible only to skilled rock climbers. Rather than using ropes, belay devices and pieces of rock-climbing gear for protection, a via ferrata uses a system of rungs, rails, pegs, fixed cables, and ladders. Redundant safety systems support climbers from start to finish.

Adding to the thrill is the cable bridge, a 35-foot span across the Uncompahgre River.Courtesy Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata

The Ouray Via Ferrata follows 4,000 feet of cable along a route equipped with 850 iron rungs and a “Skyladder,” a 70-foot ladder that spans the Uncompahgre River. The Skyladder is the first of its kind in North America, according to a news release provided by the Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata (FOVR), a non-profit 501c(3).

Up and across

The new via ferrata navigates a route both vertically and horizontally across the walls of the Uncompahgre Gorge. Horizontally, the route traverses “just feet above the raging waters of Uncompahgre Creek.” Vertically, the climb reaches “hundreds of feet above the water providing a bird’s eye view of the canyon and surrounding San Juan Mountains.”

Safety-inspected gear is required is required to participate in the 2- to 3-hour experience.

Ouray Via Ferrata
For all ages, the Ouray Via Ferrata is located just minutes from downtown Ouray and is the first free Via Ferrata in the country designed to the ASTM and CEN safety standards.Courtesy Friends of the Ouray Via Ferrata

The Ouray Via Ferrata is Colorado’s seventh adventure based on the popular European climbing activity. Nate Disser and Mark Iuppenlatz, owners of San Juan Mountain Guides and the Red Mountain Alpine Lodge, founded the FOVR to drive support for the project.

“The Via Ferrata is an exciting sustainable human-powered adventure activity that will become a big part of the Ouray experience and economy in the future,” said Iuppenlatz. “We expect it to help attract new visitors during the 180-day season and bring significant economic growth to the community in the spring and fall shoulder season.”


For more information, visit or call (970) 946-2089. For gear rentals, guide bookings, and gear/guide packages contact the San Juan Mountain Guides, visit or call (800) 642-5389. 

Stay tuned! The fall 2020 print issue of Adventure Pro Magazine will take a look at via ferratas in the United States and why they’re uncommon, as well as describe the route and experience of the Ouray Via Ferrata.