October 19, 2009 13:55 PM
Mount Kinabalu, Home Of The World's Highest Via Ferrata
By Sakina Mohamed
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 (Bernama) -- Ask the man on the street on whether he knows what is 'via ferrata' and it is highly likely that he would return a blank look and say "sorry, no idea".
Repeat the same question to a mountaineer or rock climber, you may get a passionate reply with some glowing experience on it thrown in.
The via ferrata, or 'iron road' in Italian, is a mountain path that consists of a series of steel rungs, rails and cables embedded into the rock face on a mountain slope. It opens up routes for the average hiker that were previously only accessible to experience rock climbers and mountaineers with specialised equipment.
This leisure mountaineering sport had its roots in World War I. The first via ferrata was constructed and used by the Italian military to move troops and equipment across the Italian Dolomites into to Austria.
Climbers can follow the via ferrata without needing to use their own ropes and belays, and without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing.
The via ferrata are found in a number of European countries, including Italy, Germany, England, France, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Poland as well as a few places in the United States, Canada and Malaysia.
Mount Kinabalu in Sabah has the first via ferrata, not only in Malaysia but also in Asia. Opened in December 2007, it is an alternative route to the top of Mount Kinabalu at 4,095 metres above sea level.
Located at Mount Kinabalu's Panar Laban rock face, the via ferrata is also the world's highest. It begins at 3,411 metres and ends at 3,776 metres above sea level. This was certified by the Guinness World Records.
The via ferrata is a four to six-hour hike from the Mount Kinabalu Park Headquarters.The company responsible for bringing via ferrata to Mount Kinabalu is Mountain Torq Sdn Bhd, a Kota Kinabalu-based entity that promotes adventure and mountaineering activities in Asia.
MOUNTAIN TORQ'S VIA FERRATA
Mountain Torq's via ferrata is approximately 1.2 km long and traverses routes of varying difficulties. It thus caters to all levels of experience, from beginners to intermediate hikers and climbers.
The company's sales and marketing director Quek I-Gek said that this 'iron road' on Mount Kinabalu is suitable for almost all ages, from 10 years old and above.
"The via ferrata is devised to give people with little or no climbing experience the excitement of being above the clouds. You don't even need to be a seasoned or experienced rock climber or mountaineer," she said.
Families, school children and climbers of general fitness levels are particularly fond of one of the activities called 'Walk The Torq'. Measuring 430m long, participants can witness the beautiful natural scenery of Borneo and capture breathtaking shots during the two to three hours walk.
But adventure-loving mountaineering enthusiasts who are craving an exhilarating, adrenalin-charged experience should opt for the hike up to Low's Peak, Mount Kinabalu's highest point at 4,095m.
This is a four to five-hour programme, with a length of 763m, designed for those with above average fitness levels.
Other highlights include walking on a 22m footbridge suspended at about 3,600m above sea level."
As long as you know how to climb a ladder and are still able to do so, you will be able to negotiate the via ferrata. All that is needed is a spirit of adventure, the average fitness level of a normal mountain hiker and no fear of heights," Quek said.
When it comes to enjoying extreme sports like this, safety standards are normally the prime concerns.
However, Quek said that it is the safest of all mountaineering sports including hiking, scrambling, abseiling, rock climbing and alpine mountaineering.Mountain Torq's via ferrata enables climbers and non-climbers to experience the thrill of mountain climbing in complete safety as it conforms to the highest international safety standards.
The via ferrata is able to withstand up to three tonnes of weight. It was constructed by a team of preeminent via ferrata builders from Europe.Safety practices developed and prescribed by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) for mountaineering sports are also adhered to strictly.
All equipment used in the sport is UIAA-certified and participants are guided at all times by trainers who have undergone rigorous training, with regular skills upgrading based on a syllabus endorsed by UIAA.In addition to that, a continuous belay system is employed throughout the via ferrata route where climbers are hooked up to a guideline, making any deviation from the route virtually impossible.
Besides operating the via ferrata, Mountain Torq is also South East Asia's first mountaineering training centre, offering other mountaineering activities like sports climbing, rappelling and alpine rock climbing.Mountain Torq's alpine-style accommodation at Pendant Hut, located at 3,270m above sea level on Mount Kinabalu Laban Rata rock slab, offers its guests a cosy, eco-friendly hut with a combination of dormitory, VIP and private rooms.
From this location, it is a mere 15-20 minutes walk to the start of the via ferrata.Needless to say, Mountain Torq's via ferrata has played a major role in raising awareness on Mount Kinabalu among mountain climbers around the world.
With the availability of this mountaineering activity, one can confidently say that Sabah is now a world-class adventure destination with a myriad of ocean and mountain activities.More information on Mountain Torq's via ferrata is available at http://www.mountaintorq.com.
Comments: can see via ferrata from the normal route. you'll need to do it on the way back after summiting Low's Peak, that's the low side of this attraction. after reaching the summit, you're just tired and want to get back to Laban Rata and have your breakfast.