Via Ferrata — Climbing Rock Faces in Switzerland

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

My friend Zhanna had been living in Switzerland for about a year before we visited her and her Swiss husband Gary. I had seen her post photos of many via ferrata climbs on her Instagram (which you must follow if you don't) and knew that was something we had to try when we came to visit. The photos from her first via ferrata took my breath away (here and here). We had never heard of this until she introduced us.

Via ferrata (Italian for "iron trail") is a climbing route made up of iron rung ladders and steel cable bridges. When climbing, you have to wear a harness and helmet. There is a steel cable that runs along the entire route, to which you clip in, so your harness is secured to the rock face in case of a slip. You're clipped in, so how scary can it be right??? Well, I was wrong about that. When you're on a vertical rock face and standing on a little metal step, with the ground far below you, a slip could be very painful and scary, even if you don't go crashing all the way down to the bottom. The entire way up, you are using your entire body strength to get you up... the steel cable seems like it would help, but it doesn't help get you to the top.

Since we were in Switzerland in April, many of the climbs were still closed due to snow. Luckily we found one that was at lower elevation. It was amazing; I can only imagine how good the higher ones are. Like we always say... we'll be back.

- Julia + Yuriy

Mostly Nikon D750 photos, with a handful of iPhone + Moment mixed in.

Crossing our first steel cable bridge. One cable for your feet and one for each hand.
I feel circus ready after this balancing act.
The hardest part was getting off the bridge and back on the rock.
View of the town below throughout our climb.

Friends + Fondue in a Swiss Chalet

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

When you visit friends in Switzerland, and their family has a chalet in the mountains, you definitely fit it into your schedule. From afar, I've seen Zhanna and Gary post photos from this special place during all seasons, and we were so excited to experience it ourselves. The chalet is in a small village with a handful of other homes, a church, and a couple restaurants, tucked away in a high mountain valley next to a beautiful lake, Lac de Taney. In the summer we could have driven up to the town, but in the winter (well... April), we had to park at the bottom, and hike/snowshoe up a steep snowy trail. After reaching the chalet and dropping off our bags, we explored around the area. Gary ventured out onto the frozen but melting lake while we anxiously took photos. What's a popular destination to hike to in the summertime was mostly deserted and the restaurants closed.

Our amazing hosts hiked up with a bag full of cheese, wine, garlic, and bread. The scent of homemade fondue on the stove is almost as good as the meal itself. We learned that fondue (basically melted cheese and bread) is somewhat of a special occasion meal—about once a month.  Hanging out with a Swiss, Gary, and an American who now lives in Switzerland, Zhanna, was the best way to learn about the local culture and food from a familiar perspective. We kept a wood fire going and shared stories and played boardgames until our eyes were heavy and our tummies and hearts full. We need more special occasion meals in our lives. 

- Julia + Yuriy