Daniel Arnold
 

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Practical tips

Having the proper equipment and using it correctly are essential for safety. However, the most important thing is the brain: planning, tactics, risk management are the key issues that make any mountain tour safe and successful. The advice below is intended to help you achieve this.

Companion check

Company in the mountains can increase your enjoyment and safety, but may also be a source of danger. Remember that two heads are better than one and check one another's equipment: Is the harness on and locked properly? Is the via ferrata set attached correctly? Are the carabiners accessible and working properly? Helmet on? Let's go! However, you should also try to be open and honest: How do I feel? How do you feel? Are we fit enough? Healthy all over? Does anything hurt? Fear of steep drops? Do we have to go up there? If you can talk to your companion about your personal weaknesses and fears, then the more likely you are to come to honest, rational decisions – whether it's an encouraging "come on, you can do this" or a relaxed "let's take the easier route".

Care and consideration

Lots of people on a via ferrata tour and the possibility of climbing close together create special dangers. A fall during the climb can travel surprisingly far down: As far as the next intermediate fixing point since the reserve brake rope and the legs go down further than the tie-in point. The old rule: "Only one person at a time between the fixing points" must therefore be observed: At least three meters distance from the fixing. If the people behind are climbing too close to you, point out this danger.
Avoiding loosening rocks yourself should be just as self-evident as repeatedly looking out for rock falls above. And care and consideration are also essential when overtaking: hectic pushing and shoving are dangerous and create anxiety.

Taking children on via ferrata tours

Children love playful rock tours; that is why you must pay special attention to them to avoid their exuberance leading to an accident. First principle: Only take children on routes that are child's play for you yourself. That way, you can concentrate on their safety. The difficulties they create depend on their climbing experience(e.g. from the gym), size (e.g. distance between rungs) and condition. Technically talented children can use their own via ferrata sets; however, it still makes sense to use a short rope for additional safety.
It is extremely advisable for them to use a via ferrata set while simultaneously being directly attached by a short length of rope since a mistake may cause a child to become completely detached.

Safety for professionals

Advanced safety techniques may be of particular value with weaker companions (children, beginners) or if showers have made the going more difficult. The standard is to ensure safety with short rope lengths (15-30 m) over and beyond extremely steep sections. To ensure the safety of climbers coming after you, it is necessary to take a safety device (HMS carabiner). Of course, it is important to learn learn and practice its correct operation. In the case of diagonal climbs and traverses, express loops in the intermediate fixing points may help prevent climbers behind you from swinging and falling long distances.
In many of the more challenging modern climbs, the only safety available for traverses over slippery rock sections is the guide cable. In such situations, the via ferrata set may be suspended briefly.

Planning

By selecting the right tour, suitable for your level of expertise, and planning it directly then you have already avoided the main reason for mountain accidents. Conversely: If the tour is too difficult or too long for your ability, companions or the conditions then danger is present.
When planning a tour, ask yourself the following questions: How difficult is the climb? How long will it take (with the ascent and descent)? Is there an opportunity to break off or choose a different direction with alternative destinations? What are the conditions like (damp, packed old snow fields)? How reliable is the weather? What sort of form am I in? And my companions? Draw up a realistic schedule with checkpoints for conditions and adherence to timing and be prepared to turn back if the schedule cannot be observed.