The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an interesting article on the via ferrata at Nelson Rocks in West Virginia. I’ve never been on it myself, but I’ve observed many people on the via ferrata while climbing at Nelson Rocks (when it was open of course).
Italian for “iron road,” a via ferrata is essentially a fixed rock-climbing route defined by cables attached to a cliff face every few feet to provide protection from serious falls. Climbers wearing a harness around their waists and legs attach themselves to the cable with two carabiners, or climbing clips, allowing them to slide along the route with a relative degree of safety. U-shaped rungs drilled into the stone ease the difficulty of the climbing on steep stretches of the route.
Although the via ferrata concept has been around for more than a century in Europe, particularly in Italy’s Dolomite Alps, they are new to North America. Built in 2002, the Nelson Rocks via ferrata is only the second in the nation, the first being in Torrent Falls, Ky.