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Via Ferrata Sets from Climbing Technology Review

The Dolomites are famous for many things, not least the plethora of amazing via ferratas. So it was with keen anticipation that we set off this summer, armed with a couple of nice-looking via ferrata sets from Climbing Technology, aiming for the wonderful limestone towers of northeastern Italy. Sadly car trouble put paid to our trip, but luckily France has some great via ferratas as well. In the end we took them on a VF near Valfréjus, which was more of a gorge-style journey than a big Dolomite face.

photo
The Valfréjus via ferrata

Via Ferrata and Fall Factors

Before getting on to the specific products I think it worth discussing why you might need a via ferrata set. You're a climber aren't you? Surely a couple of quickdraws attached with a screwgate will do the job? It is true that the climbing difficulty on via ferratas is such that most experienced climbers are never going to fall off; however you don't know that the person above you isn't going to fall off, and the thought of the horrible clatter that any VF fall would involve is enough to convince me that this is an occasion where you want to have the proper tools for the job.

Climbing Technology Via Ferrata set review - Hook it full view, 177 kb
The Climbing Technology Hook It VF set

The fall factors you can experience when on a VF break the scale in normal climbing terms. A fall from a rock climb usually has a fall factor of less than 0.5 and a nasty fall from above a belay on a multi-pitch route only generates something in the fall factor 2 or 3 range (more on fall factors here). If you were to fall off the top of a 5m vertical cable section on a VF, you could be looking at a fall factor up at around 10! This is eye-watering in terms of the forces it puts on the system, and your body, and it firmly reinforces the maxim, don't fall off a via ferrata! However, if you do fall, or if the person above you falls, then you want to be sure you have something that is going to be able to cope with these huge fall factors. It should be said that via ferrata sets have featured in the news over the last few years following a series of product recalls. The difficulty of coping with such massive fall factors can't be underestimated and it is a developing technology which may change in the future.

Via Ferrata Set Features

The most important feature that makes VF sets indispensable is the built-in shock absorber system which consists of an extension of strongly sewn tape that rips open in the event of a fall, absorbing the force of the impact as the sewn sections rip open. It is a single use system - ie. once fallen on, you should discard the VF set (having got yourself safely out, obviously). The idea here is that you spread the impact caused by the huge fall factor over different sections of the lanyard instead of taking it all at one attachment point.

A good VF set should also have large easy-opening karabiners that also have an auto-locking system, and a wide gate opening to make clipping easy and to allow the karabiner to drag along the fixed metalwork easily. Elasticated lanyards with elastic fitted down the inside of the tubular sling webbing minimises tangles, but still allows you a full range of reach movement. Some sets feature a swivel ring on the end of the lanyards to allow the two lanyards to untwist as required. The downside of elasticated lanyards is that you don't tend to clip in and sit on them if resting or taking a photo, and it is worth fixing an additional static sling and screwgate on your harness for this (and only this purpose).

Climbing Technology Via Ferrata set review - Classic-K in use, 226 kb

Classic-K Spring

The Classic-K Spring set from Climbing Technology is an elasticated version of their basic entry-level Classic-K set. It features a simple pull-back fastener on the gate which initially looks like a screwgate (which would be a right pain) but is in fact just a sprung sleeve that you slide back with your fingers to open the gate. This is incredibly smooth in action and very intuitive for climbers who are used to working with karabiners. The attachment to the harness is a simple lark's foot on the belay loop of your harness. In use the elasticated lanyards keep out of your way for the most part, but do get a little twisted from time to time. The karabiner itself is plenty big enough for all the cables and bars you may encounter.

Climbing Technology Via Ferrata set review - Classic-K close-up, 137 kb
The opening and closing ring on the Classic-K set

Hook It Set

The Hook It set from is Climbing Technology's current top of the range VF set. It features huge hot forged karabiners with a massive gate open width of 38mm - said to currently be the widest on the market. It has double side opening and locking grips that are very easy to open with one hand, but that remain securely locked if you don't grab both sides at once. Despite the size, there is little difference in weight between this and the smaller Classic-K system - it's just 80g heavier. The energy absorber and elasticated lanyards are similar to the other VF systems in the CT range. It also features different coloured karabiners "for easy and immediate recognition" although I am not sure when you would actually require this.

Climbing Technology Via Ferrata set review - Hook It close-up, 126 kb
The Hook It set with different coloured karabiners

In Use

In use both sets performed really well and were superior to any older system with non-locking gates or static slings. In our experience there was little difference in the usability of the Classic-K karabiners compared to the slicker looking Hook It system, but that is probably because we are experienced karabiner users. Those who haven't spent much of their adult life fiddling with krabs may find the Hook It system worth the extra money. Neither system featured a swivel ring and both did twist in use, which is inevitable but also only a minor problem. Thankfully, neither system was tested in a fall.

Conclusion

No matter what you might think, even for experienced climbers a VF set is an essential purchase if attempting a via ferrata. These two sets from Climbing Technology are both worth considering, each offering good value for money and excellent performance. The cheaper Classic-K will probably be adequate for most climbers, but those with less experience should probably go for the easier opening system on the Hook It.

Climbing Technology Via Ferrata set review - Hook It in use, 218 kb

Climbing Technology Classic-K Spring Set, 53 kb
Specifications - Classic-K Spring VF Set

  • Weight: 380g
  • Style: Elasticated lanyard with single slide-locking karabiner
  • Price: £70

For more info see climbingtechnology.it

Climbing Technology say:

Via ferrata set with tearing textile energy absorber.

Main technical features:

  • Compact elastic arms that facilitate the operations of coupling and release
  • Automatic gate carabiners type K (K-CLASSIC)
  • Connection to the harness with lark’s head hitch, easy to instal and very strong
  • Energy absorber protected by a strong zip pocket, equipped with an inspection window for an immediate check of the safety label, in case of fall
  • Can be used by light people, such as children/teenagers who weigh >50 kg (weight including equipment) and adults up to 100 kg (weight including equipment)
  • The product is supplied in its proper net bag

Climbing Technology Hook It VF Set, 96 kb
Specifications - Hook It VF Set

  • Weight: 460g
  • Style: Elasticated lanyard with double sided locking grip karabiners
  • Price: £100

For more info see climbingtechnology.it

Climbing Technology say:

Via ferrata set with tearing textile energy absorber.

Main technical features:

  • New and strong hot forged alloy K type carabiners, with a double automatic closing lever and with a large aperture (38 mm), currently the largest on the market. The ergonomic grip and the large aperture makes it easy and convenient to clip and unclip from the cable or anchor of a via ferrata
  • The carabiners are equipped with different colour levers for an easy and immediate recognition
  • Compact elastic arms that facilitate the operations of coupling and release
  • Connection to the harness with lark’s head hitch, easy to instal and very strong
  • Energy absorber protected by a strong zip pocket, equipped with an inspection window for an immediate check of the safety label, in case of fall
  • It can be used by light people, such as children/teenagers who weigh >50 kg (weight including equipment) and adults up to 100 kg (weight including equipment)
  • The product is supplied in its proper net bag
BUY NOW from:
logoGreat range of Via Ferrata sets always in stock.
See this product at the Joe Brown - Snowdonia shop



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