There are plenty of summer activities in Whistler, from the epic downhill mountain biking to the pristine alpine lakes perfect for swimming. But if you're looking for an under-the-radar adventure, check out Whistler Alpine Guide's Via Ferrata tour up Whistler Peak. This adrenaline-fueled ascent allows mountain-climbing newbies to scale one of the most beautiful peaks around, all in five hours or less.
Italian for "Iron Way," Whistler's Via Ferrata consists of an engineered vertical pathway with permanently fixed cables and metal ladder rungs to help climbers up the rock. There are hundreds of Via Ferratas around the world, although most are concentrated in the alpine areas of Italy, Austria, and France. Created originally to help people climb mountains and expanded to aid soldiers in the First World War, today Via Ferratas are a boom to mountain regions looking to bolster their summer tourist attractions.
Offered from June through October, the four to five-hour tour starts from the Whistler Roundhouse, so you need to take the Gondola up from the village. On the way up, be sure to look for bears. No, seriously. Several bears have taken up residence in the Whistler bike park.
After you sign your life away (read=activity waiver) and get geared up, the trip starts with a quick ascent across Whistler glacier. Yes, you'll get an ice ax (score!) and before you know it you'll be staring straight up Whistler Peak. The Via Ferrata begins with a safe but moderately terrifying ladder. From there, you climb a combination of rock and metal rungs with convenient ledges to stop and admire the views. Terrified of heights? You're always clipped into a climbing cable for safety, so even though there are still risks, the possibility of falling is minimal. A few bumps and scratches notwithstanding, the route is relatively easy; each time a climber feels stumped as to where to place a hand or foot, your guide will point out a well-placed ladder rung or hand-hold to ease the climb.
An ascent up the cliffs, walls, and ledges of Whistler Peak quickly reveals jaw-dropping vistas. Skiers get similar views when they ride the Peak Chairlift each winter, but there's something much more satisfying about climbing the mountain yourself. You arrive at the top wishing the climb might go on a bit further, reveling in the adrenaline rush and the snow-capped peaks all around. It's peaceful up here. It's beautiful.
Whistler Alpine Guides has been leading tours up Whistler Peak for several years, but the experience is still a hidden gem. On a recent visit to Whistler, Curbed Ski had drinks with several locals who were shocked to discover that our favorite activity of the weekend was something with which they were unfamiliar. Worlds apart from the summer mayhem down below, the Via Ferrata felt a bit like a powder day on the hill. Sure, the snow was slushy. But time slowed down, we were happy just being in the mountains, and we left with sore legs and a happy heart.
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