-  The Via Ferrata -

Date & Time: Saturday 11th August 2007. 1 pm start. ( NY 225 135 )

Location of Start : The Mine Shop, Honister Slate Mines, Cumbria, Uk.

Places visited : The Victorian roadway across the face, up to Black Star summit.

Walk details : A journey across the mountain face, 2 hrs 30 mins.

Walked with : 25 members of the Online Fellwalking Club.

Weather : Well it was fine before we started, but it wasn't by the time we ended.

The Via Ferrata - the Iron Road - a fixed-rope route up the mountain.


The Fellwalking Club likes to meet occasionally, away from the virtual reality of the internet, so that the friendships made on-line can be cemented in real life. With the announcement of Britain's first mountain "Via Ferrata" at Honister, an idea for a weekend meet was launched.

The Via Ferrata, or iron roadway, would take us on an exposed scramble up the old tramway on the outside of the vertical Honister Crags.

Having completed an underground mine tour yesterday we have had the introduction to the mine and it's history . . . we've seen the mountain from the inside . . . today we take to the outside . . . in a BIG way !

This is Honister Hause with the mine complex and the Youth Hostel in the distance.

We all met at the mine buildings at 1 pm. and the first job was to climb into the specialist Via Ferrata harness. Normal fellwalking gear would cope with the rest.

Richard and Andy
Barrie (dealing with his banana!) and Liz
Our guide checks the harness equipment

In view of the weather we accepted a bus trip up to the start.

Using the same mine entrance as yesterday, but taking a different passageway, we ended up on a gallery route adjacent to the face of the mountain. Through the openings we started to get an idea of the view and the exposure we would soon be experiencing outside.

The passage held remains of the old track way . . .
. . . which we would soon follow up the side of the mountain.

Various methods were used during the life of the mine, in order to transport slate to the valley below.

This was the remains of the late Victorian aerial ropeway which carried slate across the lower part of the crags. It's strategic position can be seen below.

We started the climb along the protected pathway but the weather was not being kind.

The heavy drizzle was making the roadway wet and rather slippery.

The route ahead . . . quite a daunting prospect today.

The route follows the old funicular railway route up the face of Honister Crag, connecting to many of the mine levels along the way.

We're not attached at this point due to the protective handrail, but near the end of this section we use the same handrail to practice clipping and unclipping the harness prior to the start of the steep section.

At the start - John (in yellow) has climbed the initial rock step.
Here Stephen ventures confidentially across the bridge.

This first section introduces all the intricacies of the route - exposure, narrow paths, the cable and harness and the steep slippery rock surface.

The view 700 ft down from the bridge.
Mark climbing up the scramble above.
The rest of us follow up, also taking the scramble in our stride.
Looking back our other group are now starting their ascent.

A short rail section emerges out of one of the many mine tunnels above the bridge section we had just climbed.


The Via Ferrata involves walking and scrambling

a reasonably wide pathway across the face of the mountain.

Don't expect the exposure of the Italian Alps

but the excitement and anticipation is there nevertheless.


Accepting the restrictions of the harness

allows you to venture to places you wouldn't normally

be able to go.


The history, the present, scrambles, loose rock, vertical drops,

tunnels, overhangs, old railway tracks and miners bothies are all yours

for the asking.


Halfway up and we venture out to the very edge . . .
. . . where we ge views across and DOWN !

All the way up, the roadway connects with old workings on the side of the crags.

Some are old ventilation shafts but this is one of the larger mine entrances complete with the walls of old mine buildings.

Up to the Third Winding House, the old rails still in position.
Old wooden props show the ravages of time.
The start of the Ash Crag Tunnel
The view back as I climb up the steps inside.

To avoid a particularly exposed section out on the cliff face, the miners of old constructed a tunnel through the hillside to carry the slate down from the Ash Crag section of the mines.

The slate from this top section may have been mined as far back as 800 years ago and customers could have included the Monks of Furness Abbey who took roofing slate from Honister to furnish their church buildings.

The inclined tunnel leads up up towards the top section of the mines.

Out into the daylight once more . . .

There are traces of the old buttresses that supported an old track way which clung to the outside of the crags at this point. It fell into disrepair once the tunnel was built.

We pause on the top section of the Ferrata to gather our thoughts and admire the view - what we can see of it !

A warning to uninvited visitors to the top section . . .
. . . and the sign at the top of the climb - safely completed.
Black Star Summit, the second top of Fleetwith Pike.
Time to make our way down to base.

Due to the poor weather we decided not to venture the extra half mile to get to the true summit of the Pike but headed back down the modern mine road.

Barry foregoes the banana in favour of a sandwich.
Our route took us down past an open quarry section.

Modern standing stones mark the way down the mine road.

Full marks here to Nash, our guide for the trip.

He's the one in the centre, flanked by Mark and Andrew.

Stand aside as this modern heavy duty fork lift truck reminds us that the mine is still very much a working enterprise.

Looking down at the mine complex as we make our way down the hairpin bends.

Back at the mine centre, a hot cup of tea (or coffee) came as a unexpected but welcome reward after completing a successful Via Ferrata.

( left to right ) Jill, Andrew, Richard and Andy.

Pete announced the shop open . . .
for the sale of the latest edition
of 'The Lost Sheep'

Looking back at the end of a great afternoon - do I detect a clearing of the sky and a patch of brightness now that we have finished ?

- - - o o o - - -

Technical note: Pictures taken with a Canon Ixus Digital camera.

Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.

This site best viewed with . . . your personal copy of Lost Sheep 6, available from your local OFC member.

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© RmH.2007 # Email me here # Guest book (on the front page)

Previous event - 10th August 2007 The Honister Mine Cathedral Tour

A previous time up here - 20th June 2007 The Honister Slate Mine Kimberley Underground Trail

Also - 20th March 2006 Honister and Fleetwith with Angie

Next event - 11th August 2007 The Honister Yew Tree - Saturday Evening