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Cicerone guidebook to the Via Ferratas in the French Alps

Cover of Via Ferratas of the French Alps
20 Jan 2014
17.2 x 11.6 x 2.2cm
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Via Ferratas of the French Alps

by Richard Miller
Book published by Cicerone Press

This guidebook covers 66 varied via ferratas in the French Alps. The routes are spread over six areas: Geneva and the Northern Alps, Chambéry, Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys, Grenoble and Briançon, amid the Mont Blanc, Vanoise and Queyras ranges. Difficulty ranges from easy, protected routes through to exposed, technical challenges.

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Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 2.2cm
Weight: 410g

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With some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, the French Alps have long been a popular destination for a wide range of outdoor activities. In recent years, the region has seen the arrival of a growing number of via ferrata routes.

Via ferrata climbing – using fixed cables, bridges and ladders to explore terrain that is normally only accessible to experienced rock climbers – combines elements of scrambling, mountaineering and rock climbing, yet is a very distinct pursuit. Increasingly popular, recent years have seen a surge in the number of routes being established in these iconic mountains.

The routes in this guidebook range from straightforward, protected walks suitable for beginners and children, through to highly strenuous and massively exposed challenges suitable only for those with experience. The guide gives full explanations of all the techniques and equipment required and all routes are graded for difficulty, exposure and seriousness.

Geneva and the Northern Alps - the area covered in this chapter encompasses the Chablais, Haute Giffre, Borne, Avrias and Beaufortain ranges within the Alps as well as the southern end of the Jura Massif. The 12 via ferrata routes described are spread out over a fairly wide area, and are fairly representative of French via ferratas, being quite varied in both style and difficulty.

Chambery - the small city of Chambery, scenically located in a wide valley between two mountain ranges, is the capital of the Savoie department. Most of the routes in this chapter are located in the Chartreuse and Bauges massifs. They are mostly sports routes, which involve little rock contact, and several of them are suitable for novices.

Tarentaise - the Tarentaise Valley encompasses the upper reaches of the River Isere, from Moutiers in the west to Val-d'Isere at its eastern extremity. All the routes in this chapter are situated just to the south of the valley, within in the northern half of the Vanoise Massif.

Maurienne - the majority of routes in this chapter are located along the course of the valley of the River Arc. All of the routes in this chapter are sports routes that do not involve large amounts of rock contact. Most of them are fairly easy with only a handful of more difficult routes. Several of the easier routes would serve as ideal introductions to the activity.

Grenoble - the nine via ferratas in this chapter include an even mixture of sports routes and mountain routes. They are mostly mid-grade option and are not suitable for absolute beginners.

Briancon - of the via farratas covered in this chapter, two are in Briancon itself, three are to the north of the city along the Guisane Valley and 11 are located to the south. The routes are representative of a good range of difficulties, and quite a few of them involve more rock contact than is typical of French via ferratas. A number are suitable for novices.

  • 66 varied routes across six areas: Geneva and the Northern Alps, Chambéry, the Tarentaise and Maurienne valleys, Grenoble and Briançon
  • routes illustrated by sketch maps and topo diagrams
  • glossary of via ferrata terminology and a list of useful French words and phrases
  • Seasons
    the bulk of the routes are open from early summer to mid-autumn, with a fair number being open from early spring to early winter depending on local weather conditions
  • Centres
    Geneva, Chambéry, St Jean de Maurienne, Grenoble, Briançon as well as numerous mountain resorts
  • Difficulty
    a wide range of routes from straightforward protected walks ideal for beginners to highly strenuous, massively exposed endeavours suitable only for the most daring. All routes graded for difficulty, exposure and the seriousness of the environment. A full explanation of the techniques and equipment required is given
  • Must See
    Routes on or near the Mont Blanc Massif, Lac Bourget, the Beaufortain Massif, the Vanoise Massif, the Chartreuse Massif, the Écrins Massif, the Queyras Massif and many other scenic highlights of the French Alps

April 2016

There has been a product alert for Petzl ASPIR harnesses. Please see the the following link for details: Readers should bear in mind the issue raised by this alert when making any purchase of via ferrata safety equipment from the internet.'

There has been a product recall for Black Diamond Via Ferrata self-belay lanyards. Please see the the following link for details:

July 2015

Route 40 - Via Ferrata de la Cascade de L'Oule

This via ferrata remains closed and is unlikely to reopen during 2015

September 2014

Route 40 - Via Ferrata de la Cascade de L'Oule

This via ferrata has closed due to rock fall. It is not likely to reopen this year but should be usable again from spring 2015.

August 2014

New Via Ferrata Rocher de l'envers

A new via ferrata has opened close to the village of Saint-Vincent-de-Mercuze, which is located 10km to the north of Route 40 (page 224). The route is reportedly fairly easy and takes 2-3 hours to complete. It should be avoided in wet weather."

July 2014

New Via Ferrata Bellevaux

A new via ferrata has opened near the village of Bellevaux. This is located 10km south of Thonon-les-Bains, near Routes 3 and 4. It is reportedly free to use with your own equipment, quite large and incorporates a number of bridges and other elements, covering a range of difficulties. The local tourist office contact details can be found at

p204; Route 36 Via Ferrata du Rocher Saint Pierre – Stage A: 1ère Partie

An additional section of via ferrata has been added, which provides an easier alternative to the Échelle de Tichodrome.

p219; Route 39 Via Ferrata de l'Adret – Stage B: Le Bastion

This is reportedly closed for the whole of the 2014 season. Stage A is still open.

p300; Route 58 Via Ferrata des Gorges de la Durance

A new section of via ferrata has been added, which is designed specifically for small children (ages four and up).

p327; Route 64 Via Ferrata de Fort Queyras

As of mid-July 2014 this route has been temporarily closed due to an access dispute. Hopefully the dispute will be resolved quickly, but make sure to check with the local tourist office before visiting. Their contact details can be found at


When to go
Getting to the Alps
Getting around
Route grading
Moving safely
Climbing with children
Accidents and mountain rescue
Using this guide
Geneva and the Northern Alps
Route 1 Via Ferrata Fort l’Ecluse
Route 2 Via Ferrata Jacques Revaclier
Route 3 Via Ferrata des Saix de Miolène
Route 4 Via Ferrata du Rocher de la Chaux
Route 5 Via Ferrata du Saix du Tour
Route 6 Via Ferrata du Mont
Route 7 Via Ferrata de Curalla
Route 8 Via Ferrata de la Tour du Jallouvre
Route 9 Via Ferrata Yves Pollet Villard
Route 10 Via Ferrata de Thônes – La Roche à l’Agathe
Route 11 Via Ferrata d’Ugine
Route 12 Via Ferrata Le Roc du Vent
Route 13 Via Ferrata de la Guinguette
Route 14 Via Ferrata Roc du Cornillon
Route 15 Via Ferrata École de Rossane
Route 16 Via Ferrata Savoie Grand Revard
Route 17 Via Ferrata La Grotte du Maquis
Route 18 Via Ferrata de Roche Veyrand
Route 19 Via Ferrata du Cochet
Route 20 Via Ferrata du Levassaix
Route 21 Via Ferrata du Lac de la Rosiere
Route 22 Via Ferrata de la Croix des Verdons
Route 23 Via Ferrata des Grosses Pierres
Route 24 Via Ferrata du Plan du Bouc
Route 25 Via Ferrata de Pralognan
Route 26 Via Ferrata des Bettières
Route 27 Via Ferrata Roc de Tovière
Route 28 Via Ferrata Les Plates de la Daille
Route 29 Via Ferrata d’Andagne
Route 30 Via Ferrata du Col de la Madeleine
Route 31 Via Ferrata du Pichet
Route 32 Via Ferrata du Diable
Route 33 Via Ferrata de L’École Buissonnière
Route 34 Via Ferrata du Télégraphe
Route 35 Via Ferrata de Poingt Ravier
Route 36 Via Ferrata du Rocher Saint Pierre
Route 37 Via Ferrata de Comborsière
Route 38 Via Ferrata de St-Colomban-des-Villards
Route 39 Via Ferrata de l’Adret
Route 40 Via Ferrata de la Cascade de l’Oule
Route 41 Via Ferrata Les Prises de la Bastille
Route 42 Via Ferrata du Croix de Chamrousse
Route 43 Via Ferrata de l’Alpe du Grand Serre
Route 44 Via Ferrata de l’Alpe d’Huez
Route 45 Via Ferrata Cascade de la Fare
Route 46 Via Ferrata Cascade de la Pisse
Route 47 Via Ferrata Les Perrons
Route 48 Via Ferrata de St-Christophe-en-Oisans
Route 49 Via Ferrata des Mines du Grand Clôt
Route 50 Via Ferrata d’Arsine
Route 51 Via Ferrata l’Aiguillette du Lauzet
Route 52 Via Ferrata du Rocher du Bez
Route 53 Via Ferrata du Rocher Blanc
Route 54 Via Ferrata de la Croix de Toulouse
Route 55 Via Ferrata de la Schappe
Route 56 Via Ferrata Les Vigneaux
Route 57 Via Ferrata de l’Horloge
Route 58 Via Ferrata des Gorges de la Durance
Route 59 Via Ferrata de Tournoux
Route 60 Via Ferrata du Torrent de la Combe
Route 61 Via Ferrata des Gorges d’Ailefroide
Route 62 Via Ferrata de la Falaise
Route 63 Via Ferrata d’Arvieux
Route 64 Via Ferrata de Fort Queyras
Route 65 Via Ferrata des Rochers de la Clapière
Route 66 Via Ferrata des Orres
Appendix A Routes listed in order of difficulty
Appendix B Glossary of via ferrata terminology
Appendix C Useful French words and phrases
Appendix D Useful contacts
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