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The most important piece of equipment specific to Via Ferrata is a purpose-designed energy-absorbing lanyard attached to the harness. They aim to dissipate the energy triggered by a fall more effectively than a short length of rope. This drastically reduces the risk of high-fall factors as energy absorbers act as progressive brakes, replacing the ordinary slings that used to be used and proved inadequate protection.
A via ferrata lanyard, or ‘set’ consists of an energy absorber, two arms which connect to the cable with carabiners, and a means of connecting to the harness. Some lanyards also have a third short arm allowing the climber to rest on steep sections, and others have retractable arms to keep them out of the way. There are many modern lanyards on the market. Good brands to look out for are Mammut, Simond and Petzl. Check that the lanyard you choose meets the necessary EN958 safety standard.
Look out for carabiners marked with a K in a circle, the K standing for Klettersteigh, the German term for via ferrata. These carabiners are specially designed for via ferratas and are used on the end of safety lines. The ease of opening K carabiners makes them suitable for via ferrata climbing where you have to clip and unclip constantly.
A simple and versatile harness is suitable for via ferratas. You want your harness to be simple to put on and remove, easy to adjust and comfortable to wear.
It is important to choose gloves that will provide hand protection without compromising ‘feel’ and restricting movement. Gloves will help you rope work and belaying.
Only necessary for glaciated approaches, of which there are few. However at high altitude early in the season steep snowfields can linger, in which case a pair of crampons and an axe is worth considering.