The setting up of the country’s first via ferrata route has prompted concerns about access in the area.
The route, using steel steps and ladders to scale Honister Crag, was set up by Honister Slate Mine. The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) sought assurances that the via ferrata would have no effect on the right-to-roam land on which it has been set up.
BMC vice-president Bill Renshaw contacted both the Lake District National Park Authority and Natural England. He was told that the setting up of the commercial route has no effect on the access land, and climbers and hill walkers can continue to use the area as before, as they have since the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act came into force.
The mine company currently runs two guided tours a day, using the structures on Honister Crag on the side of Fleetwith Pike, overlooking the pass between Buttermere and Borrowdale in Cumbria.
Cost of the tour is £19.50 for an adult and £55.00 for a family ticket. Hillwalkers and climbers can freely roam the whole of Fleetwith Pike under CRoW legislation. The blurb for the via ferrata says it allows access to areas not usually easily reached, eg the top of Fleetwith Pike. Well, not usually by the hundreds of car-bound tourists who pass below, but easily accessed by anyone with a pair of boots and a map.
The setting up of the via ferrata, modelled on the routes first set up in wartime in the Dolomites, has stirred controversy among climbers and walkers. A letter to a Cumbrian newspaper said the via ferrata had taken away part of the mountain heritage and that the appeal of British mountains was that they were not covered in ladders and steel cables put there to give adrenaline junkies a quick thrill.
Mark Weir countered for the slate mine company that the route, which follows that taken by Victorian mine workers, provides people with a new opportunity to try the Lake District, who may not have had the confidence, experience or ability to climb.
He said the project broadens the appeal of the district and makes the area more inclusive, so the mountains can be enjoyed by all.
You can decide yourself if you fancy tackling the via ferrata or simply walk up the 648m Fleetwith Pike, which has commanding views of Buttermere, Crummock Water and the Grumpy Old Fellwalker’s favourite fell, Haystacks.