Today’s travel post will be taking you to the Via Ferrata Xtreme at Honister Slate Mine- The Lake District UK. My boyfriend and I were lucky enough to get the chance to climb a mountain whilst on holiday this month and it was one of the best experiences of my life as of yet. If you have a fear of heights, this blog post is not for you!
A bit of history for you: Honister Slate Mine and Fleetwith Pike
Honister Slate Mine in Cumbria is the last working slate mine in England! How amazing is that?! Quarrying for Westmorland green slate that is over 450 million years old has been taking place in the area since 1728 and you can buy some of these beautiful slate products in the shop on site. Apart from the mining, it is also a popular tourist attraction in the Lake District National Park and for very good reason. Not only are the views incredibly stunning, but attractions around the mine are suitable for all ages and include a visitor centre, underground tours of the workings in the mine, and England’s first via ferrata, where participants use a safety harness to scale a cliff path.
If seeing a working mine is not amazing enough, there is also Fleetwith pike. Fleetwith Pike is a fell in the English Lake District in the county of Cumbria which reaches a height of 648 metres (2,126 feet). The fell casts an imposing presence over Buttermere and the Honister Pass and is superbly captivating and awe inspiring, truly a treasure of the English countryside and a perfect photo opportunity once you reach the summit.
What does Via Ferrata mean?
Via Ferrata is a mountain route equipped with fixed ladders, cables, and bridges in order to be accessible to climbers and walkers. This one in particularly uses the original Miners track up the steep outer incline of Fleetwith Pike and it is definitely not for the faint of heart. At Honister, you can do the Via Ferrata Classic route which is suitable for most ages and levels of fitness and is not as demanding or challenging as the Via Ferrata Xtreme or if you are a little bit crazy like my boyfriend and I and have a good level of fitness, you can do the Via Ferrata Xtreme which has much more mountain edge exposure, vertical climbs, cliff edge ladders, plus a Burma Bridge & Cargo Net crossing that reaches the summit of Fleetwith pike. To give you some perspective of how high you are climbing, it is roughly 7 x higher than Big Ben and 2 x higher than ‘The Shard’ in London. Cars look tiny and people look like little ants. This course will take you 3 to 3 and a half hours to complete which is entirely dependent on things such as your fitness level and also weather conditions.
Our Experience and advice for your climb
8.00 am: My boyfriend and I arrived at Honister Slate mine at around 8.00am, an hour before our climb was to begin. We were greeted by a group of strangers who were to complete the climb with us and also our tour guide and climbing instructor who would be leading us the whole way. We drank gorgeous rich hot chocolates and contemplated our life decisions while we filled in our risk assessment forms.
9.00 am: We then were taken in to a room full of safety and climbing equipment and were shown how to put on our safety harnesses and how to use our safety clips when climbing. I felt completely safe and reassured thanks to our fantastic instructor who was very down to earth and knowledgeable and due to the fact we were with a fantastic group of people who were all as equally excited and nervous but ultimately raring to go. After being checked over and approved, we headed to the bus that would take us part way up the mountain to begin our climb.
9.30ish am: After a slightly hair raising bus ride on a rather narrow and steep path up a mountain with a big old drop either side to enjoy looking at, we were now at an iron ladder on a cliff edge where we would climb down to start off our adventure. The best way I can tell you about our experience is to show you some photos!
12:30pm: Our climb was now finished and we walked down the mountain back to the visitor centre at the slate mine. The climb was amazing, challenging and scary but in a good way! The infinity bridge was for me the hardest bit as by this point the wind had picked up and although you are in a safety harness, you really feel you are walking on a thin wire rope. Overall, it was such a fun experience and I think my boyfriend and I both surprised ourselves in completing it. By the end we were very hungry and completely exhausted so we had a light lunch at the cafe in the visitor centre and then headed back to our apartment to sleep.
Tips and Advice!
- Take gloves- The moment i took my hands off when climbing, my hands went ice cold and started to blister. The iron railing and safety clips due get really gold and its much easier to grip with a good pair of gloves suitable for climbing.
- Strong shoes- this kind of goes without saying but strong footwear is a must. I wore hiking trainers that i tightly laced which did the trick.
- You are not allowed to take a camera with you for health and safety reasons, so i recommend purchasing the USB of pictures before hand from the visitor centre. It is £15 but you get loads of incredible photos of yourself climbing and its definitely worth it and allows you to fully absorb in the scenery and climbing without any distractions.
- Eat a light breakfast an hour or two before hand. It is so important to eat first to give your body some energy and make sure you are hydrated. Also, go to the toilet right before you set off! It is your only chance.
- If you wish to take anything with you such as drinks or food when you reach the summit, bring a strong rucksack that can be tied to you whilst you are climbing.
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