Colorado's via ferrata revolution continues with a route claimed to be among the steepest in the United States.
Cloud Ladder is the newest addition to The Alpine Jewel, an Estes Park destination specializing in the booming rock climbing fad. Among The Alpine Jewel's other routes of iron hand- and footholds, Cloud Ladder has been announced as the most extreme — "a new bar for what's possible on a via ferrata," its designer said in a recent press release.
That's Harry Kent, the local legend with a mountaineering career spanning decades across some of the globe's most storied crags. He operates Kent Mountain Adventure Center, which leads guided trips along The Alpine Jewel's via ferrata network.
Cloud Ladder "is the result of 40 years of climbing passion and philosophy," Kent said in the press release. "I wanted to create an experience that rivaled the thrill of actual rock climbing, but without the need for extensive training and gear."
The exposed route ascends 625 vertical feet up headwalls to a summit above 9,200 feet. It'll vie for attention this summer with Arapahoe Basin Ski Area's new via ferrata, which boasts being the highest of its kind in North America.
The Royal Gorge is another landmark in recent years to add a via ferrata, translating to "iron way" and inspired by soldiers of the world wars who navigated the Dolomites and Alps. Users are clipped to bolted lines as they make their way face-to-face with the rock in what is meant to be a safer simulation of the sport.
Routes around Colorado have become pricey tourist attractions. At The Alpine Jewel, half- and full-day guided trips start at $219 per person for groups of two or more.