We’ve done a lot of interesting things all around Utah’s rocks including Via Ferratas, an off-roading jeep tour, and exploring the amazing towers of Goblin Valley state park. We enjoyed great views of rock formations and canyons and got to experience their beauty first hand while climbing all over them…. and sometimes even jumping off!
Via Ferrata #1 — Ogden Utah; Our First Experience
Ever heard of a Via Ferrata? A Via Ferrata means Iron Way and comes from Italian heritage. Basically, a “Via Ferrata” is a “trail” on the side of a mountain where you are connected to a steel cable. There are steel rungs, and ladders on the mountain in places that it would be difficult to climb. Often you are climbing straight up and are very high, but sometimes you are climbing up overhangs. Every so often, you need to switch cables so in case you fall, you only fall a few feet rather than the entire cable length. All Via Ferratas are different — and on one, we even jumped off a bridge!
Our first Via Ferrata was in Ogden, Utah. It wasn’t super-hot and we got some great views. One extra thing about the via Ferrata is that to get up to the start of the climb, you get to go in a 4×4 and it is major off-roading. It’s so bumpy and fun and I can’t believe how well the 4×4’s can go over the terrain. If you get prone to motion sickness, I don’t recommend this.
Once we got up to the start of the climb, we got a safety brief and started. I was the most nervous of the group because sometimes I’m scared of heights, so I went last. Once I started I had a ton of fun and mostly forgot about my fear. At some points in the climb there are metal rungs that are screwed into the rock, and at some points where all of your weight is on them, it’s scary to think that the little rung is holding your whole body weight and not falling. Also, when we were close to the top and you would look down it was nerve-wracking because you’re 100’s of feet above the ground. Once we got to the top, we decided to down-climb, which is pretty unusual and more difficult than climbing up because you can’t see your hand holds and foot holds below you.
Down-climbing was fun and more of a challenge and a little more scary. There was one point in the Via where you could clip onto a rung and lean back. It was quite scary because you were only connected by a small clip and you’re leaning back; so if you fall, it’s game over. We had some beautiful views from the Via Ferrata and I really enjoyed it. The next day the parents were sore and I don’t know why, because the kids weren’t and it wasn’t that tiring. Maybe they need to take some Pilates classes.
(click on the pictures to flip through them in a slideshow!)
Via Ferrata #2 — Moab, Utah; Jumping off a bridge
We only spent one night in Ogden, then headed to Moab.
The Via Ferrata in Moab was a little different. Instead of being super climbing-focused, it had other obstacles too. They had a repel, slackline over a 50ft canyon, jumping off a bridge, and a little bit of climbing. Once again we started with an off-roading ride, and once again it was a ton of fun. Our first obstacle was a climb up to the top of the canyon.
After that we encountered an obstacle called the Matrix. This began in the middle of a bowl with rungs on the side where you would walk across the rungs. Sounds easy, huh? The obstacle was where the rungs disappeared, so you had to become horizontal and run across the wall just like the in the Matrix. It was scary because you were only hooked onto the cable and didn’t have anything to hold onto, but it was fun. It was also really cool to see everyone do it. I did the best by far. 🙂 Half of the family didn’t even make it across and had to hold the cable to make it to the other side.
After that we did a repel into a canyon which had a hammock at the bottom. It wasn’t a normal repel where you sit back in your harness, it was more like a down climb but was still fun. Luckily since it was a really hot day — upwards of 90 degrees — so when we repelled in the canyon it was cooler and shady so it felt nice. The hammock was quite big and fit all five of us.
The next obstacle was a giant cable slackline across a big hole. It was about 50ft across and 50ft down. The cable was super unsteady because it wasn’t tight so it was hard to balance and none of us made it more than a couple of steps without using our hands. It was also really scary because we didn’t want to fall since it was a long way down. We tried standing parallel to the cable and none of us could hold that position for more than a couple of seconds. It is super hard to balance and I have major respect for the people that are able to do this!
The last, and most anticipated, obstacle was jumping off a suspension bridge which was about 100ft in the air. It wasn’t like a bungee jump, we jumped with an auto-belay which is slower and safer (in my opinion). The initial jump was super scary because the auto-belay doesn’t kick in for about 10ft. The moment you jumped off you didn’t know if you were going to fall and die or if the auto-belay would kick in. Once we jumped into the canyon we got to climb up a rock wall. It was quite fun and this was my favorite obstacle. I only learned about Via Ferratas about a week ago and now I love them and can’t wait to do more in the future.
Goblin Valley State Park
Most things we get dragged into by our parents we don’t enjoy a whole ton, and usually we argue with them about doing it. Goblin Valley State Park was no exception. However, this time for a change we actually enjoyed it! Basically, it was a whole valley of rock formations that seemed like an outdoor playground, where you could climb anything. Our parents explained that we would have to do a hike, but really we just ran around and climbed on rock structures. The park is called Goblin Valley State Park because many of the rock sculptures look like goblins. They are pretty cool.
We went to the park at about 9pm so it wouldn’t be as hot as mid-day. We ended up staying there until 11pm, so we got to see some stars. Luckily, it was a few days before a full moon so the moonlight was enough light and we didn’t need to use headlamps. It was awesome and so peaceful since there weren’t many people there.
There were some structures that were 10ft high that you could climb and if you fell there wasn’t any hospital close.. and this was a bit scary since we weren’t clipped on to the rock. We were careful but still climbed on some semi-dangerous stuff. After all of this climbing I hope to enroll on a climbing team back in Seattle.
We camped in the RV right in the campground at the state park, and made a fire and cooked s’mores. It was awesome!
Jeep tour: through the gates of hell
Moab is known for having some of the best off-roading trails in the world, so we decided to try it out and see what it was like. I expected a nice bumpy ride, but I didn’t expect that the jeep would reach 45 degrees and almost flip over! We had crazy times, I thought I was going to die at some parts. Don’t worry maa-maa, it wasn’t that dangerous. A normal jeep wouldn’t have been able to do what we did but the jeep we were in had upgrades and looked awesome.
We started off on an obstacle called “the intimidator”… and it was pretty self-explanatory why. You drive up a narrow hill where if you go off the side you will fall down the 60ft hill. Later, we went on an obstacle called “the gates of hell” and it was insane. I thought that we weren’t going to make it out of there. We went down a narrow, steep, hill with rocks and bumps and then went back up the other side (to get “out” of hell). It was super scary. Many jeeps and vehicles get stuck down there so I’m happy we didn’t. There was one section where the jeep was at a 45 degree angle and I totally thought that we were going to flip. For most obstacles there would be an easy way, and a hard way and we would always take the hard way even if it seemed impossible. That jeep was incredible.
We stopped at a half way point where we got a view of the Colorado river and a ton of canyons. We also got some snacks. I didn’t feel great so I switched seats. I sat in the very back so it had the most motion and, in my opinion, was the scariest. We had a great guide who “accidentally” forgot to but the brakes on so we ended up going backwards at some inconvenient times, like on our way up the gates of hell. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, and I’m surprised my parents didn’t get one.
The jeep tour was super fun and like a roller-coaster. We all had a blast and would love to go back some day.