Via ferratas have been popular for decades in Europe, where over 300 routes are open to the public, but are relatively new to North America. That’s because via ferratas were first built to transport troops in the Dolomite mountain region of Italy. Troops would battle ferociously for mountaintops because of their strategic importance and therefore needed via ferratas to transport troops across the mountains.
Interestingly, the 10th Mountain Division used Nelson Rocks to prepare for mountain warfare in the Apennines of Italy, long before the idea of a Via Ferrata ever came into existence. Another rock face that was used was Seneca Rocks.
Seneca Rocks is located about 15 miles north of the NROCKS Welcome Center, and is one of the most popular crags on the East Coast. In fact, many guides at NROCKS started their climbing careers at Seneca and Seneca Rocks is what initially brought Stu Hammett, the builder of the NROCKS Via Ferrata to the North Fork Valley.
Built in 2002, the NROCKS Via Ferrata was only the second of its kind to be established in the United States and still one of only three on the East Coast. Stu Hammett, the original owner purchased the property that NROCKS stands on today in 1997 with the intent of turning it into a Mecca for climbing enthusiasts. His first step was to build the trails and the cabins that still exist on the property today. Then in 2001 he visited a via ferrata and discovered firsthand the joy and wonders of via ferratas and decided to build one on the property. Once he had a route in his head, he got a group of climbing buddies together, collected some specialized tools that could cut through the very hard sandstone rock on the property and got to work. The route he designed gains hundreds of vertical feet of elevation over half a mile of climbing, leading up to a thrilling, exposed summit with unforgettable views of the Allegheny Mountains. The route only took Stu’s crew about six months to build. In 2009 Stu decided that he wasn’t able to dedicate as much time to the Via Ferrata as he wanted and decided to sell the property. John Hall, Owner of Endless Horizons a company based out of Harrisonburg VA bought it and has expanded the company with a new Welcome Center, new lodging options, and a new twelve zip canopy tour. Come on out, enjoy the fun and become part of NROCKS history!