Via ferrata of Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc

The Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc via Ferrata

Via ferrata is a sporting activity related to climbing and hiking. It involves climbing up a rock face fitted with specific safety features. There are some 140 courses in France. Most are in the Alps. They are rated from easy to extremely difficult. Via ferrata is suitable for young and old, depending on the level of difficulty.

Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc boasts a magnificent Via-Ferrata winding through the very heart of the Bonnant Gorge. More than just an activity, the Via Ferrata de Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc (also known as the “Via Ferrata du parc thermal”) is a real sporting experience.


But first of all, a question needs to be asked: what is a Via Ferrata?

Via ferrata: a vertical sports route

Signifying “railroad” in Italian, a via ferrata is a sporting route arranged on a rock face. Via ferrata also refers to the sport of traversing this type of route. It’s halfway between climbing and hiking. Practitioners of this activity are ferristes.

The via ferrata is equipped with metal elements such as cables, ladders or ramps to ensure the safety of ferristes. Depending on the difficulty of the route, monkey bridges, Nepalese bridges, footbridges or beams are installed to facilitate their progress.

The via ferrata allows practitioners to gain height and, along a playful route, to enjoy the exceptional panorama offered by the location.

History of the via ferrata

The first via ferrata dedicated to tourism is located in the Austrian Pre-Alps. It was created by Friedrich Simony in 1843. The technique was then adopted by the Italian army in the early 20th century to enable Alpine troops to cross certain complicated passages in the Dolomites. The first French via ferrata was created at Freissinières. It was an immediate success. Other routes have since followed.

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Which equipment needed for via ferrata?

To practice via ferrata, ferristes are provided with specific equipment:

  • Sports shoes (preferably semi-rigid)
  • A climbing harness
  • A suitable set of lanyards (available for hire from local sports stores)
  • A helmet,
  • A climbing cow with a carabiner so you can rest
  • Gloves to protect your hands,
  • And a backpack containing water and food.
Levels of difficulty via ferrata

Before starting a via ferrata, check its degree of difficulty. The codification, valid for France and Switzerland, is as follows:

F: easy
PD: not very difficult
AD: fairly difficult
D: difficult
TD: very difficult
ED: extremely difficult

F and PD routes are suitable for children, even very young ones. The TD and ED routes require good physical condition and experience.

How to practice the via ferrata

At the start of a via ferrata route, the climber attaches the two carabiners of his lanyard to the cable, also known as a lifeline. This is attached to pins embedded in the rock face. Interspersed with stopping points, the lifeline circles the route.

At each stopping point, the ferriste passes his two carabiners through without them leaving the cable.
Via ferrata lanyards generally support a weight ranging from 45 to 100 kg. If your weight is outside these limits, you’ll be roped up for added safety. Beginning ferrists can also ask to be roped up.

The Parc Thermal via ferrata

The Parc Thermal via ferrata runs through the Bonnant gorges, between the Parc Thermal and the town of Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc. After an initial section rated AD+ (upper fairly difficult), the via ferrata is rated D+ (upper difficult), then TD+ (upper very difficult) in its final section. The last two sections, after the first escape route, are athletic. In addition to the classic progression equipment (ladders, rungs, etc.), this via ferrata is equipped with six structures: 3 Nepalese footbridges, a log footbridge, a beam and a monkey bridge.

WARNING: This route is forbidden to inexperienced adults and to minors not accompanied by an experienced adult.

This via ferrata is considered difficult, so accompaniment by a professional from the guide company is highly recommended.Equipment for embarking on this via ferrata is mandatory (see list above). Sports stores in Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc offer rental of specific equipment for the practice of this sport.

La Compagnie des Guides de Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc organizes supervised outings with the guides to introduce you to this activity, take you along and help you discover this exceptional route in the Mont-Blanc region.

Technical description of the Via-Ferrata

The start is behind Les Thermes, a 15-minute walk away. It is also possible to start from the Thermes footbridge, without doing the 1st section.

Section N°1 lower part

Grading AD+ (Assez Difficile)
Duration approx. 1 hour
Escape route no. 1 Mick Bozon at the Thermes footbridge at the end of this section. After this outing, grading D+ (Difficult +)

Section N°2 intermediate part

Rating D+ (Difficult +)
Duration approx. 1 hour and 30 mins
Echappatoire n°2 Maurice Lenoir.
Echappatoire n°3 Thierry Broisat. After this outing, rating TD+ (Très Difficile+)

Section N°3 final section

Rotation TD+ (Très Difficile +)
Duration about 1 hour
Requires climbing skills and perfect physical condition
Final exit under the Châtelet ruins
Minimum height for the 3 sections: 1.50 m


If you’re driving, it’s advisable to park at the Bettex gondola parking lot in Saint-Gervais, and walk to the Parc Thermal via the path starting from the Chatelet ruins. This allows you to reach your vehicle easily from the final exit or from escape route no. 2. It’s also a great way to warm up before embarking on the via ferrata



  • Do not enter the via ferrata in stormy weather or at night.
  • Respect the direction of the route.
  • Respect the site and its environment.
  • Via ferrata closed in winter: snow slides and wildlife wintering site.
  • Height: 1.50 m minimum