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Banff Via Ferrata- Assisted Climbing at Mt. Norquay

High up on the steep, rocky slopes of Mt. Norquay is an assisted climbing route known as via ferrata.

Banff via ferrata- Assisted climbing on Mt. Norquay

With steel cables, rungs, and pegs bolted to the mountainside, this “iron path”, as the name translates from Italian, will have you feeling on top of the world as you climb up and across the lofty rock walls of Mt. Norquay.

Climbing Mt. Norquay's via ferrata in Banff National Park

Here’s a look at what you can expect when doing the via ferrata in Banff, the climbing routes you can choose from, a description of the thrilling Skyline route, plus our review of the Norquay via ferrata.

Scaling a rock wall on the Mt. Norquay via ferrata in Banff

Via Ferrata in Banff- Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata Routes

Mt. Norquay is home to the only via ferrata in Banff National Park. Offering four guided routes suited to a variety of comfort levels, there’s an adventure for everyone from very beginners to intrepid explorers.

Scenic view from the Mt. Norquay via ferrata

The shortest via ferrata at Mt. Norquay is the “Explorer” at 1 km and 2- 2.5 hours. Designed for those who are new to via ferrata, this introductory route heads up 145 m and crosses a suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge on the Norquay via ferrata

The “Ridgewalker” is the full via ferrata experience with 260 m of elevation gain and more exposure as the route climbs up several buttresses and crosses a suspension bridge. This route covers 1.4 km and takes 3.5- 4 hours.

The “Skyline” route brings a whole new level of adventure with features such as a ladder, beam crossing, long suspension bridge, and traverse across a sheer rock wall. At 2.5 km and 290 m elevation gain, this route takes 4.5- 5 hours.

Traversing a mountainside on the via ferrata in Banff

The longest Mt. Norquay via ferrata is the “Summiteer” at 3.2 km, 360 m elevation gain, and 5- 6 hours. This route is an extension of the Skyline, so has all of the same features plus a three-wire suspension bridge over a steep gully at the summit.

Nearing the summit of the Skyline via ferrata route

Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata- The Skyline Route

The Skyline route is an excellent choice for adventurous hikers wanting to experience some of the thrills of mountaineering, from rock climbing to exposure, but in a more secure environment.

Mt. Norquay via ferrata guide leading the way

After getting fitted with a helmet, harness, and lanyard with attached carabiners for clipping onto the safety cables, you and your ACMG-certified guide will ride the chairlift up to the Cliffhouse Bistro.

Via ferrata equipment- carabiner and lanyard attached to a cable

At the top of the chairlift you’ll receive some instruction from your guide about how to use the carabiners to move safely along the cable. It’s pretty straightforward- clip both carabiners onto the cable, walk or climb to the next anchor, unhook one carabiner and fasten it to the next section of cable, then do the same for the second. This way you will always have one carabiner hooked to the cable, but most the time both will be attached.

Via ferrata carabiner attached to a cable
Via ferrata cable and anchor

At the top of the chairlift there’s a practice wall where your guide will give you some instruction and let you try out what you’ve learned. Just like on the real via ferrata, there are iron rungs, pegs, and rocks that you can use for footings and handholds.

Cable and rungs used for climbing a via ferrata
Cable and rungs on the Skyline via ferrata

Once everyone has completed the practice course, it’s time to head out on the Skyline route.

Hiking on Mt. Norquay

There’s a short uphill hike to the first via ferrata climbing section and along the way you get to see parts of the mountain you’ll be scaling, a suspension bridge, and the steep slopes of the mountain face. The scenery does a great job of building excitement for what’s to come.

Hiking on Mt. Norquay
Mt. Norquay

After some regular hiking, you’ll clip onto the cable and continue walking up the rocky mountain. This section of assisted hiking gives you some more opportunities to get comfortable clipping and unclipping the carabiners before having to climb and be exposed to precipitous drops.

Via ferrata on Mt. Norquay
Starting the via ferrata on Mt. Norquay

Once you reach the climbing section, the real fun of via ferrata begins. Now instead of just steep hiking, you’ll be using iron rungs and pegs to climb and move across the mountain face.

Via ferrata on Mt. Norquay
Climbing across Mt. Norquay on the via ferrata

Eventually you’ll come to a part of the route that has an almost vertical climb into a tight space between rocks. If you’re wearing a backpack, it’ll likely rub on the rock as you climb up the rungs.

Mt. Norquay via ferrata guide using rungs and cables to climb rocks
Tight space between rocks

Near the top, you have to clamber out of this small space by reaching right onto the outer, exposed side of the rock to finish the climb up.

The "iron path" of Banff's via ferrata

Next up, you’ll be traversing across a steep wall of rock where you’ll be able to enjoy sweeping views of the surrounding peaks. It’s quite thrilling to be standing on the side of a mountain, in a place inaccessible by hiking, and have a bird’s eye view of Banff’s beautiful scenery.

Standing on the side of Mt. Norquay
Smoke from wildfires obstructed the view but you could still tell it was incredible!

As you maneuver across the mountainside, you’ll eventually come to one of the most exciting, butterfly-inducing elements of Norquay’s via ferrata- the ladder.

Ladder on Mt. Norquay's via ferrata

The ladder is secured to an exposed cliff and to climb it you have to place yourself between the rock wall and the ladder, looking out at the clouds as you pull yourself up the rungs.

Climbing the ladder on Mt. Norquay

For some people the ladder can be quite a hair-raising experience, a mental-challenge even, and for that reason it’s one of the most memorable parts of the Skyline via ferrata at Norquay.

Norquay via ferrata guide and the ladder on the Skyline route

Once you conquer the ladder, the thrills aren’t over yet. There’s still a wooden beam to cross and more mountainsides to scale.

Looking down while crossing a wooden beam
Mt. Norquay via ferrata
Climbing Mt. Norquay on Banff's via ferrata

You’ll continue to make your way up and across the face of the mountain, eventually arriving at a two-wire bridge.

Crossing the two-wire bridge on Mt. Norquay

This “tightrope” is stretched between rocks and to cross it you shuffle your feet sideways along the wire, holding onto the cable above for support.

Crossing the two-wire bridge on Mt. Norquay's via ferrata
Crossing the tightrope on Mt. Norquay

Soon after the tightrope, you’ll arrive at a spot near the suspension bridge where you can have a snack or quick lunch.

Suspension bridge on Mt. Norquay

After lunch it’s time to cross the suspension bridge, another main highlight of the via ferrata in Banff.

Looking across the suspension bridge on the Mt. Norquay via ferrata

At 55 m long, this narrow suspension bridge has some sway to it, making it all the more fun to walk across.

Crossing the Mt. Norquay suspension bridge

From this point on you’ll begin the final ascent to the ridge, which is the summit of the Skyline route. Much like before, there are more rock walls to cross and slopes to climb.

Climbing the via ferrata
Climbing Mt. Norquay's via ferrata

Once you reach the ridge, if it’s a clear day you’ll be able to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area including Cascade Mountain, Mt. Rundle, and the town of Banff. You’ll also be near the east summit of Mt. Norquay, where the Summiteer route continues on to.

Ridge on Mt. Norquay
East summit of Mt. Norquay
Looking towards the end of the Summiteer route

The final portion of the Skyline via ferrata involves more hiking, as you’ll be walking along the ridge then down into a scenic gully on route to the chairlift. It’s steep and there is some loose rock, but the guides go slowly to minimize the chance of slipping.

Gully on Mt. Norquay
Gully on Mt. Norquay

During the hike back to the chairlift, keep your eye out for bighorn sheep, as they are known to hang out on the mountain.

Bighorn sheep on Mt. Norquay
Bighorn sheep on Mt. Norquay

The tour ends at the Cliffhouse Bistro where you can enjoy some food and drinks before taking the chairlift back down to the base of the mountain. It’s the perfect spot to celebrate your accomplishments and reminisce about all the adventurous moments on Banff’s via ferrata!

Crossing the wooden beam on Mt. Norquay's via ferrata

Review of the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata in Banff National Park

The via ferrata at Norquay is one of the best things to do in Banff, especially if you have an adventurous spirit. Not only is it a fun way to challenge yourself, you get to experience views rarely seen by other visitors, since the area is not accessible by hiking.

Looking down from Mt. Norquay
Autumn colours on Mt. Norquay

Elements like the ladder, tightrope, and suspension bridge add some extra interest to the routes and make awesome vantage points for admiring the scenery.

Norquay via ferrata guide and the ladder
Crossing a cable bridge on the via ferrata in Banff

By nature, via ferrata involves a lot of steep terrain so if you don’t have a head for heights, it can be intimidating. Being clipped onto the cable takes away some of the feelings of danger, but you still have to be responsible for your own safety. It’s important to stay focused on your footing, balance, and keeping your carabiners attached.

Climbing Mt. Norquay's via ferrata
Traversing a wall of rock on the Norquay via ferrata in Banff

If you’re looking for a unique activity in Banff and want to dip your toes into climbing, then the via ferrata at Norquay is a fantastic choice.

Enjoying via ferrata in Banff

Tips for Doing the Via Ferrata in Banff

Location: The via ferrata is located on the cliffs above the Mt. Norquay Ski Resort near the town of Banff.

Getting There: From downtown Banff, get on Mt. Norquay Road and follow that across the Trans-Canada Highway and up the switchbacks to the ski resort. It’s about a 15 minute drive.

  • Check-in for the via ferrata is at the North American Lodge at the top of Mt. Norquay Road.

Operating Hours: The via ferrata at Mt. Norquay operates 7 days a week from mid-June to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (weather permitting). The Skyline and Summiteer routes have a slightly shorter season, closing near the end of September.

  • For up to date hours and route schedules, visit this page.

Gear/What to Bring: It’s required to have sturdy hiking footwear with good grips (the staff will inspect your boots when you check in). If you don’t have proper hiking boots, Norquay will provide rentals free of charge.

  • Come prepared for a variety of weather conditions with warm layers and waterproof outerwear. The tours will still go in the rain, but not in extreme weather.
  • Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, water, snacks, a camera, and small backpack.
  • Thin gloves with grips will be lent to you by Norquay. Other items such as rain gear and backpacks are available for loan free of charge, on a first come first serve basis.
  • Harnesses, lanyards, and helmets are provided so you don’t need to bring any special climbing gear.

Facilities: The American Lodge at the base of the mountain has washrooms. The Cliffhouse Bistro at the top of the chairlift has food, drinks, and washrooms. There are no facilities along the via ferrata routes.

Visitor Guidelines and Safety: The minimum age for the Norquay via ferrata is 12 years old for the Explorer and Ridgewalker routes and 14 years for the Skyline and Summiteer routes. The minimum weight is 40 kg (88 lbs).

  • All participants must be accompanied by one of Norquay’s ACMG-certified guides. Even if you have a lot of via ferrata experience you won’t be allowed on the routes without a guide and must stick with the tour group.
  • Group size is 8 people per guide.
View from Mt. Norquay

Accommodations in Banff

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Banff. Please consider booking your Banff accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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Adventure Alberta was hosted by Mt. Norquay in order to bring you this story. Hosts have no editorial influence on articles and our opinions are strictly our own.

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