Via Ferrata Tours Add to the Excitement at Mohonk Mountain House

A writer conquers more than 600 iron rungs and 2,600 feet of steel cable on a via ferrata in New Paltz—and can’t wait to do it again.

So, this is what it’s like to be a mountain goat, I thought halfway through Mohonk Mountain House’s new via ferrata—which debuts to overnight guests on April 1.

Common in the European Alps, this type of protected climbing path with steel fixtures has popped up in recreation areas throughout the American West, including in Zion National Park, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. Mohonk is the first resort in the northeast to add a via ferrata to its outdoor recreation offerings.

Always up for a challenge, I was happy to check it out last fall. With the rubber toe of my climbing shoe wedged into a rock cranny and my body pressed firmly against the quartz conglomerate ledge, I shimmied across the vertical face of Eagle Cliff. Admittedly, I’m neither as agile nor adept as a (shockingly very muscular) mountain goat to tackle these sharp ascents with ease. But on Mohonk’s via ferrata, I had my own advantages: 2,600 feet of steel cable and more than 600 iron rungs I could clip onto with sturdy carabiners connected to my harness. (Plus, I had Jennifer Robinson, an expert climber from New Paltz-based Alpine Endeavors, guiding me through the half-mile course.)

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Photo by Joni Sweet
Photo by Joni Sweet

Every few steps, I carefully unclipped one of my carabiners from the steel cable and snapped it onto the next segment, a technique Jennifer taught me on a practice wall closer to the ground. Still, my forearms ached and sweat lined my helmet—rock-solid evidence that it was my body, not the safety system, getting me across this cliff. I felt bold and brave, even at 70 feet above the Mohonk Preserve.

Reaching this point on the via ferrata had already been an epic adventure. I scrambled over boulders as big as cars to find steps and rungs inside a rocky tunnel. After clambering through the chilly shaft, I stood atop the rock pile and gazed out on a panoramic view of the picturesque Shawangunk Ridge—an immediate payoff for my initial efforts.

The views only got better when I hit the 80-foot-long sky ladder that crosses over the Eagle Cliff ascent rock scramble. Clinging to the steel wire railings, I carefully made my way over the rungs, the structure bouncing with every step, and stole glimpses of the ridge over my shoulder. (Looking down is for true thrill seekers.)

Photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House
Photo courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

I felt bold and brave, even at 70 feet above the Mohonk Preserve.

The core section of the course proved to be thrilling, too. I tip-toed ledges no wider than a dollar bill, twisted my legs around protruding rocks and felt around for hidden steps, balanced on a steel cable like a tightrope, and hoisted myself up rungs and around jagged rock edges. My adrenaline was pumping with every move—but the best was yet to come. Jennifer vanished around a crag that stuck out like a nose from the cliffside, urging me to follow. I strutted up those rungs and was met with a birds-eye view of sparkling Lake Mohonk. I clung to the cliff with one hand and stretched my arm out—both to relish the moment and pose for a dramatic selfie.

Mohonk’s via ferrata offered a taste of the renowned rock-climbing of the ‘Gunks. But the experience was much more than a three-hour climb; it was an exhilarating adventure that put me on top of the world, grounded me in nature, and gave me a brief taste of what it’s like to conquer steep terrain with confidence.

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Photo by Joni Sweet
Photo by Joni Sweet

The resort is renowned for providing guests with a wide variety of outdoor adventures. “Since 1869, nature has played an important role in our guests’ experience,” explains Eric Gullickson, president of Mohonk Mountain House and a fifth generation member of the Smiley family, who founded the resort. “This new outdoor adventure supports our core value of providing recreation and renewal of body, mind, and spirit in a beautiful, natural setting.”

Via ferrata tours are available for overnight guests seven days a week from April through November. Mohonk Mountain House also offers a beginner-friendly Pinnacle Ledge Tour, which gives guests a chance to tackle an aerial bridge walkway and a sky ladder using a harness and lanyard system. Learn more here.

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