Banff, Mt. Norquay’s Via Ferrata: 10 Reasons to Book This Thrilling Activity With Your Teens.

Category: Banff National Park, Family Tours And Activities

My 16-year old son and I had an amazing time on the Four Hour Ridge Walker Via Ferrata Tour. Here are ten reasons why you should book this tour.

1. Reason one: A Safe, Thrilling Outdoor Mountain Activity Teens Will Love.

My boys are teens. I find that it is getting more difficult to do family outings: school, part-time jobs, & friends (“no, she is just a “friend”) have replaced some of the activities we did as a family.

Now and then an exciting outdoor adventure presents itself that I know my boys will like.

Also, as much as they won’t admit it, they still do like to do things with us, if we pay, if it isn’t’ lame, and if there is food involved.

teen climbing on a via ferrata route mt. norquay
The view from Mt. Norquay’s, Ridgewalker Via Ferrata Tour

 Banff, Mt. Norquay graciously provided two complimentary Ridge Walker Via Ferrata Tour tickets.

I approached both of my sons to see which one of them would want to be my climbing partner for the day.

I knew for sure my oldest, and the more adventuresome of the two, would be the first to say “I will.” My youngest claims to have a fear of heights, but much to my surprise, they both wanted to join me. The Banff Via Ferrata had successfully checked one of the boxes on our teen “yes” adventures: ” not a lame mom activity.”

Great! I quickly purchased the third ticket, but unfortunately, my oldest son fell ill. It was me and my youngest, yup, the less adventurous one with a self-proclaimed fear of heights.  

2. Reason two: No Need To Own Gear. Mt. Norquay Supplies All the Safety Gear – even the boots!

A few days before our tour Mt. Norquay emailed a gear list of what to bring for our trip.

The following picture is from their website. 

My son and I showed up wearing our low cut hikers, similar to the “good” pair shown in the photo sent to us.

However, after a brief discussion with the check-in staff, we both decided to use a pair of their high top Lowa boots – best decision ever!  

Why?  

As the LOWA website states, “it all comes down to grip.” LOWA climbing shoes are well-known in the rock climbing world, and these boots lived up to that reputation.

The hiking boots that both my son and I wore are fine for trail hikes, but after comparing the flexibility and grip of our boots with the LOWA boots, it made sense to switch boots. Also, we were thankful for the extra ankle support on the climb up and the trail back down. 

In addition to the boots, Mt. Norquay offers additional free gear, such as rain gear and backpacks all on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Our own boots were stored safely at the check-in venue, which was ideal. Great customer service!

3. Reason Three: Top-Notch, Experienced ACMG Mountain Guides.

David, a fellow Toronto transplant, has lived in the area for 30+ years. He has spent winters as a Heli-Ski Guide in Golden and summers as one of Mt. Norquay’s ACMG certified, Via Ferrata guides.

After some quick introductions, were headed to the gear room for helmets, climbing harnesses and Via Ferrata leashes.  We were the only duo in this group that were not matchy-matchy with the helmets. That was a hard “no” from my son.

I noticed Morgan’s expression when David was discussing the safety features of the leashes and harnesses.

I was trying to get a sense of how he was feeling, and if he was still up for the tour, he caught me “being a mom,” and gave me “the look.” I knew with a guide like David, we would have an informative, fun and safe experience.

The look – “Mom, seriously, you need this picture?”

4. Reason Four: Your Safety Is Their Priority

Once off the chairlift, we all gathered around to watch David demonstrate the proper way to clip the carabiners onto the heavy Via Ferrata cable. After some practice and final adjustments of our climbing harnesses and helmets, we set off towards the security gate at the entrance of the Via Ferrata routes.

acmg mountain guide
David, showing us how it is done.
teen climbing at mt norquay'rs via ferrata
Clip on, unclip, repeat.

 Hum so far so good. If my son wanted to bail at this point, he could. We hadn’t yet passed through the security gate and into the climbing routes. 

Once we passed through the safety gate, we made our way over to the first section of cable. Within minutes we were safely clipped onto the wire, climbing and quickly gaining elevation.  

Heading up to the start of the climbing route.
If you look at the top of this picture, you can see the suspension bridge with someone on it.
We have reached the cable. The climb begins.

5. Reason Five: Walk Across a Skinny, Bouncy Suspension Bridge.

It didn’t take long to get to the suspension bridge and , up until this point, all of us were moving with ease.

Morgan was third across the bridge. At this point I confirmed what I had known for a while: his fear of heights had been an excuse all this time. Seeing the huge smile on his face as he finished crossing the bridge was so priceless that his “fear of heights” excuse didn’t matter to me.  

No fear – walked right across.

As I was crossing the bridge, which was the first of my many ” take deep breaths” moment, it dawned on me that many mountaineers cross on similar bridges. Where else would I be able to cross a well-maintained suspension bridge and still feel like a mountaineer? Not one other place came to mind.

Phew, I made it!

After I got over the very bouncy suspension bridge, I realized that my inner mountain goat was still struggling to come out. I deliberately decided to take the last position in the group.

Being last provided me with the opportunity to take some photos without slowing anyone down behind me. It also allowed me time to check out some fossils along the way (that is my excuse, and I’m sticking with it!).

trace fossisl in a rock on mt. norquay
Trace fossils, millions of years old.

Disclaimer: After Morgan watched me tiptoe across the suspension bridge, he willingly admitted that he sometimes made up his fear of heights so I wouldn’t ask him to hike with me. You have to love the honesty. 

6. Reason Six: You May See Wildlife And You Will See a Keystone Species.

The chairlift travels over the wide-open sunny ski slopes, which are prime bear, elk and bighorn sheep habitat.

The chairlift also leads to an amazing viewpoint and the Cliff House Bistro.

On this particular day we saw a cinnamon-coloured black bear grazing on the remaining buffalo berries.

Cinamon-coloured black bear, foraging for the remaining ripe buffalo berries.

When I pointed out the bear, Morgan gave me the ” We live in Canmore and we see bears all the time.” look. 

White Bark Pine
This is a keystone species that is on the Species At Risk List

When we got to the very top, 2300 m above sea level, we saw White Bark Pines, a keystone species in our parks as well as a species at risk. 

Mt. Norquay is doing an excellent job of ensuring these ecologically significant trees will thrive in this area.  

7. Reason Seven: A Safe And Fun Way to Summit a Peak.

┬áMorgan had a great question: “Mom, is climbing ever that safe?” However, as first-timers on the Via Ferrata, both my son and I felt VERY safe and it was four hours of pure fun!

Strategically placed footrests assist you with the climb.
Safely clipped in, metal ladder to assist with climbing, hat, harness and decent boots.

8. Reason Eight: Guaranteed to Put a Smile on Your Face.

all smiles!

“That was freaking awesome, and I want to do the six-hour route the next time!

Morgan, 16 year old, first time Via Ferrata participant.

That was the “Thank You” I received from Morgan after we completed our tour.   

You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face either! Not just because of the fantastic tour and guide, but because I had a great day with my 16-year-old son. 

This is the final push to the top and a big smile from me, or perhaps I was gritting my teeth.
I’m flexible and fit, but I will be honest, this last pitch pushed me out of my comfort zone.
WORTH IT!
The view from David’s perspective as he looks down onto his guests.

My sons are making plans to do the six-hour Summiter Tour next summer. The Four Hour Ridgewaler Via Ferrata tour gave me some excellent insight into why people climb, and why I don’t.

Who knows, if I’m invited, I will join my boys next summer. After all, the Mt. Norquay Via Ferrata is one of Banff’s best outdoor mountain activity to do as a family with teenagers and young adults.

This group was doing the six-hour Summiter tour.

9. Reason Nine: Walk Along The Top Of a Ridge.

How often does one walk along a ridge without previous hiking experience? Rarely! Once you reach the summit you follow a pathway across the ridge, hence the name of the tour “RidgeWalk”.

This is not a big deal for people who hike in the mountains on a regular basis. However, there was a couple on our tour from the state of Georgia and this was their first experienced climbing to 2300 m/7545 ft above sea level.

Looking southwest from the ridge
You can see the Bow River meandering through the valley floor.

At this point you do not need to be hooked onto the cable, but you should still be aware of your foot placement. Stay within the rock-lined pathway.

the path along the top is lined with rocks.

10. Reason Ten: White-Glove Treatment on The Way Back Down.

After completing the ridge walk you will start to descend back to the chairlift. This is where you will need to put on the white gloves that were provided at the start of the tour.

Why? There are sections of cable that you can hold onto. You do not necessarily need to clip in on the way down and the gloves protect you from any sharp edges on the cable.

In addition, loose rock can really cut your hands up if you take a tumble.

We recently decided that we will provide experiences, and not materialistic items as gifts.
I”m so very thankful for the opportunity provided by Mt. Norquay.
This was an excellent experience and one that we highly recommend.
Heading back down, with protective gloves on.

Need To Know

  • 12 is the minimum age requirement for the Explorer and Ridgewalker Tour.
  • 14 is the minimum age requirement for the Skyline and Summiter Tours.
  • For all routes, the minimum weight is 40kg (88lbs) and maximum weight is 140 kg (308 lbs).
  • Book online and book in advance as tours sell out quickly.

What Does Via Ferrata Mean?

It is Italian for “Iron Path.” Personally, I also think it sounds like an Italian Red Wine. Which, I had a glass of when I got home that day to celebrate.

A very special thank you to Banff Mt. Norquay for the tickets. It was an amazing experience, and yes, these are mine and my son’s own opinions and words.

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