The Hudson Valley’s First Via Ferrata at Mohonk Mountain House

  |  February 15, 2024

The Mohonk Mountain house Via Ferrata hangs between ledges of the Shawangunk Ridge.

Ever since internationally acclaimed climber Fritz Wiessner spotted the Shawangunk Ridge while climbing in Cold Spring in 1929, the Gunks have contributed to rock climbing’s popularity in the United States. While our area offers ample opportunities for rock scrambling, accessible to most people with some hiking skills and a little moxie, traditional (trad) rock climbing has a steeper learning curve. While it’s totally possible to hire a guide and get out on a rock face for a day, some people might want to experience the essence of rock climbing minus the investment of time and money. Enter the Via Ferrata.

Via ferrata translates loosely from Italian into “iron way” or “iron path” and dates back to World War I in the Dolomites. The military was trying to figure out how to get troops and equipment up and over the mountain, and they developed a system of permanently fixed steel cables and iron rungs to move men and materials. When the war ended,  the hardware stayed, so it started to be used for recreational purposes.

Guests traverse Mohonk Mountain House’s via ferrata.

Now, via ferratas are built purely for recreation, allowing people without technical climbing skills to experience mountainous areas and vistas that would otherwise be inaccessible. There are over 1,000 via ferratas in Europe, but only 24 in the US  east of the Mississippi—one in West Virginia, one in Kentucky, and now there’s a via ferrata at Mohonk Mountain House, currently available only to overnight guests.

The idea came about three years ago when Alex Sherwood, Mohonk Mountain House’s Director of Hotel Operations, had downtime during the COVID shutdown and sat around the campfire brainstorming with President Eric Gullickson. “There’s always been an enormous focus on making sure that whenever we’re adding anything—whether it’s hotel rooms or activities—it all has to make sense,” Sherwood says. “It can’t follow a fad, and it has to make sense based on the history of Mohonk and the guiding principles of preserving and respecting the land.”

Mohonk’s via ferrata is the first in the Hudson Valley.

Gullickson and Sherwood decided it was worth pursuing, so Sherwood picked up the phone. His first call was to Marty Molitoris, founder and director of Alpine Endeavors, Mohonk’s official guide service. “I asked Marty to meet me for lunch, and he almost choked on his salad when I told him I was thinking about a via ferrata at Mohonk.”

Sherwood and Molitoris got on the same page but realized that before they even got into the logistics, they’d have to think about the ethos of a via ferrata in the Shawangunks, which the Nature Conservancy named one of the “last great places” on earth. Because a via ferrata is a permanent installation, they had to get it right.

Guests scale the via ferrata along one of the ledges in the Gunks.

Sherwood’s next steps were to scout locations and connect with Adventure Partners, a leader in via ferrata and aerial walkway installation. Next Sherwood wanted support and endorsement from locals. The Gunks are one of the most famous rock climbing destinations in the United States for trad climbing, where protection is set and removed for each climb, and a via ferrata is basically the opposite of that.

“One of our first, most critical calls was to Mohonk Preserve President Kevin Case,” Sherwood says. “We work in unison with them and wanted them to understand our thought process.” The next conversation was with Russ Clune, climbing legend and chair of the Mohonk Preserve. Sherwood says Clune had concerns about the location—he was glad to hear they weren’t planning the via ferrata on Sky Top—but was “resoundingly supportive.”


The progression of difficulty at Mohonk (and all over the Hudson Valley) ranges from a regular hike on carriage roads, to slightly more technical footpaths, to rock scrambling, to trad climbing. The via ferrata fits in the middle of all that and brings a rock-climbing-adjacent experience to those who might not otherwise get to experience the thrill of hanging on a rock face.

The via ferrata takes about three hours and costs $250. Participants should be in good health and capable of walking, hiking, stepping, stooping, and gripping with their hands. For those not quite up to the via ferrata, Mohonk also offers a Pinnacle Ledge Tour, which is less intense, is suitable for beginners, takes about two hours, and costs $75.


“We can get you to parts of the cliff you’ve never been to before, and that’s the most exciting piece of this whole puzzle to me,” Sherwood says. “We can get people to places they’ve only seen from afar, and they can do it safely and at their own pace.”

The Via Ferrata and Pinnacle Ledge experiences are only offered to overnight guests. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (845) 256-2186 or emailing All participants must be 13 or older and weigh between 88 and 264 pounds, adhering to safety harness specifications.

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