Proposed features/Via ferrata simplified

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Via Ferrata difficulty classification and features on ways and relations
Status: Proposed (under way)
Proposed by: pangoSE
Tagging: via_ferrata_scale=0-6
Applies to: way
Definition: A mountain route equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges.
Rendered as: Proposal rendering sac scale via ferrata.svgsymbol for overlay:Karabiner.svg
Drafted on: 2018-09-03
Proposed on: 2019-03-05
RFC start: 2019-03-05

The 3 main goals of this proposal are:

  1. the removal of the special tag highway=via_ferrata,
  2. encouraging tagging of via ferratas as routes and
  3. general improvement of the data about via ferratas in OSM via new keys (see below).

In this proposal highway=path is interpreted broadly as: a path along which a human with some degree of preparation can travel. The whole problem of rendering or not, people ending up on difficult climbing paths without proper skills or preparation is avoided and left to the renderer (and user). In the case of OSM Carto the smart thing may be to not render paths that has via_ferrata_scale=* and/or sac_scale=* on it or render them with a danger symbol or something like that.

In this proposal route=hiking is defined broadly as in Tag:route=hiking: "Hiking routes are named or numbered or otherwise signed routes. A route is a customary or regular line of travel, often pre-determined and publicised. It consist of paths taken repeatedly by various people." -> this includes climbing routes of various difficulty



highway=via_ferrata, route=via_ferrata and route=ferrata.


via_ferrata=yes or via_ferrata_scale=0-6 by default implies:

  • unsuitable/forbidden for bicycles, horses and similar
  • wheelchair=no


Tagging a relation as a via ferrata allows more flexible and precise mapping in cases where sections of the ferrata are stairs, ladders, walkable paths or climbing routes and when they have operators, fees, names, websites, seasonal access, operator, minimum age, minimum weight, maximum weight and more.


See the full definition on wikipedia [1]

A via ferrata is a route equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges in order to increase ease and security for climbers. Some via ferrata require equipment for safety reasons: climbing harness, shock absorber and two short lengths of rope, but do not require a long rope as for climbing.

Via ferrata tagging on ways

Via ferratas are encouraged to be mapped on ways with sac_scale=* and via_ferrata_scale=*. Names, descriptions, etc. should be in a via ferrata relation, see below.

Via ferrata tagging on relations

Create a relation of type=route, route=hiking, via_ferrata=yes and add all ways belonging to the via ferrata to it. The ways can be of different types such as highway=path, steps or other as appropriate. Add difficulty rating to the segments.

The relation can also have name, description and other common tags as appropriate. A follow up proposal could propose tags for which equipment might be wise to bring along.

The following tags can be added to further detail the route:

Key Comment
colour=* Colour of the route
fee=yes/no Some route operators charge fees.
height=* Height of the route from bottom to top if applicable.
min_age=* Age restriction
max_age=* Age restriction
min_weight=* Weight restriction
max_weight=* Weight restriction

See [2] for an example of a route that is managed, has a fee, restricts based on age and weight, etc.

Seasonal Access

Some ferratas are seasonally closed due to a variety of restrictions (wildlife, snow/ice, etc.). These restrictions are typically posted on physical signs in the vicinity of the respective ferratas.

As used for other ways (and relations), access:conditional=* in conjunction with the opening_hours=* syntax can be used to map such restrictions.

Rating via ferrata's difficulty

There is no "world wide scale" for via_ferrata diffculty, The "German" Huesler scale (as taken from Wikipedia 1 ) seems to be the only one with quite objective qualifications. Therefore it is used for OSM with the addition of very little difficulty / French F.

Key Value Element Description Conversion Examples
via_ferrata_scale 0 waynode Subjective Difficulty very little

Way/Surroundings Flat to steep, Exposed sections possible

Securance Steel cables, chains, stemples (metal rungs) and partly short iron ladders. Short and easy.

Exigencies Surefootedness and being free from giddiness recommendable. No problem for unsporty

Equipment Basic Via-Ferrata kit may be recommended but is not used by most people


German: none - very easy

via_ferrata_scale 1 waynode Subjective Difficulty little

Way/Surroundings Flat to steep, usually rocky. Exposed sections possible

Securance Steel cables, chains, stemples (metal rungs) and partly short iron ladders. Most parts are usable without using the artificial securance

Exigencies Surefootedness and being free from giddiness recommendable. Being as sporty as a white collar employee enough (for the ferrata itself, depending on the overall journey it may be different)

Equipment Basic via ferrata kit recommended. Experienced ferrata users are often met without self-securance

French: PD

German: A-K1 - little difficult

via_ferrata_scale 2 waynode Subjective Difficulty litte to slightly difficult, in parts a bit demanding or exhausting

Way/Surroundings steep rocky area, in parts small steps, exposed terrain is common

Securance Steel cables, chains, stemples, Tritttifte??, long ladders (also vertical). Usage bypassing securances possible, but then climbing up to UIAA III / French 3 are to be expected

Exigencies Same as for 1, but better shape and a bit more power and endurance in legs and arms are advantageous

Equipment Via ferrata kit recommended. Usage also possible as rope team

French: AD

German: B-K2 - moderately difficult

via_ferrata_scale 3 waynode Subjective Difficulty largely difficult, exigeant and straining

Way/Surroundings steep to very steep rock faces, mostly only small steps, longer or many exposed sections

Securance Steel cables, stemples, Trittstifte, often longer ladders, even overhanging ladders and stemples to be expected, sometimes in vertical sections only steel cables existing, Usable bypassing securances usually possible, but then climbing up to UIAA IV/ French 4 is the norm

Exigencies Good shape, longer ascents in difficult sections are demanding as ferratas of this difficulty are already among the bigger ferratas (sic! better translation?)

Equipment Via ferrata kit heavily recommended. Unexperienced or children should eventually even be roped in

French: D

German: C-K3 - difficult

via_ferrata_scale 4 waynode Subjective Difficulty very difficult, very demanding and very straining

Way/Surroundingsvertical, often overhanging areas, largely very exposed

Securance Steel cables, stemples, Trittstifte (often spaced with large distance), in exposed section often no more than a steel cable

Exigencies Same as for 3, but general good body shape needed. Good power in hands and arms as longer vertical to overhanging sections are possible. Also small climbing sections up to difficulty UIAA II / French 2 may need to be cleared.

Equipment Via ferrata kit obligatory, even very experienced via ferrata users will be met in a rope team. Not recommended for children or inexperienced

French: TD

German: D-K4 - very difficult

via_ferrata_scale 5 waynode Subjective Difficulty Extremely difficulty because very straining and exceedingly arduous.

Way/Surroundings Vertical to Overhanging; consistently exposed, very small steps or slab climbing

Securance As for 4 but much more climbing parts

Exigencies Lots of power in hands (fingers), arms and legs. Increased levels of fitness, flexibility needed. Long section may need to be cleared with main weight carried by the arms

Equipment Via ferrata kit obligatory. Rope teams especially for those sections without steel ropes or other securances considerable; not recommendable for beginners or children

French: ED

German: E-K5 - extreme difficulty

via_ferrata_scale 6 waynode Subjective Difficulty More than extremely difficulty because very straining and exceedingly arduos and very good climbings skills are needed.

Way/Surroundings Largely Overhanging; exposed, very small steps or slab climbing

Securance As for 5 combined with climbing

Exigencies Like 5, but good climbing technique obligatory

Equipment Via ferrata kit obligatory. Top rope recommended. Only for people that feel safe and have experience using scale 5 ferratas. Note currently the only known ferrata of this difficulty in the European Alps is found on the Buergeralm Klettersteig (Austria) with "Arena Variante" 1

French: ABO

German: F-K6 more than extreme difficulty

  • Note: You can add a + or a - after the value to indicate that the via ferrata is on bottom or top of the grade.
  • sac_scale=* may be added where advanced hikers might still securely use the via ferrata.
  • Note: I took out the two French beginner sections as the German scale does not make a differentiation. I propose to enter it as 0 - very easy with a classification like "Basically demanding_mountain_hiking but in exposed sections. For frightened or inexperienced people steel cables or short ladders or a few stemples might be part of the way. Is in general not considered as a via ferrata but a normal way featuring via ferrata objects. Via Ferrata kit in general not used and only insecure people use the eventual steel cables. --Extremecarver 18:29, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Details along the way

Those tags have to be added to the main one if used (i.e not alone) some are already approved so they are part of this proposal as an extension use

Key Value Element Comment Example
bridge yes waynode An unspecified bridge type along the via ferrata route Left
bridge:structure simple-suspension way "Tibetan" or other very simple hanging/swinging bridges including 2 or more rope bridges see bridge:structure=simple-suspension for more details Left
cable_number 2 or more waynode For cable bridges the total number of cables, in addition to bridge=yes and bridge:structure=simple-suspension Left (here a 3 cable bridge)
aerialway zip_line waynode A zip line along the via ferrata route see Proposed feature/aerialway=zip line
Tirolina en ferrata.jpg
oneway yes way It the via ferrata is not allowed both ways  
ladder length in m waynode Steel ladder
tunnel yes waynode A tunnel/cave along the via ferrata route Left
overhang yes/no/ length in m waynode Overhanging sections of significant length  

Related proposals

This proposal relates to the following proposals. The two first are used on a handful thousand objects presumably because no approved proposals exist that cover hiking that requires special climbing equipment and specially prepared routes with safety wires aka. via ferratas.

Please discuss on talk page