A fantastic via ferrata! The via ferrata La Roche à l’Agathe is a superb route overlooking the town of Thones in the Aravis. The direct finish is considered to be one of the hardest via ferrata in France. The route is full of steep sections maintaining interest throughout.
Parking is easy with less than ten minutes walk to reach the foot of the route. Set off by the information panel and zig-zag up through the beech woods to the start with a further information board and the start of the cable.
The Via Ferrata
The route starts off up easy slabs overlooking the cliff to the left. A short descent leads to the first “interest” – a “monkey” bridge (consisting of 2 wires). The exposure soon makes itself felt as you reach the far side and the steep cliff above. The way on is hidden from sight. A few steeper moves and the steepness relents. As you continue a steep rising traverse from right to left you will enjoy steep walls and increasing views over the town of Thones. Beyond you the mountain of La Tournette above Lac d’Annecy and the valley leading to the Col de Marais. As you climb higher a series of steeper sections keep the arms working. There’s an “escape route” off to the right at about 2/3 height. You can see the ladder to the right of the direct finish looming above. A hard pull takes you to the platform where you have three choices. The direct finish, the ladder or an escape to the right that joins the descent route.
If you are confident and have the arms to match go for the direct finish. However don’t be found lacking as running out of strength can leave you unable to go on and reversing what you’ve already climbed may be taxing. My tip: be capable of around 10 “dead-hang” pull ups. Note: this is one of the few via ferrata to have seen fatal accidents. If you decide on the ladder it is climbed up the inside, i.e. next to the cliff, facing out over the valley – weird! At the top a stride takes you back on to the cliff above. The two options re-join just above. You are then treated to some easy climbing up limestone slabs with characteristic water-worn runnels. You are now at the top!
The descent is protected by a cable for the first half of the return. Finally you reach a well-defined path amongst the beech woods. This path leads down to a chapel and a track that takes you back to the quiet road and parking. The hotel bar is tempting if you need some refreshment.
The via ferrata la Roche à l’Agathe overlooks the town of Thones in the Aravis a short journey from Annecy.
The via ferrata faces south. If the day is going to be hot it’s worth completing the route in the morning before the sun gets on to the face.
Other via ferrata in the area
The Tour de la Jalouvre near Le Grand Bornand
Yves Pollet-Villard between La Clusaz and the Col des Aravis.