Worldwide warning to users of via ferrata sets
13 September 2012, BERN, Switzerland: The UIAA - International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation is issuing a worldwide warning to users of via ferrata sets to check the websites of manufacturers in order to find out whether the unit they are using is safe.
The warning follows a fatal accident on 5 August 2012 on a via ferrata in the vicinity of Walchsee in Tirol, Austria where a climber fell several meters and both lanyards on the energy-absorbing devices (EAS), also known as klettersteig sets, broke.
The manufacturer of the set carried out an investigation after the accident. The probe found that that the lanyard's strength was dramatically affected after intensive use not only because of its specific construction but also due to the material used.
A meeting of the Safety Commission took place on 6 September 2012 in Bern, Switzerland, to review the accident because the via ferrata unit involved met safety standards as set out by the UIAA Safety Commission. The meeting was attended by national delegates, representatives of 16 manufacturers and UIAA laboratories in France and the Czech Republic.
The companies that attended the UIAA Safety Commission meeting were DMM, Edelrid, Petzl, Skylotec, AustriAlpin, Mammut, Salewa, Climbing Technology, Grivel, Beal, Ocun, Lanex, Singing Rock, Camp Cassin and Simond.
The UIAA Safety Commission is made up national delegates from alpine clubs, manufacturers who submit to the UIAA Safety Standard and UIAA laboratories which conduct safety tests on behalf of the commission. The commission maintains a database of certified equipment and recalls.
The organization operates through the work of its commissions which make recommendations, set policy and advocate on behalf of the mountaineering community. The UIAA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee for mountaineering and natural surface climbing.
Jean Franck Charlet
UIAA Safety Commission
14 September 2012: Press release from UIAA:
See the attached file for "Recommendations for the Construction of Klettersteigs (also known as via ferrate and wire cable belay systems" produced by the German Alpine Club and the Austrian Board of Mountain Safety.
full response from Ezemvelo. For those unfamiliar with via ferrata (such as your editor) see the article in Wikipedia on the subject. President Dave Jones has written an official response from the Mountain Club of South Africa to the concerns raised about unauthorized via ferrata in the Drakensberg.
RESPONSE TO PRESS RELEASE BY EZEMVELO
UNAUTHORISED VIA FERRATA IN THE DRAKENSBERG
The Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) notes with concern that a Via Ferrata Route has been constructed in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site apparently without the management authorities of this protected area having been consulted or made aware. (Ezemvelo press release refers)
The Mountain Club was not aware of this activity until it had been completed and it shares the concern of Ezemvelo that the construction of this route could be in conflict with National Environmental Management and Nature Conservation legislation and that it might have a negative ecological impact.
The Mountain Club further notes, still with concern, that a press release by Ezemvelo makes mention of a joint Fixed Protection Policy between the MCSA and Ezemvelo and that the construction of this Via Ferrata appears to be in conflict with that agreement which was drawn up with conventional climbing in mind. Via Ferratas are somewhat different from protection fitted for conventional rock climbing, but authorisation should still have been obtained from Ezemvelo before its construction even by persons who are not aware of this agreement..
The mention of this joint agreement confirms a long standing policy in the Mountain Club which recognises that there are clear ownership rights in South Africa, even in undeveloped mountain terrain, and that prior consultation is required between those who wish to access and to use such land and its owners. Such prior consultation and respect for property is always expected of MCSA members, whether they are on private land or in a protected area. In all such consultation the Mountain Club has actively promoted the protection and conservation of mountain wilderness areas and of activities which have as low an impact on the environment as possible.
Ezemvelo may rest assured that internal investigations are under way within the Mountain Club, beginning with those Sections closely involved in the area, to determine how this Via Ferrata came to be constructed and for what purpose.
It may be useful to record that the Aims and Objects of the Mountain Club of South Africa, inter alia, include the following:
1. Procure and Protect Real Rights in and Access to Mountains and Mountain Areas
2. Initiate and Support Actions towards Protecting the Natural Beauty and Wilderness Character of Mountains and to Promote their Effective Conservation Management.
Dave Jones - National President MCSA
5 January 2012
For immediate release: Legal Action to be instituted against those responsible…
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), an authority responsible for the management of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site, has distanced itself from the recently erected via ferrata route across the face of Beacon Buttress within the Royal Natal Management Unit of the Ukhahlamba Drankensberg Park World Heritage Site.
Ezemvelo has further informed those responsible for this erection of the via ferrate route that legal action will be instituted against them as their action is in contravention of a number of acts and regulations that govern the management of a World Heritage Site.
The National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (NEMPA) 57 of 2003 Section 5 (read in conjunction with NEMPA Amendment Act 31 of 2004) states that “No development, construction or farming may be permitted in a national park, nature reserve or world heritage site without the prior written approval of the management authority”.
The change of any land use of any undetermined (natural) land for recreational purposes, as contemplated in the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations of the Environmental Conservation Act 73 of 1989 under section 2(c) is considered a Listed Activity and therefore requires sufficient scoping and authorisation to be issued. Section 1(f) of the same Regulations also prohibits the construction of cableways for tourist access to scenic landscapes without the necessary scoping.
The erection of the route is also in clear contravention of the Nature Conservation Ordinance 15 of 1974 Chapter 2 part 1 Section 15(d) which prohibits the damage of any geological material within a nature reserve..
Dr Bandile Mkhize, Ezemvelo CEO expressed his shock when he heard of this route. “It is unheard of that an individual would go to a World Heritage Site and interfere with its landscape without first obtaining necessary authorisation from the authority responsible for its management. Such action undermines all the applicable laws and cannot go unchallenged.”
Ezemvelo is also aware of the uneasiness that the erection of this route has caused amongst different community and mountain climbing organisations. It clearly breaches the joint Fixed Protection policy of the Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA) and Ezemvelo to which the individuals responsible for the route subscribe.
“We would like to allay fears of all such organisations and categorically state that a via ferrata route is not in line with our future plans for this area. The area is not a proclaimed wilderness area though it is our aim to manage it towards wilderness.” Dr Mkhize stated.
For further information contact the Media Manager, Waheeda Peters, on 083 557 9555/033 845 1235 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Richert, Conservation Manager, Royal Natal National Park, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Private Bag X1669, Bergville 3350
Tel: 036 4386412 Fax: 036 4386412 Cell: 082 459 0279 Email: email@example.com