There’s a simple rule of thumb to follow when climbing the “Stairway to Heaven,” which hangs over an abyss in the Austrian Alps: Stay focused on your footsteps, and whatever you do, don’t look down.
This vertiginous ladder makes up a section of the Grosser Donnerkogel via ferrata. Italian for “iron way,” a via ferrata is a path built into a mountain’s rock face, with fixtures, such as metal rungs, that follow a secured cable. The term gained popularity after mountaineers appropriated the network built across Italy’s Dolomites during World War I to assist soldiers navigating high altitudes. Now these paths allow climbers without advanced technical skills to access exceptional vistas and summits.