Looking for a ‘Stairway to Heaven’? Try the Austrian Alps.

The Grosser Donnerkogel via ferrata, or ‘iron way,’ draws climbers seeking mountain highs and sublime vistas.

PHOTOGRAPH BY QUIN SCHROCK

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.

(Here’s how to scale via ferratas in the Dolomites.)

Read This Next

Here's why the CDC reversed course on masks indoors

Tokyo became a megacity by reinventing itself

The surprising ways sharks keep the ocean healthy

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet