Daring rock climbing thieves pull off high altitude heist

Climbing via ferrata on schwarzhorn 2928m in Grindelwald Switzerland
The smash-and-grab took place on the longest Via Ferrata in Switzerland (Image credit: Henrik Trygg)

In a high altitude heist that would put both Danny Ocean and Ethan Hunt to shame, thieves in Switzerland have pulled off a heist on a technical rock climbing route at a dizzying 7,700 feet above sea level.

Over a weekend that saw perfect climbing weather and lots of keen climbers out enjoying the conditions, it appears the daring thieves ascended 216 meters of ladders and crossed more than 2,000 meters of steel cables over narrow gorges on the longest protected climbing route in Switzerland, all to rob a collection box. The challenging route, known as a via ferrata, crosses the Gemmi Pass and can take climbers up to 5.5 miles to complete.

In a Facebook post, volunteer members of the climbing club expressed their dismay at the burglary, which emptied the box of cash donations that help them maintain the famous route.

“The members of the IG Klettersteig maintain the via ferrata without pay and in exchange for something in return.”

The post included a photograph showing the metal collection box that had been smashed open, and the BBC reports some 400 - 500 Swiss francs ($450 - 560) were taken.

A facebook post shows the damage to the cash box on the Via Ferrata

The perpetrators would need to possess advanced climbing skills to successfully reach the box (Image credit: FACEBOOK/VIAFERRATA-LEUKERBAD)

The perpetrators would need to possess advanced climbing skills to successfully ascend such a route, which is found in the steep rock face of the Daubenhorn, a mountain in the Bernese Alps, located above the town of Leukerbad,

Typically, climbers crossing the via ferrata would leave cash in the box to help volunteers maintain the route. Switzerland is a country long proud of their pristine climbing and hiking routes, and the club has a clear message for the thieves.

“We wish the perpetrators nothing bad, but that they will have a guilty conscience for all eternity on every excursion in the mountains.”

In good news, a local benefactor has sent the club 500 francs to replace the stolen funds.

Via ferrata is a recreational activity that involves ascending steep, often exposed mountain routes by way of a series of fixed cables, rungs, chains and/or ladders attached to the rock – the term via ferrata literally means “iron way”. When doing a via ferrata route, climbers/hikers use a harness and a duo of lanyards with carabiners attached to the ends to clip themselves to the cables and progress safely between the iron/steel poles between which the cables run.

Julia Clarke

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.