The photo is of one of the shorter of the seven zips we did in Ketchican, last week. Vi is arriving at a tree platform as our guide Katie reaches out to grab her. The second photo is of me starting a zip. You can see how far I have to go to the next tree platform.
Our zipline adventure has been the highlight of our Alaska family vacation. Two of our granddaughters and our son-in-law (their dad) accompanied us. We all had a fine time.
All of you have seen people on ziplines, but how many have actually done it?
I was amazed when Vi informed me she had signed up to join our grands on this zipline adventure. I was kind of challenged into signing up as well. Prior to and during the cruise from Vancouver Canada to Alaska, Vi continually brought up the zipline. Quite frankly, I was somewhat worried even though I am the more physically adventurous of the two of us.
As we sailed into Ketchican and debarked for the bus that would take us to Alaska Canopy Adventures [click to see more photos and info], I was very worried. First, that I would chicken out and second that Vi would have some sort of trouble.
There were seven in our group, our family plus a wonderful couple, Craig and Ann, who provided us with some great photos including the one of Vi above. We were fitted with gloves, helmets and harnesses, which turned out to be quite comfortable.
The harness fastened around the waist with loops for the legs and shoulders. The main support came up the front and connected to two pulleys, one on the bottom cable and one on the top cable. There are also two safety straps that are fastened to the cable at the tree platform or that hook to the pulley mechanism during the zip. At least one safety strap is fastened at all times.
During the zip your left hand holds the top of the pulley assembly and your right hand holds the main support (as if you were holding a microphone). We were instructed to sit with our legs raised for best aerodynamics. As we approached the target tree platform, our guide Katie would signal for us to place our right hand behind our head and gently rest it on the cable, squeezing it just enough to slow us for a nice landing. This is fine only in theory.
Both Vi and I had some bad landings and Katie really earned her pay.
The problem I had was on the first long zip, after a good ride on the short intro zip. My legs rotated to the right and I found myself going sideways. That could have affected the aerodynamics and resulted in a landing short of the target. I tried to rotate my left hand to correct the rotation, but my attempt backfired and I found myself riding backwards! (Quick, hold your left hand above your head and imagine it is on the top of the pulley assembly and your legs are rotating to the right. Which way should you rotate your hand? Well, in the excitement, I rotated it the wrong way.)
Well, here I was going full speed, but backwards, and I was unable to see the signal to put my right hand on the cable to slow down. Also, I was unsure where to safely place my hand without risking having my fingers dragged into the pulley. So I came into the target tree platform too fast and slammed into Katie who, in turn, slammed into the padding on the tree trunk. Fortunately, she has had experience with this type of landing and knew what to do to prevent any injury to either of us.
Vi had the opposite problem. When she saw Katie signal to slow down, she over-reacted and landed short of the platform. All I could see in the distance through the tree branches were her legs running in space as Katie pulled her up to the platform.
After these misadventures, both Vi and I were instructed to place our right hand over the top of our left hand on the pulley assembly (rather than in the normal "microphone" position). That helped keep our legs straight ahead during the remaining zips.
In addition to the seven zips, we also walked over a bouncy, shaky suspension bridge, repelled down 30 feet, and went down a 250 foot slide.
Here we were in a totally unfamiliar situation, flying between trees high above the ground, suspended by a pulley contraption. During the adventure, our guides were very professional and reassuring and, strangely as I think about it now, neither of us felt any fear. Yet, having done it, and enjoying having done it, I do not think I will ever do it again.