Stuart Forster attempts to go tree climbing at Zip World Fforest in Snowdonia National Park, Wales.
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My legs feel weak and my heart is thumping. Vikki looks into my eyes and offers calm words of encouragement; she’s come to rescue me from the practice loop of the ropes course near Betws-y-Coed in north Wales.
I know that I’m safe, after all, I’m wearing a safety harness, a helmet and I’m attached to a safety line. Not five minutes ago, Vikki demonstrated that it could take my weight.
I’ve just seen a group of kids scampering fearlessly across the ropes and know that my upper body strength means I can get around without problems. Unexpectedly, though, my long-dormant fear of heights has erupted. I’ve frozen.
Adventure in Snowdonia National Park
It’s an odd moment and I’m now holding up the group I’m with. Logically I know I’m safe and only, at most, a dozen feet above the ground. Illogically, though, standing by the edge of a raised platform has proven too much for me. My body refuses to follow orders and step out onto the next of the ropes suspended in the woodland of Snowdonia National Park.
Vikki chooses her words carefully, eventually helping me get around the practice loop and back onto the raised wooden platform marking the beginning of the high ropes course.
Climbing in the tree tops
Despite the underlying feeling that I’ve let myself down, I also feel a sense of achievement at making it back, albeit with Vikki’s help of course. I’m also mightily relieved that I didn’t dash straight out onto the main section of the Adventurers’ Course, which is significantly higher. “That’s why we’ve got this section,” says Vikki in a matter-of-fact tone.
While my group heads out over the high ropes I decide to photograph people navigating the obstacles along the course, which opened in 2007. Zip World Fforest is the country’s longest continual high ropes course and the brainchild of Sean Taylor, a former parachute instructor who served with the Royal Marines. The course ends with a parachute simulator, a power fan jump, by which people return to the forest floor.
After a cup of coffee and a light lunch in the onsite cafe whose wooden design reminds me of an Alpine Almhütte, I decide that I’d better redeem myself.
Climbing the Powerfan Plummet
I decide to try the Powerfan Plummet, the world’s highest parachute simulator, which means climbing a series of metal hooks to a platform that looks like the crow’s nest of a sailing ship. The platform stands 106 feet (32.31 metres) above the ground.
Once again I’m secured by a harness and this time I decide that, whatever happens, I simply won’t look down until I reach the top. I keep my arms and knees pumping until reaching the platform, which offers a fine view of the Conwy Valley and surrounding countryside.
Jumping to the ground
The instructor attaches me to the powerfan, via ropes and a carabiner, then counts me down from three. On ‘zero’ I take a big step over the edge and fall. It’s with an immense sense of relief that I feel myself slowing as I come towards the ground, which I kneel down and kiss.
Now that my adrenalin’s pumping I’m getting the hang of the adventure activities here at Tree Top Adventure. I decide to give the Sky Ride a go. “It’s the only five-person 3-G swing in the world,” explains Sean as he straps me and four others onto a wooden beam.
Riding a giant swing
We’re winched upwards and backwards while a crowd of onlookers gathers. At a height of 80 feet (28.38 metres) we stop and, after a few seconds to enjoy the view, we whoosh forwards and over the spectators, who have no idea how close are to seeing the chicken wrap I had for lunch. The Sky Ride provides an intense sensation but it’s enjoyable, and, for me, the easiest of the activities.
Heights are by no means my thing; I’m out of my comfort zone as soon as I even stand on a chair. It’s testimony to the professionalism of Sean and his staff that I’ve had an enjoyable day and, despite my early wobble, felt safe throughout.
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