“Place your toes at the edge of the platform and then take one confident step forward.”
Trying not to think too much, I shuffled away from the gate and towards the edge of the platform, leveling my gaze on a nearby hillside to avoid fixating on the landing area, two stories below. High along the hill, another group of red-helmet-wearing adventurers was making its way up the trail towards the tenth and final zipline tower at the Edge Ziplines & Adventure Park.
Our group was scheduled for our own zipline tour later that afternoon. In the meantime, it was our turn on the Adventure Tower, a 75ft behemoth rising high above the parking lot. More specifically, it was my turn on the QuickFlight free fall device.
“I actually think it’s easier to go off backwards,” our guide advised me from his position behind the safety fence. “That way you don’t have to look at the ground before you start to fall.”
Now I don’t know about you, but I found this little nugget to be somewhat counterproductive. Never in my life could I remember taking one confident step backwards. So, instead of following our guide’s advice, I inadvertently did exactly the opposite.
I immediately looked down.
Far below, a circle of co-workers was staring back up at me, their hands pressed tight against their foreheads to block out the midday sun. Behind me, a line snaked down the stairs through the center of the tower, composed of engineers and technicians eagerly awaiting their turns to field test their creations.
“Whenever you’re ready,” our guide told me. “Remember, one confident step.”
Gripping the webbing line against my right shoulder, I took one (semi) confident step forward. The platform disappeared and I plunged toward the ground at an alarming rate. The next thing I knew, I was already down, a smile on my face and my heart thumping away inside of my chest.
All in all, not a bad day at the office.
Working in the Adventure Industry
Even for adventure industry professionals, it is sometimes possible to lose sight of why it is that you do what you do. Over the course of a normal workday, it can be surprisingly easy to slip into the minutia of a standard routine and lose sight of just how much fun your work brings to your end users.
In times like those, a field day might be exactly what you need.
Facility Spotlight: The Edge Ziplines & Adventure Park
The Edge Ziplines & Adventure Park is located in Castle Rock, Colorado, about an hour south of Head Rush Technologies’ Louisville-based headquarters. The Edge is made up primarily of four main attractions: a zip line course, the Adventure Tower, the Sky Trek high ropes course, and a ninja course, which includes three different sized warped walls and a salmon ladder (these, it turns out, are much, much harder than they look on tv).
The entire Head Rush Technologies staff was given the opportunity to visit the Edge and see for ourselves what one of Colorado’s top adventure parks had to offer. Besides, what better way to understand your own products than to use them for yourself?
We spent the better part of the morning climbing on, clinging to, and jumping off the Adventure Tower and then the rest of the afternoon cruising across Colorado hillsides on the epically long zipline course. These were some of the highlights:
Unique Climbing Elements
One area where the Edge really excels is in providing a variety of fun and quirky climbing elements that shake up the usual auto belay experience.
For the purists out there, there is a fifty-foot climbing wall sporting four TRUBLUE Auto Belays. While separate routes aren’t marked, the wall was designed to curl around the southern end of the tower, creating informal climbing lanes along the corners and forming a buffer between descent paths.
After taking a warmup lap to the top of the wall, I was ready to try out one of the more unusual climbing elements. Fortunately, I had plenty of options to choose between.
Personally, my favorite element was the action tower designed by Eldorado Climbing (pictured). The action tower was built from a series of giant, interconnected blocks and covered with a sequence of climbing holds that was both harder to grip than I expected and not especially intuitive to move between. Each time I reached for a new block, I found myself having to lean back, struggling to pick out the footholds hidden beneath the overhanging portion of the block.
Adding to the awkwardness of the climbing was the fact that the blocks were in a constant state of motion. While the blocks were connected, they were by no means stationary. To counteract this swaying motion, you could elect to climb the action tower with a partner. By climbing on opposite sides of the blocks and coordinating their movements, two climbers were able to work together to stabilize the treacherous blocks.
Dual QuickFlight Free Fall Devices
While the adventure tower was surrounded on three sides by climbing options, the staircase in the center led to multiple tiers of additional adventure elements. And the higher you went, the more daring these elements became.
It began with the 1m QuickFlight. Although the free fall duration was shorter than it was in the higher levels, taking that “one confident step” off the platform was a taller task than I had expected it to be. Unlike skydiving, for example, where the ground feels like it’s a long, long ways away, when you’re standing on a twenty-foot platform, that ground can feel uncomfortably close.
And then there’s the 2m QuickFlight – close enough to the ground to concern anyone with an overactive imagination, and yet still high enough for a good long lurch of free-fall-fueled adrenaline. For me, this was the pinnacle of our day at the Edge (hence the slightly melodramatic intro), and an experience I won’t soon forget.
45 Degree Zipline
Let’s dive into some of the more, let’s call them “inspired” attractions at the Edge. These next two rides used Head Rush products in ways I’d never even seen before, much less tried out for myself. They also took off from the third story of the Adventure Tower, some fifty-feet above the ground.
The first inspiration is known as the Kamikaze Zipline. As opposed to your standard zipline, this one was built to descend at a 45 degree angle, making it virtually impossible to step off the platform without taking a nice long look down.
In order to make this ridiculously steep zipline a reality, the Edge installed a zipBACK device to the top of the line. Once a rider reached the bottom, all that the guide had to do was unclip their harness and the zipBACK automatically recalled the connectors to the top of the tower.
The Leap of Faith
In a day filled with unique experiences, this one stands out above the others as the single most inventive use of our equipment. By combining two different Head Rush devices – a zipSTOP Zip Line Brake and a TRUBLUE Auto Belay -- the Edge managed to dream up something entirely new.
Unlike the other attractions on the Adventure Tower, on the Leap of Faith the carabiners are secured on the back of your harness. While this may not sound like such a dramatic change, when you’re standing on that third story platform preparing to jump, and you can’t actually see your safety line in front of you, let’s just say there’s an extra level of excitement.
The first step is to swan dive off the platform.
The unique combination of zipSTOP and TRUBLUE allows you to swoop towards the ground, simultaneously lowering and zipping away from the tower.
Zip Line Course
After lunch, we drove out to the crest of a nearby hill to check out the Edge Zip Line Course, the top-rated zip line tour in the Denver area.
In total, the zip line course consisted of 10 lines, spanning over two miles of terrain. After a quick orientation on the proper use of our trolleys and manual braking system (which took a couple of lines to get used to), we hiked up the hill and started down the first line – the shortest and slowest one of the day, and a nice warm up for what was to come.
Over the course of the next two hours, we careened across the hillsides, reaching speeds up to 50 mph and heights up to 100 ft above the ground. But these were not the only factors at play. As the lines grew gradually longer and faster, something interesting began to happen within our group. Riders who had initially been nervous about the first handful of zip lines in the course were steadily building confidence. It didn’t matter that we were zipping higher and faster than before, with every additional line, more and more people began to experiment with the system, leaning back in their harnesses and tucking their legs tight against their chests so that they careened down the lines like cannonballs.
By the time we reached the longer lines, the nervous energy from the beginning of the course had all but disappeared, replaced by jump starts and ever tighter tucks, nearly flipping upside down in the pursuit of greater speeds.
The 10th and final line was the longest one in the entire course, zipping past the Adventure Tower and spanning the gulf between two far-away hillsides. When we finished the hike to the last (and highest) tower, we discovered that the Edge had once again upped the stakes. Rather than riding in single file, as we had through the previous nine lines, this time there were two parallel lines descending from the same tower. It could only mean one thing: we were going to race! As we broke ourselves off into pairs, the Head Rush team lined the stairs leading to the top of the tower, counting down the start of each race.
And then we were off! Tucking and leaning, pointing our toes to cut through the wind, as we barreled towards the finish line. Unlike the other zip lines on the course, a pair of zipSTOP Zip Line Brakes were installed at the end, meaning that there was no need for us to slow down our descent. The zipSTOP did all of the work for us, taking the brunt of the impact from our trolleys and then easing each rider onto the final platform.