Flying faster in Snowdonia National Park
North Wales is securing the title ‘Adventure Capital of the UK’ with its latest upgrade at Zipworld
My sight is skewed as my googles steam.
Metal softly clangs, shouts echo above the wind, my heart thumps.
Glancing left, three other thrill-seekers are also dangling mid-air, taking on horizontal Superman-like positions, only lacking the fist pumps with their arms pinned back. Supervisors are gathered round pulling straps tight, loading on weights and making final checks.
The all clear is radioed through; the countdown begins.
Snowdonia National Park’s slate quarries are centuries old, with at one time thousands of miners dispersed across hundreds of hectares. Today the quarrymen have been succeeded by cheery, red t-shirted staff and apprehensive adrenaline hunters of all ages. The vast quarry is now home to Europe’s longest and the world’s fastest zipline, Zipworld Velocity 2.
With the recent upgrade, a steeper descent now allows visitors to ‘fly’ from 0–60 mph in 10 seconds, building up to top speeds of 125 mph along its mighty 1555 metres.
A quarry just outside Bethesda in North Wales isn’t the typical location for a hen weekend, but here we found ourselves on a scorching summer day, with some certainly more eager than others.
Waiting our turn, we get a hint of the thrill to come as squeals whizz by overhead. I notice some faces turn a little paler as we quietly shuffle into the kit room. We are organised into full-body harnesses, handed a helmet and googles, and shown the gravel path to the start — we’re off!
The initial warm-up leap, the “Little Zipper” merely adds to the anticipation, before we all bundle into red army trucks to wind up the steep mounds to the climax: “Velocity”.
A wispy grey-haired ‘officer’, Sioned, carefully steps to the front of the truck. She appears well-versed in building the tension, although her gentle manner seems out of place against the harsh slate surroundings. “You will be shaken, but not stirred,” she dramatizes in a soft Welsh valley lilt, both alleviating and adding to our uneasiness.
As we climb higher, we are temporarily distracted by the spectacular views of the undulating Carneddau range and swell of the Menai Straits below.
We line up in four rows watching the action to come. Four red plastic mattresses lever up as the safety harnesses are attached to the wire and lowered to float the fliers, before safety catches are released and they speed away.
Finally it’s my turn, “3…2…1…”, I catapult away from safety.
My cheeks ripple violently with the force and a scream escapes, filling my ears. With the condensation in my goggles quickly evaporated, I marvel at the other faux sky divers gathering momentum and speeding ahead of me.
We soar over a cliff edge and my stomach flips as a cobalt blue expanse stretches below. Fleeting thoughts of falling on at least a soft surface is quickly followed by an electric-like jolt and I am guided back to land; all over within a minute.
The sickening, gut wrench is immediately replaced with an urge to scale the peak to do it all again.
I squint to watch the rest of the group plummet towards the finish, vicariously experiencing it all over again. Every single one dismounts with eyes wide and grins wider.
With newly settled stomachs, we reward ourselves by lazily eating ice-cream and dipping our feet in the River Llugy; our pace somewhat slowed.
North Wales with its weathered mountaineers, carefree beach tourists and the thrill-seekers; certainly, it’s contradictory. Stripped of its slate quarry past however, emerges an area stuffed full of adventures.
Which one to tackle next?
Zipworld Velocity 2, Penryn Quarry, Bethesda, North Wales. www.zipworld.co.uk/