The Corsican Crawl - 282 metre Zip Wire


Olly abseiling down the tree for the first time
Enormous thanks to Steve for hosting and organising his tree rigging weekend. Steve worked very hard to organise a brilliantly fun couple of days. I think he deserves some sort of special club stunt award for his "Corsican Crawl". (And maybe his outdoor toilet too). Huge thankyous to Tom Howard, Olly King, Cath, Sophie & Sean, Charlotte Meakin, James, Pete & Heather Johnson, Nigel Dibben, Robert and Louise Stevenson, Geordie & the kids, Paul Richardson, and especially to Scott Bradley of the TSG who we all agreed deserve a proper DCC thank you.




Me 100ft up on a cold and windy Friday night
Steve had wanted to rig a zip line in his garden for a very long time - years in fact. Back in October, I suggested we set a date for it to finally happen. There was much discussion in the months before it about the logistics and safety concerns. Myself, Olly and Dave Dillon went to Steve's a few times to look at the tree and discuss plans in the 2 weeks leading up to the weekend itself. There has been a rope up in Steve's tree for the last 10 years or so, and apparently this rope came from the Berger expedition of 1991, so this obviously needed to be replaced before anything else could happen up the tree. We agreed though, if the zip line wasn't possible or didn't happen for any reason, we would still have a damn good weekend at Steve's playing on ropes and giving the DCC Rocket a fresh lick of paint. Unfortunately the weekend had a disappointingly poor turnout for a big club event that has been in the calendar since October. Not getting at anyone in particular, it turned out to be a bad weekend for many- of course I know there are very good reasons why. Sorry to say many missed a truly incredible weekend. And the weather was perfect, sunny no wind. For any of you that haven't been to Steve's place it is awesome and quite special...

Magical English Bluebell Woods
Upon arriving yesterday, a small group of us were mingled underneath the tree wondering where Steve was. I rang him and was given the cryptic instructions "walk down the meadow and follow the mouse trail"... So off we went and followed the white mice directing us over the bridge, we went through a beautiful woodland filled with thousands of bluebells, there is so much to see. But shortly after Scott arrived at midday, we got on with having a crack at this crazy zip wire idea. I think we are all in agreement if Scott had not come it most likely wouldn't have happened, or at least not as successfully. We needed someone with more experience rigging zip wires than us, and he gave us the confidence in what we were doing. None of us were sure it was possible to do safely, less so in one weekend, and even less considering all the other individual factors involved in putting a 10mm steel zip wire 90 feet up a Corsican Pine the best part of 300 years old, with a bit of a dodgy lean to it?! Fortunately the tree is healthy, and the lean is backwards away from the wire. The tree has been anchored to two other large trees behind it, so that the zip wire cable does not pull the old 100ft tree over. It was under tension by Saturday afternoon, however it was reduced yesterday morning. The main cable is rigged directly to the tree, 27 metres up using planks to protect it's trunk. The forces involved here are big- tons of pressure at either end of the line. At the far end of the meadow 282 metres away the cable ends 20odd metres up another tree, with the main tensioning anchor redirected from there to the bottom trunk of another huge tree. By 7pm on Saturday, the cable was fully hoisted up the tree at one end. It still didn't look great though, we knew there was a lot more work and testing to be done yesterday. Nevertheless we had the traditional DCC knees up with a moonlit midnight walk around the mouse trail, and late night around Steve's dustbin fire. Falling asleep in my tent next to the river with the sound of the waterfall was magical.

Pruning

So after a leisurely breakfast we got on with it, hoisted the cable up the lower tree, and I gingerly weighted the lowest point to see what happened. I sank to the floor. Higher it went up the tree. Less tension though, the real danger clearly being over tensioning rather than being too slack. Olly and James were towed up the line, with more adjustments and eventually after looking at everything, we decided to go for it. Scott slowly lowered Olly down the zip wire from the top of the tree, along with a saw to get rid of the branches in the way at the top. After some extreme high wire tree surgery, the 80 metre belay rope then came to an end, and it was time to let him go! (There is one small branch in the way still that was just out of reach, but it's not particularly painful unless you're wearing shorts!) Olly rode gracefully down the rest of the line, with the long rope acting as a gentle brake on the long grass. Then it was James' turn, from the top this time. He went bloody fast but slowed down almost as quick and came to a comfortable stop on the floor about 200 metres down the wire. My turn next and I went the furthest, came nowhere near the floor and ended up coming to a stop hanging about 20odd metres away from the end, Charlotte followed me screaming, and then Tom with a zimmer frame for good measure.

Extreme high wire tree surgery

The method we used is to connect yourself to the pulley with your locked stop on a 15 metre or so length of rope, which is attached to yourself coiled in a bag, when you come to a stop, you can abseil down the rope to gradually release yourself from the cable. Clearly weight is a huge factor in this zip wire as to speed and landing. Everyone involved did a bloody good job with simple yet effective rigging. There was no hoist system installed, you had to prusik to the top of the tree, and connect yourself to the cable whilst stood on a branch. All in all a fantastic weekend, many thanks again to all who were involved! Needless to say, we didn't get around to repainting the rocket, maybe we can organise another weekend to get the job done before the September open weekend?