When I was a kid, there was a year or two when I wanted to be Colt Seavers. Life as a stuntman looked like bags of fun and you got the girls, too. At some point during these formative years, my dreams were quashed – perhaps because schools don’t offer GCSEs in falling from a tall building or rolling a brand new car – because I never did star in a sequel to The Fall Guy. Today was my chance to make amends.
For the uninitiated, Go Ape! involves a harness, pulleys, cargo nets, cords, occasional screaming and performing outrageous feats of bravery/stupidity with an abundance of fresh air between you and the ground many, many metres below. It’s not just a little way down. It’s a long way down. And I’m not just a little scared of heights. I’m a lot scared of them.
The weather was fine and fresh as I reached Go Ape HQ, near the decadent Matfen Hall in Northumberland. Barry the instructor trussed me up in an array of carabiners and I disappeared into the trees to receive my safety briefing. Phones were switched off so there was no tweeting from the tree tops (except for the natural sort) and for very good reason. Your life is in your own hands up there – the last thing you want is a call from your mother about Sunday lunch while you’re attempting to secure yourself to a safety line.
There are five sites at Go Ape – the first is a safety site where you learn and practise how your harness works and how reliable it is; once I realised it’d take my weight should I slip or fall at a height, I knew I was safe and felt altogether more reassured. The fifth site is the extreme site – the highest off the ground, the longest zipslides, the most challenging crossings and a huge Tarzan swing across a clearing into a cargo net. With a photographer keen to capture my unrehearsed terror on camera, I was whisked straight off to site 5.
You’re so far off the ground, the distance is nonsensical and slowly becomes irrelevant. I was scared out of my skin but had the most fun I’d had all week; despite the fact you’re in no real danger, there’s a punch of adrenalin to the chest as you’re dropped at speed and smashed into a cargo net. You survive and you feel invincible, and far more alive than you did moments ago when you stood on the ground.
Go Ape! will scare the living hell out of you, but in no way is that a bad thing – it’s exhilarating and highly recommended. There are a few snaps I did sneak out here on Flickr, and you can find out more getting all Tarzan and Jane (or Colt and Howie) on their website.