Here at Tree Limin’ Extreme ziplining is what we do. So we sometimes forget that some people aren’t as familiar with the concept as we are. We often get questions concerning what ziplining is and about where it came from. Maybe we can answer those questions today.
Ziplining has been around for a very long time. While historians say it was first done in the Himalayan region of modern day India, some believe that several ancient cultures in South America were actually the first to zipline. It was originally used to travel across rough terrain, and to access remote villages. The equipment was rudimentary, using a natural fiber rope and homemade harness. For many years ziplining simply remained a transport mode for the remote and wild areas of the world, but in 17th century England, ziplining first used for fun and entertainment. Steeplejacks, the high climbing people that maintained church spires, devised a quick way for them to reach the ground at the end of a long day. They would slide down a long angled line instead of climbing down. Some steeplejacks noticed that a crowd would often gather to watch this feat, and so a few of them started performing their antics for large crowds all over England.
These were very primitive forms of early ziplining though, so modern ziplining can trace its roots back to the golden age of mountaineering. In the early 1900’s mountaineering was becoming popular as equipment and training was improved. During this time many of the climbing techniques still used today were developed. One technique is called the Tyrolean traverse, named after the Austrian mountain range where it was invented. The Tyrolean traverse features a rope strung between two points, and a pulley is applied then attached to the climber. The climber then had to pull themselves across as the line is level. They were used to cross crevasses, chasms, and canyons. At some point, it was noticed that if one end of the line was elevated then one could simply slide, or zip, across.
In the 1970’s and 80’s many scientists were performing expeditions into the unexplored jungles of Central and South America. These scientists used many climbing and mountaineering techniques in order to travel through the tough terrain. A group of biologists studying the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica, grew tired of having to climb up into, and then down from the canopy on every different tree. They decided to connect several trees with inclined Tyrolean traverses to make their research more efficient. After the 1992 film Medicine Man, starring Sean Connery was released, many people began to see opportunities for ziplines outside of transportation and research.
Today, ziplining is one of the fastest growing forms of eco-tourism in the world. Just the United States alone has over 200 ziplines. They are now one of the most popular adventures for vacationers, and locals alike around the world. The cruise industry, especially, has helped ziplining, as it is the most asked for shore excursion on many cruise lines. Modern ziplining has little in common with its historical counterparts though. Modern ziplines are marvels of precise engineering, and immense safety. Long gone are the days of natural ropes and homemade equipment. Steel wires and specially made pulleys and harnesses are now the norm.
So if you are looking for a bit of adventure on you next vacation, or close to home, be sure to look up the nearest zipline for some good times. If you find yourself in St. Thomas be sure to look us up at Tree Limin’ Extreme, as we offer the first and only zipline adventure in the Virgin Islands.
For more information visit our website at www.ziplinestthomas.com