“We all have a little monkey in us from way back”, jokes Hervé Chayrou, the owner and our instructor at Hornpark, a treetop adventure playground with 8 aerial courses and 14 zip wires over a lake. We’re gathered at a social get together on the first evening of Alpine Sports Week in the Wilder Kaiser valley of Austria, hearing about all the outdoor activities on offer including high wire climbing, mountain-biking and canyoning.
But I’m not quite sure whether I will re-discover my “Little Monkey” on the Hornpark high wire course. I’ve heard of similar treetop courses like Go Ape in the UK where my kids might go for an adventurous birthday party. Normally my happy place is an Alpine hiking trail, preferably with blue skies and brilliant sunshine and a mountain hut where I can order a cold beer and admire the view. I may have walked the Tour de Mont Blanc and tried a Via Ferrata, but the high wire course is definitely stretching my climbing abilities.
I hope you enjoy my video below about the Alpine Sports in Wilder Kaiser, Austria
In the cosy hut we are fitted out with helmets and climbing harnesses and the instructor checks that they are tightly fitted. Not the most flattering or comfortable of rigouts with the loops tight around your thighs and the waistband cutting in above your hips.
Next comes the most important part – the safety training. Since we are going to be high up in the treetops performing daring climbing manoevres, it’s good to know that the cables, ropes and carabiners are there to save you if you fall. But at the end of the day it’s also down to how well you follow the safety procedures and golden rules of climbing.
Rule number 1 – there are always 2 separate carabiners (metal clips) and they clip to the safety wire in opposite directions so you can never accidentally unclip them both at once.
Rule number 2 – as you clip and unclip the carabiner, you always keep one hand on the safety wire.
Rule number 3 – the carabiners are colour coded red-to-red and green-to-green and match the place where you clip them, either onto a safety wire or onto the metal slider you use when on the flying fox.
With these and a few other golden safety rules swimming around my head we practice on the ground with the instructor to get the hang of what we will soon be trying high in the treetops.
We move on to the beginner course which doesn’t seem too tough. The gaps from tree to tree are quite short and the platforms not far off the ground. There are a few wobbly moments, but confidence is high. Then I realise that this course is just so the instructors can check we are doing it correctly. Just a warmup really!
Moving onto the green beginner level rope course feels a bit different. Suddenly I have to reach a little further, bend and twist my knees awkwardly and use tummy muscles I didn’t know I had. Just to get up to the first platform I have to scale a climbing wall which only reveals how my weak my arm muscles really are.
Crossing the tightrope wires isn’t too stressful so long as I focus on every step. In between I inch carefully around the small wooden platfrorm, carefully clipping and unclipping the carabiners as I’ve been taught. The most tricky bit is crossing the wooden poles that swing from chains. My knees shake as I attempt to step from one unstable pole to the next. Where I have two choices, I decide against the skateboard which zips across the gap and step gingerly across some wooden blocks instead.
After the first green course I move onto the intermediate blue course and this time it all feels a lot more dodgy. The climbing wall at the beginning reminds me that I should really get back to the gym and build up my upper body strength which is frankly pathetic. I try the zipwire and manage to end up lower than the platform with my legs waving like a spider. After a few minutes dangling there, I in-elegantly maneouvre my legs up onto the platform and haul myself up like a sack of potatoes.
Once back on the ground I watch another member of the group who has dared to try the much harder red course. I can barely watch as he eventually makes it across the wooden poles swinging in a zig zag pattern and finally gets down sweating with fear and exertion.
The best bit of the day is at the end when we try the longer ‘flying fox’ zip-wires that criss-cross the lake, having built up our confidence and trust in the equipment. Earlier I watched, as one girl dangled just short of the platform and had to be winched down by an instructor. Thankfully I fly across the lake and just make it onto the wooden platform although there is still a bit of hauling up to be done on the rope. I find that each zipwire is actually a series of zipwires which takes you in stages, gradually down to ground level.
The final zip-wire starts high just by the cable car station and ends in the treetops the other side. By now I feel like an old hand – this could get addictive! I’m tempted to have just one more go on the zip wire but realise I should know my limits.
How do I sum up the day on the high wire? Scary but exhilarating and if here’s a little monkey in all of us, I think I found mine today!
Read more articles about Alpine Sports in Wilder Kaiser
Bemused Backpacker – Experiencing the Wilder Kaiser Alpine Sports Week in Austria
Scarlett London – Wilder Kaiser region in Austria
Daniellicacy – Wilder Kaiser, Austria
Emtalks – Exploring Austria – the Wilder Kaiser Region, Tirol
Borders of Adventure – Climbing in Austria – alternative views in Tirol of the Kitzbuheler Alps
Want to try Alpine Sports Week yourself?
Heather tried out her outdoor activities as part of Alpine Sports Week in Wilder Kaiser. This special week long event allows you to try out 6 different mountain sports over 6 days under the guidance of expert instructors at a special price of €99 (normally €358). In addition to the high rope course and mountain-biking that Heather tried you can go canyoning, trail running and do a Via Ferrata. Sign up here for more information.
All of these activities are also available throughout the summer to try as you like. In addition the region is a paradise for hikers with many day walks as well as multi-day hut-to-hut walks of 3 to 5 days in length.
You can spend a day on the high wire like the one Heather tried at Hornpark in St Johann in Tirol, Austria for €29 per day (adults) including lift pass and all equipment and safety instruction – check their website and Facebook page.
For more information on things to do in Wilder Kaiser visit the Wilder Kaiser tourism website and their social media channels on their Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Google+. More information about things to do in the Tirol region of Austria on the Tirol tourism website.
How to get to Wilder Kaiser
Heather flew from Bristol to Munich with BMI Regional who fly 12 times each week on this route, so you often have a choice of 2 flights per day. The ticket includes 20kg checked baggage and full at-seat in-flight bar and snack service at no extra charge.
Transfers from Munich to Wilder Kaiser take around 1.5 hours and can be arranged through Four Seasons Travel who have a desk at the airport. Alternatively Innsbruck airport is around 1 hour drive from Wilder Kaiser.
Where to stay in Wilder Kaiser
Heather stayed at the comfortable, family run Vitel and Panorama Hotel Sonnenhof in Going. This four star hotel is furnished traditionally with plenty of Tyrolean wood and has a spa and indoor swimming pool. I enjoyed the hearty breakfast spread with a full selection of muesli, fruit, nutty German breads and freshly cooked omlettes as well as fresh juices, honeycomb and anything else you would wish for. Check prices and book your stay here.
Thanks to Wilder Kaiser Tourist Board who hosted Heather’s stay and provided the experiences mentioned and to BMI regional who provided Heather’s flight to Munich.
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