No-one can fly among the trees here without a little practice and a safety briefing. That needs to be made clear. But once that's done, you can let loose: hook up the carabiner, push yourself off and you'll be whizzing through the Palatinate Forest on a thick steel wire.
Text: Sigrid Frank-Esslinger, photos: Martin Wagenhan
In the zipline park in Elmstein, daredevils can fly through the nature reserve at treetop level, discover the forest from a previously unseen perspective, experience nature and weather at first hand and feel the adrenaline surging in their veins. Zip-lining is a daring new pastime that combines adventure and appreciation of nature. High above the ground, it allows you to whoosh along between the trees, over small clearings, dive into chasms and feel the rushing wind on your face.
Zip-lining is based on the principle of sturdy metal lines being suspended between two points at different heights. In the past, they were mainly used to transport people or heavy loads over rivers and ravines using rollers or carabiners.
This principle remains the same today: you wear a safety harness that is secured in place with two carabiners and a wheel in order to run along and slide down a thick, diagonally tensioned steel line. Today's ziplines are not a sluggish mode of transportation but rather a leisure activity for adrenaline junkies: you can zip through the rainforest to see exotic plants and animals, just as you can fly from one skyscraper to the next in many of the world's cities.
Since April 2016, you can now also whizz through the air between the treetops in the Palatinate Forest Nature Park. The Elmstein zipline park boasts a total of 18 different stages that lead from one wooden tree platform to the next, forming one continuous course. Using nothing but your own body weight, you can rush along the slanted line between the trunks and branches and over the glades. Jumping-off points into the depths are also included on four trees.
However, visitor safety and environmental protection are just as close to the hearts of the founders and managers as fun and a sense of adventure. Anyone wanting to fly through the forest here has to be at least twelve years old and must weigh between 35 and 120 kilograms. The whole facility has been certified by the TÜV inspection agency, whilst the advanced safety system and bearing trees are surveyed and appraised regularly. Trained guides explain in detail how to use the safety equipment and help visitors undertake a dummy run through a practice course.
The zipline park is located on the fringes of the Palatinate Forest Nature Park within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: here, sustainable development is promoted in an ecological, economic and social sense. Before obtaining planning permission and starting construction, the operators therefore commissioned a species conservation appraisal, which involved the long-term observation of flora and fauna. No foundations were laid or trees felled for the park itself, and the steel lines and tree platforms were installed so as to cause as little damage to the trees as possible. What's more, close coordination with conservation authorities led to compensation measures to ensure that sufficient alternative accommodation was provided for birds and bats.