Is Go Ape Worth It For Climbers And Mountaineers?

GoApe – I’d heard mixed reviews. Some people had been for stag dos or birthday parties and absolutely loved it. Others said that it was over hyped, particularly if you can tell a quick draw from a HMS. So, when Go Ape approached me to visit for their 15th birthday celebrations it made a good excuse to go and find out.

Let me give you some background, for the climbers and mountaineers wondering if Go Ape is really worth it for them. I would not call myself a climber. I have seconded HVS a couple of times, can climb 5b comfortably (but rarely do) indoors and never done any sport. I am comfortable (though not exactly elegant) with abseiling, have done a lot of scrambling and via ferrata, plus been on alpine tour in the Tyrol.

Not what I’d call a pro in any of those areas, but comfortable with wires, ropes, karabiners and the risk of falling from height. I’m also not the kind of person to rock up and rattle off a list of qualifications to prove I’m experienced. I just got chatting to the staff at the beginning and some of it came out in the wash.

The Go Ape staff are pretty good about it. They’re almost all climbers themselves (although not necessarily outdoors) and will apologise profusely as they give you the safety brief. They get that you know it, but you’ve also got to get that their job means they have to tell you again. Go Ape prides itself on safety – and that includes telling you how to clip into the course three times over in different mediums.

Imagine via ferrata with a health and safety officer and you’re about there.

But don’t worry, the “instructor” will leave you alone pretty soon. It seems very slow to start with and very hands-on from the staff, but once you’re though the training course, you’re off.

Things Climbers and Mountaineers will find odd about Go Ape

  1.  You can’t put your own harness on. Full stop. “Even if you’re a pro climber”
  2. In fact, if you even adjust your own harness, you’re breaking the rules. You have to put your hand up and wait for an instructor to fix it.
  3. You have to prove you can clip onto a wire and pulley… 3 times!
  4. There are no gear loops. Yep, sling those lanyards over your shoulders.
  5. In spite of the huge deal made over safety, there are no helmets required.
  6. They make very sure that your camera is attached to a lanyard or harness (provided), but don’t care about you dropping your sunglasses.

Things Climbers and Mountaineers will find love about Go Ape

  1. Queue skip. If you’re instructor spots that you’re quick, you’ll get to overtake at the start of each course.
  2. You can have fun, whilst everyone else in the trees is being really cautious.
  3. You’ll probably have more fun than everyone else too, because you trust the gear.
  4. There are no rules about how you go around – some courses are linear, but others have loops. Just keep going round!
  5. Zip wires. Reeeally long zip wires.

How long did it take us? About 2 hours, but we weren’t rushing. It could have easily been much quicker. But it does depend on how busy your course is. Go Ape has a rule that you can’t have more than 3 people on a section of wire at any time (one on each platform and one in middle). That means you can get stuck behind a large group or someone who’s a bit scared. Although, if you’re lucky you can overtake again at the start of the next course. There were 5 courses (including the training course) at Wyre Forest, where we went.

Other things to know

1. Water dispensers
There are bowsers of water with paper disposable cone cups at the start of each course. Nice touch.

2. Mud
I was not prepared for how muddy I was going to get. Luckily I’d been camping in a field for a week already, so I didn’t really mind. But at the end of each zip wire, you hit the wood chip and your trousers/back get pretty dirty. Best not to wear Armani today.

3. Kit
You can’t take rucksacks around with you on the course. Either leave it hidden in your car, or you can leave it “at your own risk” in the GoApe reception area. I regret not doing this, because you get a wristband and I’m sad like that.

So, is Go Ape too easy for climbers and mountaineers?

Well, yes, you’ll find it easy. You’ll pick up the steps of moving around the course far quicker than most people. But you’ll also be bouncing around the courses having fun whilst other people are getting scared. You’ll probably find it amusing to meet people who are scared of even the 14 meter drop below through several thick steel wires, two points of contact and a professionally administered harness…

My only other advice would be, bring a friend or two. Definitely more fun in a group.

Have you been on Go Ape and what did you think of it?