You stand on the ledge, looking at the raging whitewater of the slot canyon below. You absently check your harness for the 20th time. Your buddies are watching, cameras rolling. You take a quick breath (your last for some time, as you know you won’t be able to breathe during the freefall). Then…
Free falling away from the platform, you feel a simultaneous rush of wind and panic as you plummet toward the rocky torrent below, until suddenly, the rope loses its slack and you start to swing, rocketing up the canyon as joy bursts out first from your toes and fingertips, then up through your limbs then lungs, to finally erupt from your vocal chords with a massive “WHAAAA-HOOOOO!!!!”
Yes, they have climbing and skiing all over the Alps, but Switzerland has so much more—like "super swings," where you jump attached to a fixed rope or cable, and absolutely plunge/rocket through a raging slot canyon.
The concept is simple, you don a harness, clip into a line (either a cable or a climbing rope) that’s fixed high above the river below you, wait for your guide to give the OK, then you jump out into space. It’s a rush of terror, followed by a climax of joy as you swing back and forth several times between the canyon walls.
I scouted two super swings in Switzerland, each a slightly different thrill.
The first is outside the stunningly quaint down of Pont de Finhaut in the Verbier/St-Bernard region. There, under the Finhaut bridge, is a 50-meter ‘pendulum swing’ affixed to the underside of the bridge.
The local pros at Verbier Guides provide you with helmets, harnesses and a safety brief*, then unlock the cable. They clip you in, check your rig, then you ‘simply’ jump. The fall from this Super Swing is minimal, a few meters, but there’s a bit of a jolt from the cable as you quickly start to swing, back and forth, over the raging waters below. It’s a great adventure that will leave you beaming ear-to-ear.
If you’re ready for something more extreme, then head to the town of Interlaken, Switzerland’s adventure capital. There, you can get picked up right from your hotel by the good people at Outdoor Interlaken, then buzzed out about twenty minutes past Grindelwald to the Gletscherschlucht canyon.
There you’re again given a harness and a safety brief*, clipped in, checked out, and then guided onto a steel-mesh deck. This time, the step off is a little tougher because the drop is far (FAR) longer and the rope seems much more insignificant than a big cable.
When you step off, you free-fall for a few frightful/exhilarating seconds (that may feel much longer than a few seconds to you), before the rope stretches out and you start to blissfully swing through the glacial canyon (a note to the fellas: keep the leg straps on your harness somewhat loose). This one will leave you and your mates absolutely pumped with adrenaline for some time after. It is a major-league thrill ride.
For the 50-meter pendulum swing, check out Verbier Guides. For the 85-meter canyon plunge outside Interlaken, check out Outdoor Interlaken. Don’t forget your preferred video camera—and maybe a roll of duct tape to tightly secure it to your hand.
*Note too that the European version of a safety brief is often much shorter, less specific, and sometimes more curt than ones you might be used to getting in North America or the UK. Their style is much more to give you the very basics, and then just let you GO!
Image credit: Dan Sandoval