Posted by: Michelle Mitton | June 2, 2008

How to Build a Zip Line–Man Style

How to Build a Zip LineWhat did you do for Memorial Day? We fled town and escaped to my parents’ cabin north of Anchorage on the Kashwitna river and camped out for four-day weekend. Well, not exactly “camped out” because there were no tents involved. Absolutely none.

That’s why I like going to the cabin, because it’s not really a cabin but more of a small house with hot showers, electricity and comfortable beds. The kids would spend the whole summer sleeping out under the stars if they had their way but me? I hate being cold and dirty, my idea of roughing it is to have to use a generic brand of shampoo, so going to the cabin is a wonderful way to get away and get outdoors where the kids can get as dirty as they want outside then I can send them to take a shower when they come inside.

Yes, I’m a whimp. If I’d been a pioneer they’d have left me for dead by the side of the trail.

While we were making plans to go up to the cabin for Memorial Day I gave the men a project to complete: I wanted them to put in a zip line. Andrew was a little suspicious (I don’t know how many projects we’ve gone into where I’m saying, “Oh it’ll be easy!” then he’s left to figure out the war plan and work through all the details) but I promised him that I’d do all the research and order the parts if he would just install the thing.

I found several online stores that sold parts for zip lines and discovered that they’re not a cheap thing. Some ran upwards of $200 but I finally found a place,, that sells a good solid zip line with 70 feet of cable for $90, free shipping. You can get them in different strengths but the one I ordered is a little more sturdy and can hold up to 225 pounds. They wouldn’t do the free shipping deal up to Alaska (how many times have I run into that?) but charged me $20 for 2-day UPS delivery, which isn’t too bad.

By the time the package arrived and Andrew saw the actual zip line he was more enthusiastic—seeing that it came with installation instructions and didn’t look too intimidating—and by the time the Saturday before Memorial Day came Andrew and the boys were scouting out the best spot to put the line. “This is great, we’re hiking with a purpose!” Andrew said.

They were looking for a place with a soft, mossy ground away from the ATV trails (don’t want someone running their four-wheeler through the middle of things) yet not too far from the cabin with a nice, gentle slope for a 70-foot cable and by the afternoon they’d found the perfect spot.

Andrew was really into the project by this time and he cleared out a nice run—I think he was sensing the challenge—and by dinner the zip line was up and working. It’s plenty strong and will hold a large adult but the line sags slightly (as you can see in the footage) so you’d better have abs o’ steel to be able to hold your legs out parallel to the ground for 30 seconds.

Here’s footage of the results, hope you had a good Memorial Day!

It’s pretty safe with all that soft moss underneath as long as anyone who falls misses the occasional skinny pointy tree stump left from clearing the brush. One of our friends who came up for the day said it kind of reminded him of the bamboo spike pits set as booby traps in the jungles of Vietnam which added a nice element of suspense to the whole event. Maybe we should incorporate a pool of hungry sharks near the end to up the ante.

Anyway, here’s a link to a clip of a zip line in South Africa claiming to be the world’s longest, tallest, fasted zip line reaching speeds of 100 mph for 1.2 miles. Makes our little zip line look rather pathetic. Even with the spike pit below.


Coralee from Beloved Fairy Tales won yesterday’s shot at The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy by Erika Lenkert. Congrats to all, I’ve got another to give away tomorrow then a couple more on Tuesday before hanging up my random number generator for the week. Thanks to everyone who’s entered.

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