Me Tarzan, You Jeanne

The French take to the treetops for high-wire adventure—starring hanging logs, zip lines, and yeah, a jungle rope swing

Dec 1, 2000
Outside Magazine

READY FOR the Tour de France of ropes courses? Start with the usual cargo nets and balance beams, add a 30-foot jungle swing here and a zip-line there, ditch the team-building jargon, stick the whole works 60 feet up in the canopy of a French pine forest, and you've got trekking aérien, or aerial trekking. "Clients love films like Indiana Jones," says Jean Yves, an operations manager for La Forêt de L'Aventure—an obstacle course built on about seven and a half acres in the village of Talloires, near Geneva. "Here, they become the hero."

Last year, roughly 12,000 Europeans and Americans of all ages paid approximately $16 each to slip into a climbing harness and clamber around La Forêt's tree-fort-style platforms—one of an estimated 20 such courses built in France since 1997. The more elaborate setups include up to 40 differentarboreal challenges involving nets, ladders, hanging logs, and stirrups that can take up to three hours to navigate."Mostly, it's very, very quiet and you really can't see much because the forest is so thick," says 37-year-old Annemasse, France, resident Dawn MacNeill of her August run through La Forêt's course. "But you do occasionally hear people go, 'Aah-uh-AHHHH!'" (That would be a Tarzan yell, in French.)

Uh-huh. But will it travel? Dev Pathik, president ofthe Carolina Beach, North Carolina­–based company Challenge Course Advisory, predicts aerial trekking will swing over to the New World sometime in the next two years, showing up first at ski resorts as a potential source of off-season revenue. Though the nation's technical tree climbing community (not to mention environmental groups) may take issue with a sport that involves bolting platforms and ladders to trees, representatives from Telluride, Jackson Hole, and three other resorts have contacted Pathik about bringing aerial trekking to the states. Corporate trust games may never be the same again.

 The Worst Journey in the World, Chapter Two
A new book chronicles history's most plodding—and belligerent—trek to the South Pol

"I CAN'T EXPLAIN WHY he behaved the way he did," says Australian explorer Eric Philips. "Perhaps it has something to do with all that time he's spent at altitude without oxygen—maybe that does something to the brain.

Philips is referring to New Zealander Peter Hillary, the 46-year-old son of Everest legend Sir Edmund Hillary and a key player in one of the most bizarre public tiffs in recent expedition history—a spat that began on the Antarctic ice cap in 1998 and ended recently in New Zealand and Australian law offices.

At issue is IceTrek: The Bitter Journey to the South Pole (published this fall by HarperCollins New Zealand), an account of a disastrous 930-mile journey authored by Philips, 38, who set out to ski across the ice with Hillary—an accomplished adventurer—and 39-year-old Aussie Jon Muir. Claiming that IceTrek portrays him as "bungling and inept," Hillary threatened to block the title in the New Zealand courts. He cites a pre-expedition agreement that banned the publication of personal trip accounts for three years following the expedition. "There was an obvious breach of contract," says Hillary.

Philips countered that the contract allows for the publication of a single book—the official account of the expedition—and had positioned IceTrek as just that. Unfortunately, the trip seemed jinxed from the day they began in November 1998 until they made it to 90 degrees south a torturous 84 days later. Bad weather, bad health, and atrocious team chemistry earned the trio a record: slowest South Pole expedition ever. None of this makes for a heroic tale, and Hillary takes the brunt of it; IceTrek paints him as emotionally unstable and physically unfit.

Hillary and Philips settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in September, paving the way for the book's possible North American release. (Muir calls the legal wrangling "a load of nonsense.") But the bickering continues. "To offer a settlement like this is as good as an admission of fault," says Hillary, clearly still miffed by the whole escapade. "The amount was immaterial." —Brad Wetzler

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