Zipping above Mexico's Copper Canyon

Tourism-promoters often resort to grandiose pitches that may not be exactly correct—we’ve got the fastest this or the biggest that. And so Mexico claims that its Copper Canyon, in the northern state of Chihuahua, is larger in area than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. 
It all depends on how measure them. The Copper Canyon is in fact composed of seven separate canyons that, if added together, cover a larger area than that of its cousin in Arizona which is one continuous canyon. But aside from sheer size, some argue the Grand Canyon is more impressive because of its stunning rock formations, while much of the Copper Canyon is covered with pine forests that dull its visual impact somewhat. 
Sunrise on the Copper Canyon.
Whatever. When you’re sitting on a small canvas seat hanging from a one-inch cable, a quarter of a mile off the ground and going as fast as 85 miles an hour—if only for a few minutes—the immensity and wondrous beauty of the Copper Canyon make measurements and other comparisons moot. 
So-called zip lines are a common feature of natural parks around the world, and Mexico, naturally, claims that the 8,327-foot-long (1.6 miles) Zip Rider, hanging 1,450 feet (about a quarter of a mile) over the Copper Canyon is the longest and highest in the world. Not so fast, says the Guinness Book of World Records, which gives those titles to the zipline at the Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, Puerto Rico, which is 7,234 feet long and 1,200 feet above the ground. You decide. 
Last week Stew and I went on the Zip Rider at the Copper Canyon’s Parque Aventura and the experience was thrilling but with a scary coda. 

Stew getting ready for takeoff.
The fee for the Zip Rider is US$50, which provides you with a canvas seat attached to harnesses with multiple straps, plus a helmet, other buckles and safety belts and a two-roller “zipline trolley” that will hook you onto the cable.
Of course, there are multiple tiny-type disclaimer forms to be signed, absolving Zip Rider operators from any liability in case you go splat on the canyon floor, get hit by a rock or suffer some other mishap. Our tour operator, if I recall correctly, required a similar disclaimer. 
You are also advised of some restrictions: No one over 75 years old, anyone with cardiac problems or funky knees, or some such impediments. But no need to worry because practically everyone is good to go if they pay the fifty bucks and sign the forms.  
From there, you climb a few steps onto a wooden platform, where two very young assistants, check your straps and belts, and hook your zipline trolley to the cable. The metal door noisily slams open, and one assistant whispers ¿Listo?” and gives you a gentle shove into the abyss.
Cables over the Copper Canyon: The two in the foreground are for the aerial 
tram; the one farther away is for the Zip Rider.
The ride is an unforgettable, if brief, adrenaline rush. After the sudden drop immediately after takeoff, you go across the canyon at a dizzying speed that almost feels like weightlessness. 
That high only lasts two or three minutes before you make an abrupt landing against rubber shock absorbers at the destination platform, where a young woman sets you free of all the straps and harnesses. 
There is no machinery involved. What propels you to the other side is simply your own weight, the forces of gravity and the resulting momentum. The weight of the cable creates a gentle sag in the middle. The take-off platform is a few hundred feet higher than the landing area which gives you the speed that takes you up to the landing pad. 
Videoclip of Stew airborne:

Zipline trolleys.
Your speed depends on your weight. One of the people in our group, a bearded, slight man, didn’t quite make it, and got stuck in mid-air, about 40 feet from the end zone. A young woman had to climb on the cable and pull him with a pole. Ouch.  
Then came the scary part: A steep, one hour-plus climb on a winding path of gravel and loose stones, up the side of a mountain, atop which we would catch the cable car to bring us back to the other side. Parts of the path narrowed to three feet or so, with no railing or ropes to hang on to. At times the cable car station seemed to be moving ever farther and higher away.
Ahead of us, a guy in our tour—the same one who got stuck on the zipline—had a great deal of problems making the climb and had to be helped by someone else climbing backward and essentially yanking him up. A couple of times I slipped and found myself on all fours. A mother-and-daughter team in our group, who said they were experienced hikers, described it as “extreme climb.” Not a great time. 
Another view of the Copper Canyon.
Neither the signage at the park, nor the operator of the tour we were on—who had never been on the Zip Rider himself—had warned us about the difficulty of the return hike. Back at the hotel, a several people in our tour group—many of whom were over seventy years old—seemed quite restive and complained to the tour operator, who, alas, was not able to muster an apology for not warning us. 
If it hadn’t been for the hair-raising schlep to the cable car, I would have taken a second ride on the Zip Rider—and maybe even a third one. 
And if Stew and I visit Puerto Rico again, I’ll be sure to try its zipline to check if it’s in fact longer, higher—and more fun—and take some pictures while airborne.   
A few more pictures:

The red roof of the hotel where we stayed is visible on
the upper left-hand corner of the photo. 

Sugar-free Coke, according to this huge sign.

A church at the small town of Cerocahui.

A memorial to two guys who ventured too far over the edge.


These sandals are made for running: The Tarahumara,
the indigenous people of the Copper 
Canyon area, are world-renowned for their incredible feats 
of ultra-long-distance running, sometimes longer than
60 (sixty) miles, wearing no other footwear than their
traditional sandals. A brief documentary on Netflix,
“Lorena of the Light Feet,” is about a 
 Tarahumara woman ultra marathoner. 


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