Love at First Flight

Love at First Flight

Catherine Magnúsdóttir
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Taking Flight on Iceland’s Mega Zipline

Staring down a canyon and the valley beyond, strapped into a harness and hanging by a steel cable, I can’t help but wonder how I got here. The easy answer is a scheduling conflict, allowing me to graciously sub in for a colleague. But given that I have a troubling history of getting stuck on ziplines, combined with the fact that this one is waaaay higher and waaaay longer than the last one I attempted, I find myself questioning my own judgement. But let’s start at the beginning.

Last month, Mega Zipline (the longest and fastest in Iceland) opened for business in Reykjadalur. Both Reykjadalur and neighbouring Hveragerði enjoy their fair share of popularity, offering hiking trails, horse riding and geothermal cuisine. But locals and passersby alike tend to miss out on the stunning Svartagljúfur canyon and the river carving through it – even though both are right there to the side of the road as you drive the switchbacks up or down the mountainside when arriving in or leaving town.

Company founder Hallgrímur Kristinsson, or Halli, had this overlooked location in mind before building the Mega Zipline. The fact that it’s not too far outside of Reykjavík, combined with the accessibility of other attractions in the area also help. So enamoured is he with the area, he even has plans to eventually build a type of alpine coaster next to the canyon to further augment the area’s activities.

Before I suit up for my go on the zipline, Halli tells me about some of the tech behind it, like the safe launch system used to eliminate human error. It essentially prevents the gates at the top of the tower from opening before everything is set and ready at the landing dock. Then there are the regular inspections and routine measurements of cable tension, sensors in the helmets keeping track of flyers and a camera system. I’m already starting to feel better about this whole outing.

After reading and signing the waiver at the Mega Zipline reception, some other brave souls and I are instructed on how to get into the harness for our “Free as a Bird” flights and primed on positions for speeding up, slowing down and preparing for landing – “pencil,” “starfish” and “legs up and hold on,” respectively. Got it.

We’re then shuttled part way to the launch tower in a van before hiking the remaining five to 10 minutes to the tower. I am admittedly slightly out of breath by the time we’re at the top of the canyon. The situation has become very real, very fast. But I try to enjoy the view as my harness is attached to one of two cables that run a full kilometre from the plateau back down into the valley.

Given that I have a troubling history of getting stuck on ziplines, combined with the fact that this one is waaaay higher and waaaay longer than the last one I attempted, I find myself questioning my own judgement.

I tell myself that, at this angle, there’s no way I can get stuck again. Plus, my cousin isn’t here to laugh at me this time and this is probably the closest I’ll ever get to fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a dragon rider. And thus, the launch is ready, the metal gates slide to the side and I play the How To Train Your Dragon soundtrack in my mind as I head off!

I spot a few sheep on the hills below turn their heads in my direction as I holler out my excitement. The edge of terror sort of leaves my voice as the sheer amazement takes over – adrenaline mixed with the joy of flying and taking in the rushing water and the rocks below. The wind really drives home that this is happening and makes me feel even more alive, though its intensity also has tears streaming along my temples. Before I know it, the landing dock is in sight, I starfish to slow down and then assume thelanding position to be safely caught by the brakes.

“How was it?” asks Halli, who is manning the landing dock, as he helps me down.


“Want to try out Superman now?”

Superman, aka “Fast as a Falcon,” is the iteration of the ride that lets you fly headfirst and belly down over the canyon. Had Halli asked me the night before, my response would have been a definitive “fuck no!” But now I can’t wait to go again and get more of that incredible flying sensation!

So, I get strapped into my new harness, which is reminiscent of a very sturdy apron, and embark on another journey up the mountainside. Then I’m off, extending one arm like the Man of Steel and enjoying the canyon views even more thanks to the big safety goggles that come with this flight option.

I land safely once more, take stock of the distance I flew and the leap (both literal and figurative) I took. What a ride.

This tour was provided by Mega Zipline. All opinions are the author’s own.

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