Don’t Look Down: Kapalua Adventures

Kapalua's Mountain Outpost takes adventure to new--gulp!--heights.

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Rolling and rocking under our helmets, we felt a little like extras in a World War II movie, heading off to shoot an alpine scene as the low-geared truck bounced along old pineapple roads to the 1,500-foot elevation of the High Ropes Challenge Course and the first part of our four-hour tour.

Kapalua offers various activity packages on the mountain, at prices ranging from $60 to $350. (Kama‘aina rates apply for isle residents.) We chose a tour that combined the ropes course, the Leap of Faith and four zips.

Our first stop was the ropes course, whose six spans challenged us to tightrope across different styles of cable and rope bridges suspended forty feet from the ground. The continuous belay system prevented us from falling. Mark tried going “no-hands” on a cable and when he toppled, he barely dropped a foot before the harness and rope tethered to the line above him pulled taut. He clambered back up to continue.

We navigated the course with no further troubles, but one of our tour mates was overcome by fear. Our guide calmly talked the young California woman back to the central tower. After a pause, and a fair bit of whining, she went on to finish the course.

We later learned that, while most visitors enjoy the ropes course, there’s the occasional person who needs reassurance to complete it. More rare are guests who are paralyzed by their fear. Our guide confided that most of those cases involve reluctant people who are persuaded by friends or family to “just give it a try.”

My advice is this: If you are deathly afraid of heights, and not interested in sweating your way through shock therapy, this is not the activity for you.

I thought the rope challenge was a blast. The professionalism of the guides and redundancy of the safety systems were reassuring. When I considered the liability exposure, I figured these guys must know what they are doing. Maiming guests is generally considered bad for business.

Statistically, all the activities in the ropes course are low risk—safer, I was told, than riding in a car or flying in an airplane. But the perceived risk made my chest pound when we moved from the ropes to the Leap of Faith, and I climbed to stand atop that thirty-two-foot pole.

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