Providing protection from the sun, wind and rain, tree courses surround one with a sense of security and aesthetic beauty. Depending on the variety and number of trees on the property, AEI can design and build unique tree course configurations. These tree courses can be space saving or spread out over a large area to allow the feeling of being the only group in the woods. Tree courses are also cost effective because the trees themselves act as the support structures. This type of course will provide your facility with many years of use when maintained properly. When utilizing trees in course designs, AEI will select trees that are hardy and free of disease and choose areas that create the lowest amount of impact on the environment. AEI builds with techniques that have proven not to harm trees, but allows trees to continue heal thy growth.
Utility poles offer a variety of benefits for a challenge course program. Some of the benefits of a pole course are longevity, lower maintenance costs, and design flexibility. If implementing utility poles, the initial cost is higher but there is no concern of hardware being consumed by tree growth. Utility pole courses offer flexibility in course design for towers and other climbing structures.
Why not have the best of both tree and pole courses? Use poles alongside of trees to weave the challenge course in and out of the forest. If there are budget concerns, use trees where possible to lower cost and supplement poles as needed. This combination will give your facility viable options and flexibility.
There are two different options when it comes to facilitating your course. The first is a Dynamic Course, which means that for each person in the air there is a facilitator on the ground holding their rope (the belayer). Dynamic courses require a minimum of one staff person per element which can enhance your risk management plan.
The second option is a Static Course which means that each person in the air is attached with a short tether to the belay cable or anchor point. In order to change to the next element a facilitator will have to supervise the participant moving their tether (a belay transfer). Static courses require less staff members and increase the responsibilty of your participants.
ACCT Standards Manual states: “On challenge courses, a leading edge climbing environment is on where conventional fall protection or an overhead belay system is not available. The set-up, maintenance, and inspection of belay systems and other critical course components may require trained staff to climb in a leading edge environment…” Adventure Experiences, Inc. recommends that all facilitators use a vertical belay system to access poles, trees, or towers when setting up the challenge course. These vertical belay systems utilize a cable grab incorporated with the traditional lobster claw and load limiting device
Auto belay systems are sometimes installed on challenge course elements that are used very frequently (i.e. climbing towers). This auto belay system replaces a belay person with a mechanical device that utilizes cable, webbing, or rope. As the participant climbs the element it automatically retracts the slack and when they fall or finish the climb the tension catches and slowly lowers them to the ground. These auto belay systems are usually more expensive and require yearly inspections by the manufacturer.