It's wild, wet and 450 metres on high - Wildwire Wanaka's Lord of the Rungs is the world's highest via ferrata waterfall climb and New Zealand's newest adventure thrill.
New Zealand's connection with adventure tourism is well known - from AJ Hackett and the bungy to high-speed jet boat thrills and ski planes landing on mountain sides.
If there's a new tourism adventure to be had, you can likely guarantee that there'll be someone somewhere in New Zealand either dreaming it up or already developing it.
Latest on the menu, the seriously cool Lord of the Rungs - the highest via ferrata waterfall climb in the world - is completed and ready to open on 16 September.
Alongside the spectacular Twin Falls shooting down a sheer rocky hillside, near the South Island alpine resort town of Wanaka, the via ferrata system of rungs and cables rises a near perpendicular 450m above the valley floor taking climbers on a 6 to 7-hour adventure that ends with a heli flight descent.
The route to the top follows a kilometre of cables, weaving over, above and behind the waterfalls, and crosses a 35-metre Tyrolean traverse* using a pulley. Add the breathtaking backdrop of sweeping views to the valley below and the surrounding mountains to the exhilaration of being on a mountainside, and there's drama at every twist and turn. [Ed: A Tyrolean traverse crosses free space between two high points on a rope/cable.]
Mountaineer turned tourism operator and guide, Mark Morrison has been working on his latest adventure activity for a couple of years, and is now poised to launch the third stage of his Wildwire Wanaka climb.
Climbing experience is not necessary, Mark says, but the climb "does demand a reasonably good level of fitness and some upper body strength as we climb through some very exciting overhangs."
Clients, he says, "will have to be keen and come with a very good head for heights and adventure!"
After years of climbing, mountain guiding and safety assignments around the world, Wildwire Wanaka is "a coming home, settling down with a family opportunity" for Mark and his business partner and wife, Canadian-born "half-Kiwi" Laurel.
The couple, who originally met in Antarctica, worked together around the world until setting up their new business in Wanaka three years ago. Now the parents of two children, Mark says Wanaka is their "perfect lifestyle choice".
"We live in a place of outstanding natural beauty - beside a lake on the edge of the Southern Alps and Mount Aspiring National Park which has some of New Zealand's best climbs. We have ski resorts, year-round walking and mountain biking, and a lake. Best of all, we have an exciting career but can still come home at night to the family."
Wildwire Wanaka has exclusive access to Twin Falls which sits on a private farm about 20 minutes by road from lakeside Wanaka. Nearby Aspiring Helicopters are also on hand to fly in clients from around the Otago region and, in the case of 'lord of the rungs' climbers, return them to terra firma.
Three climbing options on the Twin Falls give clients of "all fitness levels and abilities" a full range of experiences from the 3-hour 'go wild' beginner climb to the longer, 'wild thing' intermediate ascent and the latest more technical 'lord of the rungs'.
"You don't need any climbing experience and only moderate fitness for the beginner climb. If you can climb a ladder and manage the fear of heights, then you can do it. We've had grandmothers and children as young as nine years do that climb," he says. "And we find that many of our beginner climbers actually ask to upgrade to the second level once they've completed the first."
Fast facts: Wildwire Wanaka - Lord of the Rungs
- World's highest waterfall via ferrata climb
- 7-hour climb with helicopter descent
- Opened 18 September 1017
- Wanaka, New Zealand
- NZ$595 p/p (minimum 2 pax)