For some, ziplining sounds like an exhilarating experience. For others, it sounds like a moment from their nightmares. Then there’s also the people who just want to know about anything and everything. Regardless of which category one falls into, wondering if a zipline can break and what might cause it can plague the mind until someone whips out the handy dandy internet to check.
Ziplines can break, however with proper maintenance, it is extremely unlikely to happen. Only approximately 4 injuries occur per 10,000 rides, and these are almost entirely caused by user error.
If that helps build excitement for a potential ziplining adventure or quell fears and nagging questions, then keep reading to learn more about ziplines breaking and what can cause it.
Do Ziplines Ever Break?
It is extremely unlikely that a professional grade zipline will break. This is because they are not made of one singular stainless steel line. Instead, they are made of galvanized wire rope, which are numerous woven cables woven together again.
This makes them incredibly strong and safe, since the thinner outer wires will begin to fray long before the rest of the line breaks, giving ample time for the line to be fixed. Some ziplining agencies even use two of these ropes, whereas others use one.
What Can Cause a Zipline Break?
Ziplines are strong, but they still have a few reasons why they can break. In a professional setting, it is highly unlikely that it will happen. However, highly unlikely doesn’t mean that it can never happen.
Extreme Weather Conditions
In areas that experience extreme weather conditions, a zipline can take a pretty heavy beating. After enough stress from high winds and heavy rain, a line can become damaged enough to be considered unsafe.
Additionally, lightning is extremely dangerous to anything it strikes, and since ziplines are metal, they can attract it and break from it.
With proper routine maintenance, a zipline is extremely unlikely to ever break. Most agencies inspect the line in its entirety every day to check for fraying of the outer wire layers and will get things fixed as soon as possible.
Galvanized steel doesn’t rust either, so that shouldn’t be a problem. There is even an agency that comes out and inspects ziplines for quality in professional settings. However, if this routine maintenance is not performed, it can lead to a line breakage.
Wear and Tear
Even woven metal cables are not going to last forever. With things rubbing against it, the breaks, the strain of numerous riders, and even just basic weather, it is eventually going to wear down.
When they do, the outer weave will start to fray. From this point, there is still quite a lot of time before the overall line breaks and will almost definitely be caught by an inspection well before it poses an actual risk.
Here’s a video looking into zipline injuries:
How Strong are Ziplines?
Due to the fact ziplines are made out of multiple layers of woven galvanized steel, they are extremely strong. The weight limit is typically set to about 250lbs for a rider to ensure safety.
This is just to ensure that everyone on the line has a safe and comfortable ride, with anything more than that likely to be dangerous for the rider.
The actual breaking load is much higher depending on the strength of the line itself, running somewhere between 1,297-57,618 lbs depending on the thickness. Do note that it’s unlikely that the whole line will be set aside for one rider at a time, which is also another reason for the individual weight limits.
Has Anyone Ever Fallen on a Zipline?
There have been a few falls and injuries on a professional zipline, however this is so unlikely to happen if proper guidelines are followed. Only approximately 4 in 10,000 rides result in injury, and almost every one of those rides is due to user error.
Such errors include:
- Tripping on a landing platform
- Failing to break properly
- Neglecting safety guidelines
There have been many more injuries and worse on non-professional quality ziplines. They aren’t exactly something someone can just put up in their backyard and should be left to professionals.
What Kind of Injuries can Happen on a Zipline?
While unlikely, there can be a few kinds of injuries that are sustained on a zipline. Following the guidelines from the agency—from clothing to breaking procedures—can help prevent these injuries and allow for a smooth ride.
Here are the reported injuries sustained while ziplining:
- Broken bones
- Closed head injuries
The absolute worst case scenario is a death, but the likelihood of this happening has been greatly exaggerated by fearmongering outlets and action movies.
How Many Zipline Deaths Have There Been?
There were only 16 zipline fatalities in the span of 10 years (2006-2016) within the United States. These fatalities were almost always the result of a fall, however there were also some collisions and entanglements as well.
Within those same ten years, there were more injuries. However, only 12% of those injuries required hospitalization. Both of these statistics—fatalities and injuries—were almost always caused by user error and not from the line itself.
There was also the rare instance where someone sustained a major injury and infection from trying to use a zipline that was not professional grade as well.
Nothing is completely perfect in this world. Something somewhere can break anything, especially if it’s man-made. That includes ziplines. While extremely rare, a zipline can break.
This can result in injuries or even fatalities, which is why there are numerous safety measures in place. Even simply following the guidelines of the agency is going to cut the likelihood of something going wrong to a near zero percentage.
This is because these lines aren’t just one solid strand of stainless steel, but instead woven cables with multiple layers of even more woven galvanized steel wires.
These are then regularly inspected, and as long as they are properly maintained and of professional grade quality, there is very little likelihood that they will break. So, feel free to get excited about that future adventure and push aside any fears to just have a wonderful time!