Climbing enthusiasts have yet another reason to consider the South for their next adventure: a 140-foot climbing wall in Historic Banning Mills Adventure Park (about 45 minutes west of Atlanta) that was recently certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest freestanding climbing wall.
The 14-story structure, which received its Guinness certification on December 10, is the newest addition to the nonprofit adventure park. The professionally designed wall, which required about six months of construction, offers challenging routes (all belayed, no free climbing) for climbers of all skill levels, with nine lanes, including two 95-foot rappel walls, four overhangs, a traversing overhang, and a chimney.
With the new record, Historic Banning Mills Adventure Park tops Excalibur, a 121-foot, sword-like structure in the Netherlands. But achieving the honor wasn't even in the initial plans, says Donna Holder, who, along with husband Mike, founded the adventure park. "We really weren’t going for the record," she says. "We wanted to add this [climbing wall] to our repertoire, but we had it to about 121 feet at that point, and then we found out that the tallest one was Excalibur and that we could keep going. We got with Guinness and they said if we wanted to break the record, we could."
Holder notes that the Extreme Route to the top of the 140-foot structure requires at least an intermediate skill level. The climbers who do reach the top are rewarded with not only bragging rights, but breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Snake Creek Gorge.
The new attraction ups the adrenaline ante of Historic Banning Mills Adventure Park, a pioneer in the burgeoning U.S. market of zip line tours and adventure parks. The battle for the superlatives – longest, highest, fastest – is ongoing, and with its 7.5-plus miles of zip lines, Banning Mills claims to boast the world’s longest continuous zip line canopy tour and the world’s tallest timber pole tower (“it’s like stepping off a 30-story building,” according to the website).
And if that's not enough thrills, there's the 100-foot Power Fall, a controlled free-fall drop. Those who prefer tamer excursions have plenty to choose from, too, including horseback riding, kayaking, and even falconry.