The Disney Diary’s Shaun Finnie has finally had the chance to ride Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Was it worth the wait? Does it live up to the hype? Here he takes us for a trip on the latest white-knuckle ride at Walt Disney World.
On my last visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (some eighteen months ago) it was the Tree of Life that dominated the skyline. Oh sure, there was a large structure being constructed to its right, but the Tree was everything.
That’s now changed. The Tree seems to blend in with the other greenery as the massive white peak of Everest draws the eye from almost anywhere in the park. It draws the crowds too, as any new headline attraction always will. So we grabbed a Fast Pass for a repeat ride later in the day, and got in the standby line.
After a meticulously detailed queuing area (in both the standby and Fast Pass lines) laid out as a museum honouring the mysterious Guardian of the Forbidden Mountain, we boarded the small steam train and gently set off up the huge white hill. The initial climb is incredibly steep, and the feeling of discomfort is heightened when the train crosses a lengthy rickety bridge with no rails on either side. This gives incredible views over the entire Walt Disney World property and beyond, and the ascent is long enough to take it in.
Then we enter the mountain itself and the ride begins. It’s actually pretty gentle at first, feeling not unlike the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. That is until we suddenly exit into a high crevasse and come to an unexpected halt. We can go no further forwards, the track in front of us has been torn up into a mangled mess of twisted metal. The freezing cold silence is punctuated only by the cries of an eagle circling above us, as if it knows the trouble ahead.
Suddenly the brakes are released and we’re plummeting backwards into the darkness. The thrill factor has definitely gone up several notches at this point. Although I know that there are no inversions on the coaster, there are a couple of points in this reverse section that make me think we’re going to back blindly into a loop; it’s that intense as it races wildly in and out of the mountain.
The train lurches to another stop in an icy cavern. We hope that this will allow us a few seconds to recover after that intense rush through the blackness, but no; before we can even get our breaths back there’s a mighty cry and a silhouette of the yeti falls on the wall beside our train. The intruders have angered him, and they won’t escape. He starts ripping more track apart as if it were made of straw.
We rush headlong out of the cavern, a full speed flight from the terrible creature that we can sense is after us. And just as we think we might make our escape, he’s there.
The abominable snowman himself, the terrible yeti of Everest.
He’s magnificent. I don’t know what I expected him to be like, but it wasn’t this huge monster – ten feet tall at least? – swinging over the front of our train, reaching down for us with a deafening roar. I can’t believe how fast he is as we fly under his extended claws. And that’s the beauty of this brutal attack. It’s over as swiftly as it began and we’re out again screaming in the safety of the Florida sunshine. We’re laughing now but for those final few seconds within the mountain we were playthings in the hands of Disney’s Imagineers. That was no audio-animatronic creature that looked down on us. We were witnessing the fury of a pure savage animal as he bellowed his anger at those who dared defile his mountain sanctuary, a world away from anything else that Disney has ever produced.
This ain’t no Small World, after all.
Disney, theme parks, Walt Disney, Disneyland, Walt Disney World
List Price: $ 18.99