The 13th Crossing
This entry was posted on October 6, 2013.
Back in 2010 when I moved to the Sacramento area, I was a bit worried that I would not be able to highline as frequently as I was before. For the past few years I had a set of dormant volcanos within walking distance of my home that I could go setup a highline on whenever I had spare time. Sacramento is as flat as it gets, not a mountain around. However, after a few hours of searching online, I soon discovered that the foothills of the Sierras were a short drive away. This very large area of land was riddled with potential locations that I could setup many different highlines. One place that stood out in particular was the Cosumnes River Gorge (CRG), which was just south of Placerville, just 40 miles East of Sacramento.
This was the first location that I went to check out. When you arrive to CRG, there is a very short trail from the road to get down to the gorge. About 300 feet from the road is a small perch point that looks down on the entire gorge. This is the first spot I went. From this point, there was a seemingly HUGE gap going all the way across the gorge. I saw this gap and thought to myself, "Some day, I will walk this line." Well, that day has come!
On September 28th, we had a longline festival in Sacramento, which was a great success (blog post coming soon)! After this festival, we all decided to have a day of highlining at CRG on some of the newly established lines. We setup 5 highlines: a 75 footer, 115 footer, 175 footer, 240 footer, and a 704 foot behemoth! It was a great day of fun for all involved. Lots of people got on their first highline and many earned their personal bests! I was focussed a lot on going around and spending time with all the people that came out for the festival rather than walking my project. I knew that this would be a line that I would have to spend some serious time on to conquer, so I wasn't worried so much with trying it a bunch of times.
From start to finish, it took 2 days to get the big line up. On the first day, I got a rope across the gap. This wasn't as hard as I initially thought it was going to be, but not easy either. I had to throw a rock over 4 sets of trees, scramble on the most slippery rocks I have ever encountered, and haul 700 feet of rope up a 45-degree angled cliff. It was super cool to see this rope across the gap. It was at this point that the shear size of this project started to become more apparent to me. This was no small accomplishment I was going for, this was 253 feet longer than I had ever walked before. I was scared, unconfident, and very unsure of myself at this point. At the same time, I was anxious to get on this monster of a highline!
The next step in the process was to get the actual webbing across and finish the rigging! For this I would need a full team of guys. Hauling 700 feet of taped webbing across a gap of this size is no easy task. Preston Alden, Dan, and Ryan Robinson all were on one side of the gap with Cody Terrell, Chris Wilson, and Me on the other side. It took us about 30 minutes to carefully pull that line across the gap. Once it was across, anchoring and tensioning were a breeze.
Now that the line was rigged, it was time for my first attempt. I had very low expectations when I first got on the line. This thing wasmassive! I couldn't even fathom walking this thing, no matter how hard I tried. This actually helped me fight my way across as I wasn't expecting anything. Interestingly enough, I made it across with 7 falls. At the end, I still felt very unconfident about the line. However, I didn't have much time to ponder it as I wanted to focus on the festival rather than this project during this day. So, this was the only attempt I made on this first day that the line was up.
At the end of the day, it was decided that this line would stay up so that I could project it over the next couple of days in a more focused environment. I had a crazy weekend with throwing the festival, so I needed a bit of rest before I could make more attempts. I took the next day off and then came back to the line fresh on Tuesday morning. A good friend and professional photographer, Travis Burkedecided that he would stick around to document this project until completion. At this point, I made the commitment that I would leave this line up until I crossed it. Little did I know that it would be the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life.
After retensioning the line to my desired tension on Tuesday morning, I got on the line with a bit more confidence than before. The first time I stood up, I instantly fell. The line was moving in what felt like a totally uncontrolled way. I had no idea how to deal with all that movement beneath my feet. Because of the tension, length, and material type, the time it took for a movement to travel down the line and back was around 4 seconds. That's a long time to wait for your mistakes to come back to you. If you aren't aware of this frequency of the line, it can start to move in a seemingly random way, causing you to fight yourself from a few seconds before. It's a crazy sensation that can only be stopped by stopping yourself.
This is one of the things that I really enjoy about long highlines. It forces you to calm yourself in the now in order to prevent any sort of unnecessary fighting. It's a moving zen sensation that encapsulates slacklining as a whole: Less is More. You move less, the line moves less, making it more walkable. It's a crazy idea that fascinates me. I love that about slacklining! The more you focus on yourself and what you are doing at that very second, the better you will do on the line.
This whole idea took me several days to learn. This second day I was out there, I kept falling over and over and over again. In fact, I fell 76 times before I could take more than a single step! This frustrated me to the extreme. I was loosing confidence on this line very quickly. I couldn't figure out this line! In the first time in a very long time, I felt like a beginner. I felt as if I had never stepped foot on a slackline before. My body would shake, I would be totally out of control, I wouldn't be focused at all. It was terrible! I went home that day with shame and failure in my head. I thought that there was no way I would be able to get this line.
That night I dreamt about the line. Not in the way that I usually do, but I dreamt of failing over and over. I was scared...this line had powers over me that I couldn't control. Little did I know, it was myself that was the issue...not the line! I needed to somehow center myself and narrow my focus to be able to conquer such a project. This is where I started to realize the importance of focusing on the now.
I came back the next day (Wednesday) with a bit more confidence. I tensioned the line, got on, and had a bit more fun! I was able to get across the line this time with 6 falls! A new best!! I was feeling good now. Now I had seen the whole line a few times and was starting to get the hang of it. I got back on to walk the other direction, then I saw him. The Goat! There he was! There is a lone white Goat that lives at CRG that I always see. Seeing this guy gave me a bit of hope. Every time I have worked a project at CRG, this goat shows up and gives me power. After seeing him, I stood up and walked the line with only 2 falls! This was amazing!! Progress!! Oh man, my confidence shot up. I was excited now. I knew that this project would go.
Now that I had given the line several tries for two days straight and my confidence was high, I knew that I needed to rest a bit then come back full force. So, I took Thursday off and spent some time in the office. I had a wonderful stretch session that night, then woke up early with the intention to send a big highline on Friday morning.
I made my way out to the line, tensioned it up, and immediately gave it a go. I got across with 5 falls. Okay, good start, better than all the previous days. However, when I made it to the other side, the wind started to howl. When I say howl, I mean HOWL. The line was arcing 8 feet (2.5 meters) to the right from the wind. This scared me a little bit. How the hell was I supposed to deal with this gnarly of winds in the middle of a 700 foot highline?! Oh well, I was there on a mission. So, I started my way across in the other direction. Holy crap...the wind. Never in my life was I working so hard to take a step. My lower back was going crazy, my shoulders were super tense, my head was not above the line at all, my exhales were super shaky, I didn't know what to do! I felt back at square one again on this thing. I was getting super frustrated with this line and how windy it was. My best attempt this day was 3 falls. I couldn't believe it. I ended the day with very low confidence.
I knew I needed to be away from this line longer than I was. I needed to not think about it for more than a day. So I decided to go camping in a remote location with my wife and a few friends. This proved to be exactly what I needed: a day in the sun on a lake with not a worry on my brain. Away from stress, away from discouragement, away from everything. When I returned on Sunday, my head was clear.
We got a very late start on Sunday, but it actually was a good thing. The weather was nicer, the light was perfect, and I brought encouraging friends with me! My confidence wasn't super good, but I was at the point with this line that I really didn't care anymore. My goal was to just find a comfort with it and take from it what I could. What really powered me through this was that every single person that came with me the CRG that day came up to me individually to tell me that hey had a feeling that I was going to walk the line on this day. Preston, Damian, Ryan, and my wife Susan all told me that they visualized me getting across with no falls today. This was very powerful for me. I had a sudden sense of confidence and started to believe myself that I could get across this line.
Since I knew that I was doing a lot better on the line when I was coming towards the tensioning side, I decided to glide across in order to preserve energy as much as I could. I wanted to be sure that on this day, all my energy would be put towards getting across this line. On the many days before, I wasn't taking many breaks between attempts, which I think was a very bad idea. When I tied into the line each time, it was going to be at least 1.5 hours on the line. Taking breaks after something as exhausting as this monster highline was absolutely imperative.
After gliding across and taking a small break. I got on the line and started my attempt. The wind was very calm at this point, which is something that I hadn't had much experience with on this line. Every day before, the wind had been howling like crazy. It was strange to be able to see the line move exactly with me rather than in an uncontrollable way. This was very refreshing actually. As I made my way across the line, I started to be able to feel more confident. I was walking very steadily and extremely controlled. My head was high, my shoulders relaxed, my lower back tight but not shaking, my legs were strong, my breaths were controlled: everything was solid. I made it about 1/3 of the way before I fell. I felt really good about that though. This was the best first attempt I had made yet! I stood up again with a smile on my face and walked the rest of the way without any problems what so ever. One fall! That was the moment I realized that this line was going to be walked...today!
After taking an hour break and talking amongst my friends for a while, I decided it was time for another attempt. Damian wanted to glide across first to see what the line felt like, so he put on his harness and roller and made his way across the 704 foot gap. Gliding across this line is no easy task. Since there was so much sag in the middle, the first half was super easy. However, the second half was considerably more difficult. By the time you made your way all the way across the line, your arms were completely done. I had to take a good 15 minute break after each time gliding across!
Once Damian made his way across the gap, I decided to glide over as well. Once I was there, I started to talk to Damian about this line. I was telling him how this line was making me feel very anxious and that it was difficult to get out of my head just how monumental this line would be if I walked it. He said one thing that stuck with me during the whole walk I was about to do, "Take yourself off the frontier." This phrase got me thinking about how many others in the world had done things like this, but WAY more incredible. For instance, Nik Wallenda recently walked a gap that was 1,600 feet long over Niagra Falls, on the first attempt! A few months later, he walked a 1,400 foot gap 1,500 feet high over the Grand Canyon...leashless! This sort of thing reminded me just how minuscule this line is in the scope of the funambulism realm (the art of walking on a rope). This brought me back to realize exactly what I do this for: for fun! I slackline because it's fun. I would not be doing this line if I didn't get some sort of enjoyment out of walking it. This allowed me to let go of the anxiousness of wanting to get across as well as the pressure I felt to do well. It made me want to just get out there and enjoy this big line!!
Damian then went back to the other side to watch my attempt. After he had made it across, I got on the line feeling the best I had felt all week. I was ready to get up and enjoy this monster! I stood up and immediately began to walk. I felt solid. Step after step, the line was responding exactly the way I wanted it to. The wind was null, the air was still, there was nothing but calmness in the air. I could feel my body know exactly what to do at every point along the way. With every breathe, I could feel the breathe of my friends watching me. I could feel there energy empowering me through this walk. Never had I felt something that strong before. The strength of your friends believing in you and being there with you through something as big as this, it was astounding!
Half way across the line, my confidence was high. I could feel myself starting to slip a little into my anxious thoughts, but I knew that this was not the best idea. I silenced those thoughts as soon as they came in. Now, my focus was at it's peak. I felt as if that line was a part of me. I could watch the line react to me with every single step. There was a point where I was able to harmonize with the line, stepping at the optimal time to allow for easy transitions between steps. This line was mine.
Fourteen minutes after standing up, I took the last step. An overwhelming feeling of joy, confidence, pride, and relief took over me. I did it, I crossed that horrendous highline. I shed a tear after that walk. That was by far the most rewarding moment I have ever experienced. Without the help and presence of all my friends and family, this sort of project would not have been possible. For that, I want to thank Susan, Damian, Preston, Ryan, Gail, Grant, Travis, Dan, and Michael. You guys are awesome!
It took me 13 crossings to finally be able to walk this line. Thus I named the line "The 13th Crossing". This line will always hold a special place in my heart...it's been the hardest project I have ever attempted.
CRG has been a very special place for more over the last 3 years. I have set 3 world records, established 7 highlines, and grown exponentially as a slackliner there. It's a source of pure enjoyment and fulfillment in my life and I hope many others in the future can experience this place or somewhere similar.
|Name||The 13th Crossing|
|Length||704 feet (214.5 meters)|
|Sag||23 feet (7 meters)|
|Height||300 feet (92 meters)|
|Exposure||500 feet (150 meters)|
|Mainline Webbing||7/8" Spider Silk|
|Mainline Tension||1,000 lbf (450 kgf)|
|Backup Material||7/8" Spider Silk|
|Backup tenson||150 lbf (70 kgf)|