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1,000 feet (300 meters). The significance of this number has a long history in our sport. From the time I started slacklining, 1,000 feet was always a number that loomed in the distance. Was it possible? Would we ever reach that length? These were things I always asked myself as I progressed in the sport. When Stefan and Damian from Landcruising first walked the 1,000 foot gap back in 2010, I was in complete awe. It's possible! We can setup lines that long AND ACTUALLY WALK THEM! This accomplishment opened my eyes to make me realize a few things. What was the limit? What is stopping us from walking further?
Fast forward to now and this number is yet again looming in the distance. Is it possible to walk a line 1,000 feet long up in the air? For the longest time I thought the answer to that question was "Yes, but not for many years". However, as soon as I heard the news that Julien Mittermier onsighted a 735 foot highline, I knew that the extra 265 feet was totally within reach. Not only that, but distances far beyond 1,000 are within our capabilities.
That's when I decided that it was time to rig it. I knew that if I had a big highline up and spent enough time with it, I could learn the movements and cross it. However, my mind quickly changed the moment the line went up.
Rigging this monster highline was quite the experience. Having spent enough time at Cosumnes River Gorge (CRG), I was able to pre-rig everything such that things went fairly smoothly. However, there were quite a few snags that made things interesting.
We did not only rig a 1,000 foot highline, but we also rigged the 704 foot highline that I walked last year on Double Type 18 MKII. Two monster highline rigs with just 2 dudes rigging. This was a huge challenge. Me and BC Pro Team member Ryan Robinson got the 704 footer up in about 3 hours on our own. Through the use of various concepts, we were able to manage getting the line across fairly easily. Tensioning this line went fairly quickly as well with the combination of an extremely simple and robust pulley system and low tensions.
Now that the 704 foot line was rigged, it was time to continue on to the big boy. The line crosses a similar gap to the 704 and so we were able to use the same leader line. However, one of the anchors on the 1,000 is on the opposite end of the gorge. The 704 goes straight across while the 1,000 is diagonally situated, sharing one anchor location with the 704. This meant that I had to traverse across the gorge holding the weight of the leaderline while weaving it over and under branches on the edge of the cliff. This proved to be a massive challenge.
To add to the difficulty, right in the middle of getting across this traverse, it started to rain a LOT. Within 5 minutes of it starting, we were seeing lighting and hearing thunder within a few seconds. This storm was about to hit us HUGE. I quickly tied the leaderline off to a tree and went and hid in a safe location. Wet granite dome and lightning are not a good combo!
After sitting in the safe spot for about 30 minutes, the rain seemed to not be stopping. What were we going to do? I needed to get off this rock before the storm gets any worse! The only way out was up through private property on the top of the gorge. I had to do it, there was no other way...I did not want to risk sitting around in the rain all day to finish this rig. We would have to come back tomorrow to finish. So I escaped and we left the gear sit while the storm passed. We both decided that we would come back the next day and finish up rigging this monster.
The following day came and the storm was still going. We attempted to get the line across, but the rain started to come down hard. We were able to pull the line about 1/3 of the way across after finishing situating the leader line, but again, lightning was looming in the distance.
Finally, on the 3rd day of rigging, we finished setting this thing up! Hauling 1,000 feet of slackline across a gap is a LOT of work! It seemed to never end. Even gliding across this gap was a chore! The first half was super fast because of it being down-hill. The last half, however, was not so easy...I would learn this even more in next few weeks.
The setup we used on this rig was 1" Spider Silk MKII as the main line and 7/8" Spider Silk as the backup. This seemed like a great rig until we started attempting the line. The movements were so powerful! Everything you put into the line would come back with full force, about 5 seconds later. Because the line was such a huge deal in my mind, I was putting a lot of energy into it, making it seemingly even harder to walk.
These gnarly reverberations continued to beat me down day after day of attempting the line. The furthest I could get was about 400 feet. That was with 20+ falls...
I was getting really discouraged after the first week of projecting this line. Not to mention, we also had the 704 footer rigged right next to the 1,000, which was also kicking my butt. I started to question whether or not I was capable of walking this line. Ryan and I would sit at the Cosmic Cafe (when it was open) and think about what we could change to make this thing more manageable. We played with the tensions, which seemed to help quite a bit, but it was still crazy.
By the end of the second week, I was through with this line. I had to travel in the coming days and wasn't making any progress on the line. I started to talk to Ryan about derigging. He quickly responded with some motivational text which empowered me to take a mindful rest day. The next day I came back and tried the line once more. My goal was to get across this thing, no matter how many falls it would take. That's exactly what I did. I crossed the line 2 times that day with 30 falls and 23 falls. Holy cow...it's possible!
This sparked the idea that I needed to derig the 704 and focus fully on the 1,000. Having 2 looming highlines to project was overwhelming. We would rig the 704 at a later date when the 1,000 is completed.
The next few days were spent away from the line. I visited my wife on the East Coast and had some quality rest and relaxation. It is amazing what this can do for the body. Having days off from a project like this is absolutely crucial. I felt so refreshed when I came back to the line. So much so that I crossed it with 12 falls! Oh man, what a huge leap in my progress.
At this point, me and Ryan started to talk about what we could do to make this line even more approachable. We came up with the idea to put the 7/8" webbing as the mainline and use a piece of 1/4" Amsteel as the backup. This seemed like a fantastic idea! With all the research and testing I have been doing with Dyneema over the past month (more info coming soon), I was extremely confident that a 1/4" backup was the way to go. I ordered a nice long piece and had it delivered a few days later. We then set on on the task of removing the 1" Spider Silk, changing the 7/8" to the mainline, and adding the 1/4" Amsteel as the backup. This whole process went extremely smoothly, including re-taping the line. Ryan and I were done within 2 hours.
Once we were finished, it was getting close to dark and we were supposed to meet Preston and Max to watch the Reel Rock Tour in Davis. However, we couldn't spend the time rerigging without giving it a shot first, right? So, I leashed in real quick with no intention of putting any massive effort into the walk. I got up and started walking. I kept walking, and walking, and walking still! I walked about 550 feet until my leash came untucked from my leg-loop and went between my legs (I strongly dislike when this happens) and I fell and caught. "Wow, this thing is SO MUCH EASIER", I yelled through the canyon to Ryan. I started laughing at the difference this new setup made to the feeling of the line. Having a lightweight backup that is a rope made such a drastic change. I will be rigging with rope backups now on long highlines. There are just so many benefits, it's incredible. The wind wasn't catching the line any further, the mainline webbing moved more controllably due to having a deadening affect from the backup, it was amazing!
I stood up in the middle after I had fell and walked all the way to the end. Holy crap, 1 fall...From 12 falls to 1! This thing is within reach.
Ryan and I came back the next few days and projected the crap out of this line. I was able to get across 3 more times with 2 falls, 3 falls, and 6 falls. Ryan started to get much more proficient at getting across as well. He walked it with 12 falls and 20 falls. It is incredible how big of a difference this new setup made. The line felt fun and easily controlled. This changed the outlook of the project for me substantially.
I decided that I would spend the night at the gorge and have a good visualization session with the line. I sat by the anchor for over an hour visualizing myself walking the line, enjoying every step, managing every bit of weight that the line was throwing at me. I had seen the entire length of the line 7 times at this point, I just needed to link everything up. I wanted to commit my whole self to an attempt to know that I had put everything into it. I spoke aloud "I will put everything in to my next attempt", over and over again to myself. I wasn't going to let the prospect of breaking barriers weigh on me any longer. I was committing to the attempt, forgetting about the send. Be in the moment with every step. Listen to your body and the muscles you are using. Watch the reaction of the line and know that what comes back can't be any more than you put into it. This line was fun again.
The next morning Ryan woke me up and we tensioned up the line. We decided to have some coffee and walk down to the anchors of the lower lines in the gorge. I hadn't yet looked up at the line from below, so I wanted to see what that perspective looked like. Walking down to the other lines that had at one point been highline records themselves and kind of reminiscing on the fact that these lengths were now fun for me. That send anxiety was gone and the enjoyment returned. I really hate the fact that sending a line has such significance in my head initially. If I could just break down this barrier and just walk for pleasure, it would make these big highlines so much more fun and manageable. This thought combined with my night of visualization made me excited to get on the line.
We walked back up the anchor. I got myself ready for the line. I tied in, stood up, and started walking. I walked, and walked, and walked still. Past the crux section at the 1/3 point. Beyond the spot in the middle where I had fallen many times before. Past the second crux at the 2/3 spot. I walked right on through the line, all the way to the other anchor. I sent. I SENT! I FREAKIN' SENT!!! OH MY GOODNESS, 1000 FEET!!! AHHHHHHHH!!
Wow...what an enjoyable moment. I couldn't deny the satisfaction of finally getting across the 1,000 foot highline without falling. But, after a few moments of excitement, I thought back to what I had been visualizing and the moment of clarity I had before the attempt. I started to shift my excitement to the fact that this line was fun. The weight of sending had been lifted from my shoulders. What a freakin struggle it is to get that feeling out.
After crossing this line, Ryan gave it a go and got across it with 6 falls. It was such a motivating experience all around. The feeling of getting across while enjoying every step and seeing my friend Ryan progress on a line that towers above his personal best.
Breaking barriers weighs on the mind in crazy ways. The real challenge lies in taking yourself off the frontier and realizing that progression is a natural thing. Staying humble on the line and remembering that it's what you love to do is the approach that needs to be had with projects like this. I am so grateful for having learned that while putting everything into this line over the course of 4 weeks. It has been a life-changing project that I will always look back at with pride.
I want to thank Ryan Robinson for being such a huge support with this project and spending so much time out at the gorge with me to work this line. He has been an inspiration with his progression on the line. By the time we derigged the line, he had gotten across it with just 2 falls! We will be rigging it again so that he can enjoy a long walk from anchor to anchor :)
Onward and upward!
|1,003 feet (305.7m)
|~35 feet (10.7m)
|~400 feet (120m)
|400 feet (120m)
|7/8" Spider Silk
|750 lbf (3.4 kN)
|1/4" Amsteel Blue
|~50 lbs (0.2 kN)
Here are some additional pictures of the line:
Here is the video of the send, complete with special commentary from Ryan Robinson. Also some footage of the session after getting across.