Slacklining and highlining are basically the same sport – it’s just a matter of height. Slacklining is close to the ground, whereas highlining can be hundreds, even thousands of feet up, but basically it’s above any height from which one can fall safely. I’ve written before about how Dean Potter highlines with no security line, but only a small ‘chute as his lifeline… however, highliners generally walk with a security line, a leash attached to a regular climbing harness or a swami belt. It would be a death wish to not do that. No beginner to the sport of slacklining should even consider taking it higher until they are extremely experienced. Taking the sport up high is dangerous and can easily get you killed. Please take that as a solemn warning.
There is one young man who has made this sport very much his own. German born Lukas Irmler holds the current longline world record – an impressive 254 metres which he set in 2010. In the past year alone he has walked 55 highlines all over Europe. An impressive feat for a sport which has absolutely no room for vertigo!
The following video shows Lukas walking a 23m/75ft long highline on Table Mountain, 1,000m/3,280 ft above Cape Town.
Whilst not studying Chemistry at University, Lukas slacklines with enthusiasm. He began this extreme sport in 2006 and in that same year finished 4th at the International Slackline Contest in Scotland. The past 2 years have seen him triumph over his competition. He won the 2009 International Slackline Contest in Graz, Austria the 2010 Longline Contest in Lublin, Poland and the 2010 Trickline Contest in Chemnitz, Germany.
Some top profile sponsors have helped Lukas achieve his goals, sponsors such as Red Bull, Adidas and Outdoor Sports Team, amongst others, but the skill is undeniably his.
Other Outdoor Sports Team members, Reinhard Kleindl and Armin Holzer added another chapter to the history of the sport by climbing the famously crumbly Dolomite Rock of the ‘Tre Cime di Lavaredo’ (three battlements of Lavaredo). The Austrian and South Tyrolean, both experienced climbers, located perfect highline spots on all three of the battlements and were the first to walk them one after the other. “During the project we experienced these mountains from all sides, from warm and sunny summer days through to hailstorms followed by amazing sunsets”, said Armin.
“For us it was important to do more than just set up and walk any old highline on each of the battlements: we wanted to select what we reckon are the most awesome and logical”, explains Reinhard. “It had to be lines that do the ‘Tre Cime di Lavaredo’ justice.”
photo courtesy of www.outdoorsportsteam.com
They started on the Cima Grande, where they spanned a 31-meter/101 ft long line west of the summit, above the classic ‘comici’ north face. After a couple of attempts to get himself accustomed, Reinhard was able to walk the whole line. Armin managed one direction, but fell on the way back. They named the highline ‘Vertigo’. The second line was the ‘Perle des Westens’ (the pearl of the west). It wais a 37-meter/121 ft highline located close to the summit of the Cima Ovest (western battlement) heading east towards the Cima Grande. Both managed complete crossings of this highline.
The third and final highline spanned the 53-metre/174 ft long highline between the lower and main summit of Cima Piccola. According to Reinhard it was “the best spot that we have ever set eyes on”. He completed another crossing – Armin managed half the line. They named the spot Elysium.
The project took the whole of August, and in that time the pair climbed the Tre Cime di Lavaredo a total of eight times and each time carried all the material themselves! An impressive feat, quite apart from the highlining.
Please take note of their warning:
“If you want to repeat these lines you not only have to be skilled in all the technical aspects of highlining – you also need to be an experienced mountain climber. If you are not capable of climbing safely and responsibly in crumbling terrain, you not only put yourself at risk but others even more so.”
Slacklining is an increasingly popular sport, which, if you are careful, does no harm to the environment. The following video shows snippets of Jeremy Shive, Josh Simpfenderfer, and Peter Hudnut’s 9 day trip visiting 7 areas and highlining in some places which have never been rigged and walked before. It’s a beautiful video. It also shows different styles, like whether you walk the line with shoes or without them.
feature photo courtesy of savagemountaineering.com