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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Waiting for Spring in Austria

Kinderberg, Austria

Upon arriving back in Europe, I was shocked by the cold, well into the negatives, which being from Texas had never made me accustomed to. I stayed in Poland for the first two weeks, spending most of my time indoors as the biting cold discouraged any slackline related training. Along with Janek, we tried to make it to the climbing gym three or four times per week. Most nights we went to a smaller gym that Janek worked at occasionally, having the pleasure to climb for free. I had much to do to be back in shape after a month with barely any climbing, though Janek had already pumped himself up with plans to climb at a high level this year.

photos by Jan Galek

After a couple weeks, when the weather warmed up to just around freezing, I traveled by car to Vienna, Austria to reunite with a friend of mine, Martina. We planned to get some work done related to a big slackline event that would take place in the arena in Vienna in Summer, the first project of four by our newly formed team G4G Project. I spent a few days in Vienna, checking out the arena, making a plan with Martina, and slacklining just a bit with some of the local Vienna Slackers in the park.

I traveled to the countryside near Steyr, in a small village called Dambach where Martina lived. Her home was amazing, a huge old cottage in the hills.

I spent a lot of time online there, doing more of the less glorious side of slacklife.  We went hiking a few times into the snowy hills nearby, trying to get some exercise.

Occasionally we traveled into Steyr for errands and to see a bit of the city.

One day we had a short slackline session near Martina’s grandmothers house by the river. There was also a large stonewall which was great for bouldering traverse.

Photos by Martina Kornek

I was also proud of our recycling technique since we forgot to pack tree wear! Reusing plastic and protecting the trees? Double win.

Eventually we traveled to Graz for an industrial climbing course taught by Martina’s friend who has a company called Griehser.  It was a four day course, jam packed with the essentials and basics one might need for working on ropes, aka cleaning high rise buildings or something similar. I had a lot of knowledge already from my slacklining and climbing background, the most important thing I had to learn was extra safety as such jobs are extremely regulated.

We trained various techniques such as rappelling on a v-system, in order to access a larger section or a corner of a building, switching ropes, pulley systems and various rescue techniques. It was a fun but exhausting week.

Photos by Ralph Griehser

The weekend following I teamed up with some of the local slackliners and we drove to a nearby highline spot on a small mountain called Kinderberg (which literally translates to Child Mountain.) It was a short ten minute hike from the cars to the spot, which overlooked a valley and rolling hills still capped in dirty white snow, melting as Spring pushed forward.

Photo by Hans Juergen Mosbacher

Photo by Hans Juergen Mosbacher and Faith Dickey

We rigged two lines there, both sharing one anchor on one side of a large tree, the other sides bolted to the top of two rocky outcroppings. One line we rigged with tubular webbing and a backup rope, while the other line was rigged double polyester flat webbing, much too tight in my opinion as it felt like a trickline.

Photo by Hans Juergen Mosbacher

It was quite cold however the desire to highline was strong, especially after a two-month break on my part.

Photo by Hans Juergen Mosbacher

Along with Raf Sta, Reine, David, Hans Juergen and George we all spent some quality time on the lines. I walked both onsight full man in a swami, quite surprised and pleased with no falls after such a long break. My head was definitely wonky and I felt that “the fear” had returned after my highline sabbatical. I walked a few times on each line, and just before dark we derigged and headed out. 

photo by Hans Juergen Mosbacher

The next week another opportunity to highline arose along with Raf Sta and Reine. We drove to a nearby climbing area where a highline had been established some years before.

It was approximately 35 meters in length and 50 meters high. Reine had plans to make a rope connection for another project of his in the area, so Raffi and I were responsible for rigging the shorter line. 

There were bolts all over the rock tower on the side I was rigging, however in the end I chose 4 to equalize off of, using a tree as backup. There was some time spent taking the line across as it passed over a small mountain river, and passing it through the trees was a good arm workout. Finally, we had the line up, rigged with some polyester webbing and a backup rope. 

Raffi took the first walk, and due to a late start and long rigging the sun was already low in the sky and the temperature had dropped. It was windy and I was thankful we had decided to rig with backup rope instead of double webbing, which would have been oscillating wildly. The area was beautiful, and there are numerous other highline possibilities there. It is called Mixnitz. I have decided to begin the movement to rename the highline Mixnutz, to be less boring, however we will see if it catches on. I walked the line onsight full man, enjoying the challenging feeling of highlining after such a long break.

Reine came along as we were walking so he also took the opportunity to send.

As the sun began to sink behind the hills we managed to quickly de rig and hike out.

The last slackline related thing I did in Graz was attend the event at the Kletterpark, a ropes course where it was possible to rig 3 tree highlines. The lines ranged from about 18 meters to 35 meters, and I comfortably walked all three on sight full man in an ankle leash. It was a great challenge to walk the 35 meter line in this style, because despite the lack of exposure it was a long highline with some distracting branches at the beginning and the end. I also soloed the two shorter lines.

photo by David Amar and Fritz

Big thanks to all those responsible for my lovely time in Austria. Martina and Raf Sta were wonderful hosts and I am so grateful for the warm beds and good times! I look forward to revisiting Austria this May for the Austrian Slackline Open and more adventures.
Stay tuned for the next post about Raf and my short climbing/highline trip to Slovenia!

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