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Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Female Free Solo Highline Record

There is a nice line in Ostrov that was calling me to solo it. The first experience on this highline was Summer, 2012, when some Czech friends came and rigged it. At 28 meters, it was a couple meters longer than my longest solo, and this intimidated me. I on sighted it in an ankle leash, however it was a shakey walk on strange rigging, and it left me less than confident.

The next time it was rigged I did not even walk it in an ankle leash; I was scared enough in a swami and listened to my intuition to wait a bit longer. The line is called 28 Hertz, walked first by Kwjet (from my somewhereelseland team) when we rigged it's longer neighbor, Electro Boogie (36 meters). It is inside a kind of cove of sandstone towers, and therefore feels protected, yet it does not lack in exposure. In the middle of the line you are very aware of the drop beneath you, and you feel the whole valley on the side sucking at your being. The line is beautiful. I think at it's highest point it is 30 meters, but I need to laser this to be sure.

Being a highline free soloist you meet many different reactions to taking this "risk." It is continually a controversial topic in the slackine realm, despite the fact that climbers have been soloing for ages and are for the most part respected as masters of their craft. I consider myself an ethical free soloist for the most part, I am not reckless or soloing for attention, it is a personal experience and while I never want to "subject" someone to witnessing me leash-less, in some cases you feel the moment the solo beckons and you must answer at that moment. I suppose soloing is very much about living in the moment, you must be completely aware of every atom in your physical being, aware of every reaction your body makes to the situation. For me, it is the purest form of highlining. Something that is special for me is that free solo is teaching me how to differentiate between fear and intuition. I have only backed off of one or two solo's before, and there is no regret. I want to clearly see what I am capable of and not push myself to a point of danger, but learn how to control my fear to the point where I can progress without risk.

Soloing in Moab, photo Scott Rogers

I would never suggest free soloing to anyone. When I started highlining, free solo was so far out of the realm of possibility, I swore I would never embark on such a mission, but 5 months into my highline career I found myself walking leashless, and it opened a door for me which lead to a new form of human experience. I have created this catalyst for self understanding, and I hope I never injure or kill myself in the pursuit of ultimate mind control; however I accept the risk.

What many people fail to remember is just how dangerous most "normal" things in life are. How many people are in car accidents? How many people crash on their bicycles, or catch the flu? What about cancer? There are a million things that can kill us in this world, and most are totally out of our control. Free solo is totally in my control. Yes, it is a selfish pursuit, for if something was to happen I will be inflicting grief on those who care about me, and yet I will be dying for something I love and find worth in, so it will not be a mistake. I am unattached now, so this is the time for me to pursue such things. I believe that when you have a family your responsibility is much greater, but until that point I will continue seeking the meditative, mind and body control that soloing is a vessel for. I should probably write a will about all my gear, huh?

I am on a tangent---back to the point of the post!
During the Girls Only Slackline Festival this year (the third edition!) I rigged a 15 meter long highline for the beginners, which was good solo preparation. I felt entirely calm and unaffected by going without security.

Photo by Kletter Kiddies

Behind this line was the 28 Hertz, my free solo project. With threaded tubular and polyester backup and perfect tension, I had the feeling that it would be the weekend. The atmosphere was perfect---girls everywhere, trying hard and overcoming their fears, while trusted photographers were there to document the festival. I was not worried about lack of documentation as there were about 6 girls around to witness anyways! I asked them first, and said if anyone was uncomfortable to watch a free solo to please leave temporarily. After multiple ankle leash crossings, I felt that I knew the movement of the line well enough.

Photo Kletter Kiddies

I trusted the rigging, and the clouds covering the sun gave for the perfect lighting. I took the leash once more to the far tower, untied the bowline from my ankle and scooted out. Immediately my body was tense, and though my mind felt strong some inner conscience was very aware I was in "danger." Deep breaths, the right songs playing on my mp3 player, and I was standing up from the chongo, taking my first step across the 28 meter (92 feet) highline. My muscles were vibrating, a shake that transferred to the line to create a fast wobble. I was shouting at myself like on a long highine, "Come on! Come on Faith! Keep walking!"

Photo by Fly

I could see a few girls on the other anchor staring at me, huddled around the tower top not moving an inch. I felt the silence despite the music in my ears. I thought about how everyone there wanted me to make it to the other side, and this thought was uplifting. My mind passed between thoughts of nothing and thoughts of what I was doing. The middle of the line was a challenge, it shook but I kept my back straight and remembered the technique I had spent 3 years developing. It seemed endless! Stepping onto the other rock I was smiling, letting out the breath of fear from my lungs, vitality! This was not the last free solo, but it was an important one---it made me realize that I don't need complete stillness and calm to stay in control, I only have to keep walking through the vibration of fear in my body.

Photo by Fly

The leash was on the other side, so after a sip of water and a quick rest, I soloed back to get it.

Photo by Kletter Kiddies

After walking the line full man free solo, it seemed silly to tie an ankle leash on, so I removed it from the line and carried it around my torso, free soloing for a third time. The nervous vibration remained for every walk, but was less on the last one. I felt so happy. Endorphins? Is it all completely scientific and boring? Or is there something spiritual in that experience---of standing in space, balancing, using every iota of my being to LIVE?!

Talking about the feeling. Photo by Kletter Kiddies

In relation to this post I have added my TED talk about Fear:



  1. For a hobby such as yours, it's important to perform a rigging inspection every now and then to ensure that the knots are fine and could hold up the weight of faith here.