Over the Abyss
The most advanced and challenging form of slacklining is balancing up high and exposed. Slacklines between rock formations, buildings or over canyons are called highlines. A highline is a slackline which is higher than 10 meters. Slacklining at heights between 4-10 meters is called midlining. For safety reasons, you have a harness connected by a leash that to the line you are walking on, so that, if you fall off, you don´t lose your life.
The walk over a highline is very different from normal slacklining. Why is it so different?
As well as the total balance control that you need on a low slackline there are some extra important requirements.
First and foremost is knowing how to build a safe line. Every highline has different characteristics with respect to available anchor points, the length, and local conditions (rock structure, exposure, wind impact, etc.). The ability to make this information useable is based on a lot of experience with climbing and rigging techniques and, of course, having the correct equipment for the job at hand. Just knowing how to set up a normal slackline isn't enough. It's not enough to just attach a rope underneath a normal slackline. In order to be safe you must take account of many other factors. The consequences of poor construction (e.g. material failure) can be serious and even fatal. Therefore, before setting up your own highline, make sure that you spend time with an experienced highliner to learn about the tricks of the trade. This will ensure that your first highline experiences are done in safe conditions.
Before you walk on a highline you have to learn specific techniques and practice them on a lowline about 2 metres high. Firstly, is knowing how to catch the line if you fall off. If you fall off without catching the highline, it generates a lot of power, and may damage the highline. Catching preserves the material and is therefore safer. The ends of the highline are more dangerous than the middle of the line because if you fall off you may hit the rock. So when you first start highlining you need to start your walk from the middle of the line. Therefore, before you get on a highline you must learn how to stand up from a sitting position.
Thirdly, nerves of steel and a strong will are crucial factors for success. It takes a certain kind of personality to overcome the fear, remain focussed, and persevere. You need a systematic method of gradually pushing your limits in order to build up your ability to cope with stress. Every highliner tackles this build-up and training in their own way.
Highlining is about breaking through your limitations and mental walls. The high stress level causes a strong adrenalin rush which amplifies your feelings. If you succeed in keeping control (which means the balance) you will feel very intense moments of joy and deep inner peace. If the fear is dominant or you fall off the line, the inner walls of frustration and doubt will increase. But, by taking it one step at a time, you are able to minimise it.
Next to the preoccupation with your own psychology, highlining also contains another aspect - a visionary, aesthetical idea.
The fact of existence of vertical structures in our environment and the engagement with balancing nearby the ground merge together in the mind of the slackliner. Like other alpine sports, where a rock face presents a climber with a myriad of possibilities, to discover possible lines, you need to allow yourself room for creativity and making things happen.
One of the oldest dreams of mankind, to float like a bird through the sky, comes within reach. Highlining creates a form of freedom, like a source of life, which ignites the inner fire anew.