My alarm begins to blare, I jump out of bed. It is 4:00 a.m-my body sure doesn’t feel tired. I start the coffee pot that was already prepared the night before- head straight to my room to grab my harness, water, gloves, and backpack. My heart begins to pound. I fill up my coffee mug and get the call that my ride is here. I shove breakfast into my bag and off I went.
We entered the canyon- leaving the hectic city- leaving the forgotten space filled with loud distractions and replacing it with silence and freedom.
The sun is still not quite up; we enter the canyon, the sheer cliffs tower above our heads; making me feel miniscule. We enter a well-built parking lot, where we would begin our journey upward. Straight up the talus slope to the rugged tips of rock that rest securely in place.
Together, five of us carry the gear up the mountain; each carrying an average of 30-50 pounds of pulleys, shackles, webbing, span-sets, and rope. Each step, I ensure a good hold between myself, the loose dirt and rock beneath. Each switch back seemed to never end, around each corner we continued to climb upward. The air is cool, but I am sweating under my hat and shirt. I take my sweatshirt off and suddenly feel perfect.
We trek upward; the cities lights still illuminate the west side of the canyon. The amount of urban sprawl that is visible when you are above the city is outstanding. It is endless. The sky is constantly transforming into new shapes and tones.
After a few scrambles and stops, we reach the summit around 5:30 a.m- we begin to unload. The sun begins to shed its first rays of light. The clouds were wispy and stretched out across the entire sky, changing the tint of the morning light.
We gather our breaths and begin to rig the high-line. First, we attach a span-set around a solid rock that bulges out of the mountain top. This will be our anchor system. We attach the webbing with a couple shackles. We then grab the webbing, clip it to Nates harness and he scrambles across to the other side of the gully in an area we call a “no fall zone”. Nate sets anchor to the other side by using a solid pine tree and rock with a couple bolts anchored securely in.
You can sense everyone is antsy to get onto the line. There is this inner urge, a sense that is fed off fear, adrenaline, and risk- that is a part of our human nature. Why is it that we urge for this risk or fear? Possibly, it is due to not experiencing risk on a daily basis. We have encapsulated our lives and no longer fear for our lives. We do not experience that of what an animal does in the wild; a sense of survival.
I begin shaking as I put on my harness, the thought of straddling a piece of webbing 300 feet in the canyon is terrifying. But the feeling that runs through my entire body is exhilarating. It is as if I am so close to death, that my body slows down and enters a state of mind that is almost numbing. As I tie my figure eight to the rope that is attached to a stainless steel ring that glides across the entire line, I get an intense sense of adrenaline. I slide flush with the line. I lay my right leg over the line, tuck my left leg that is bent as close to my body as possible. With the strength of my quad and my core, I lift myself up and am now in a squatting position. I try to focus. I begin to use the tiniest muscles in my thigh to step forward. I fall; my instincts are to catch the slack-line. And I do. I have all four limbs wrapped tightly around the webbing. I swing my weight so that my momentum carries me upward to get into position to try again.
I sit there looking around me, I see the deep canyon continue as if it has no end, the sun is now high in the sky, but the temperature is still cool. I see snow powdered over the tops of the peaks around me. I have never felt so exposed, all around me is empty space, besides my life line that rests an inch wide under my body. I gather my thoughts and clear my head. I look straight in front of me and breathe. I steady my breath. I get into position; I put pressure under my foot and stand. I gain my balance. I step forward without thinking, it feels so natural, light, and freeing; as if I am floating in space, looking into the vast canyon. I can feel the slight recoil of the webbing in each step, but I am not thinking, I am meditating, I continue forward, each foot at a time, one foot in front of the other. Nothing can describe my state of mind. I am terrified, satisfied, and calm all in the moment. All I sense is the line perfectly placed under my feet and the soft breeze as I make my way to the other side of the gully. I stop in mid walk and I fling myself off the line and fall six feet to a dynamic stop. I want to gain the confidence that I can fall and be safe. This clears my mind for future walks. But the fall felt like a minute of freefall, my heart is beating out of my chest. I can’t help but have a huge smile on my face. I feel alive. I sit there swinging on the line and I look downward. I am three hundred feet high, in mid-air. The feelings that overcome me are overwhelming. I gain strength and hoist myself upward on the leash that leads me to the slack-line. I trolley my way to the anchor and let out a huge scream of excitement.
I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel free and my senses are overwhelmed with so many feelings and emotions. My body dances with the wind to keep balance. Each step is balanced and calculated- I think of nothing, but just listen to my breath and the wind that sings around me.