About a year ago, I was standing on King Rock in Palisades State Park, SD. I remember thinking, “How awesome would it be to walk a highline from King rock to the picnic area on the other side of the canyon?” After that, I spent a lot of time consolidating gear to make it all possible. I used a range finder to determine how far it was, 98 feet. That was 30 feet longer than any line I had ever walked before. I finally got all the gear I wanted and did a lot of research to make sure that everything was going to be safe. Last week, we did a practice run on an 80 foot line, just shy of the actual line. After 10 minutes of trying, I sent the whole line. Saturday, well, Saturday was a different story. PHOTO CREDIT: SARAH DIEDE. Thank you Sarah for being such a trooper!
What ended up happening was unplanned for. We left Brookings around 830am for our hour long drive to the park. We got started as soon as we got there. The river was frozen over for the most part, but not strong enough to walk across, because of that we struggled to use the kayak to get the line across the canyon without it getting wet. We set each anchor entirely off of gear because the park doesn’t allow bolting. We each had 6 pieces, including 2 slung rock pillars on either side. We then equalized using Sterling 10.2 climbing rope and used steel locking carabiners in every portion of the main system. In other words, if the carabiner was taking the full weight of the system, we used steel. We had the main line tensed using a 6:1 pulley system and a safety line that was hand tightened and taped to the main line. Our leash was attached to two figure eight belays which were threaded over the two lines. Those would then attach to our climbing harnesses.
On top of it all, as we started set-up at about 930 am, temperatures started to drop and the wind began to pick up as it channeled through the canyon. By noon, it was snowing sideways, blizzard style. Luckily I was wearing about 50 geese worth of down on me, so I stayed warm. Unfortunately, it made our shoes wet, so we were forced to walk the line barefoot, which I find easier, just not when I have no feeling in my toes.
Starting the line was terrifying, you have to look down to make sure you get your foot centered on the line, and it’s just 1 inch of nylon above 70 feet of air. Trying to focus on balance when you realize how exposed you are is the most ridiculous concept ever. Needless to say, I fell a lot, including the time the tether went between my legs and my crotch caught all of my 175lbs before I was flipped around like a rag doll. I walked about 15 feet of the line, that was it. Not a success, but a great success. I got to spend the day with the best of friends, playing with climbing gear, and got to try my first highline. If I had slain it without a problem, I don’t think I’d be wanting to go back and try it all again as bad as I do right now.
Thanks to all that helped with the set up, and thanks to all who came to watch. Next time, it will go down without a problem.