German free solo slackliner Friedi Kühne has been at the sport for over a decade. In October, he achieved the hair-raising feat of balancing on a 1,500-foot-high line over Yosemite Valley.
Slacklining is a kind of balance training where athletes walk across nylon or polyester webbing held between two anchor points. The act resembles tightrope walking, although those athletes traditionally use rope instead. While most slacklining is done recreationally, with very little elevation, there is one exception: free solo highliners.
Slackliners typically wear protective gear, but highliners walk across great heights completely barefoot.
“Free solo highlining means walking a slackline ten to several thousand meters high without any kind of safety leash,” Kühne said on his website. “For most people, this is a completely unimaginable scenario. For me, it is living out my sport in true perfection.”
The Yosemite Valley footage showed Kühne make his away across webbing that connects a giant rock where a team member is sitting and the side of a cliff. First, he quickly walked from the rock to the cliff with ease. But then he had to make his way back again. With no safety gear, his legs trembled as he wobbled above the forest canopy. At one point he recalibrated himself and turned his feet sideways. The long moment of pause and subtle foot adjustments was nothing short of frightening. But he thankfully Kühne found his bearings and quickly returned to the rock.
“Yes!” he screams. Another victory for the seasoned pro.
Kühne has completed 500 highlines spanning 55 countries and broken 12 world records along the way. Not too shabby!
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