On top of Mount Lemmon, with the wind blowing, the first highliner took a step out onto the shaking line and moments later he plunged down into the gap, more than 100 feet off the ground, only to be saved by his safety line and harness.
On Sunday the group Campus Slackers went highlining across Old Man’s Gap on Mount Lemmon. Highlining differs from slacklining because the height is unsafe to jump from.
“It is a really unique thing being out there because the closer you are to the edge, the kind of scarier it is, but the easier it is to stand up,” said Stephanie Johnson, a psychology senior. “So, you know, you are measuring ‘How far do I want to get away from the rocks’ slash ‘How hard is it going to be to stand up,’ so I was mostly just focusing on my technique.”
Anthony Smith, a University of Michigan graduate and organizer of Sunday’s event, and Johnson arrived at the gap on Mount Lemmon and began setting up around 11 a.m. They worked for hours making sure everything was safe. Smith was the first person to step out onto the line and it wasn’t long before he was dangling from the safety line. Johnson attempted the gap next and she had no more luck than Smith had.
On the fifth attempt, James Xu, a high school senior from Catalina Foothills High Schoool who showed up because he heard about the event, stepped out onto the line and was the first person to cross it to the other side of the gap. Xu said he highlined across the gap once before.
“Most people think that it is an adrenaline sport … first time I did it there was a lot of adrenaline involved in like walking across it. I wasn’t afraid of heights because of tunnel vision,” Xu said. “This time, second time around, now that I know what to expect. I was very calm, everything was very calm, I was singing all the way across and I felt really good.”
Xu said he was singing “Rocket Man” by Elton John, to help himself with concentration.
Campus Slackers generally practice several times a week on the UA campus and Smith said anyone who is interested in checking it out and giving it a try is more than welcome to stop by.
“We encourage that [stopping by and trying slack lining], we are out there every Wednesday and Friday about 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and we have people stop by all the time asking questions,” Johnson said. “We usually have a short enough line setup that we will let them hop up on it and give them our shoulder to walk across it so it is really a great thing to do when you are spending time between classes.”