Highline world record in China
During his first slackline trip to China Alex managed to walk a 375 m long highline and thus broke the old world record by more than 70 m.
Watch our trailer here:
Alex report about his first time in china:
In October 2014 Johannes and me were invited by Rio Zhang, who is probably the best Chinese slackliner, to a 5-day-highline event in China. We didn´t hesitate and decided to stay in China for a whole month. Although we only had about two weeks of planning and preparing, we managed to get our express visa and passport just in time and finally boarded our plane to Shanghai on 21st of October with about 150kg of luggage. We also brought our 750m Dyneema webbing made by Elephant in order to break the current highline world record of 224m walked by Julian Mittermaier.
Together with Rio and Damian Jörren we took a train from Shanghai to Zhejiang, a southern province in China. The highline event took place in the national park Shenxian Ju and was initiated and supported by the ministry for tourism.
With the help of some locals we carried our heavy luggage to the spot and started to rig a 56m and a 80m long highline. The anchors, which had already been prepared by the event management, made us worry about our safety. There were five 2cm wide and 80cm long steel anchors, but they hadn’t been glued in very well. The rock quality also was very bad (compressed volcano ash) and was as fragile as the glue they had used for the anchors. It just fell apart right away after hitting it with a hammer, and the anchors moved. Considering the length, the pulling angle of 90° and the low tension we wanted to put on, we declared our fix points as safe enough, however, didn´t want to miss an additional external backup.
After rigging we still had one more day for just enjoying the lines before the actual event and shows started with a fixed timetable. We did two contests for the media, the fastest / longest run won.
Hundreds of visitors created a unique background. We had to give autographs every minute or had to pose for pictures. At first we had quite a lot of fun taking selfies with some pretty girls but we got really annoyed after the third day. We had to see the fact that we were staying in a remote province of China where Europeans are exotic and rare. As a compensation for our busy days we had the park just for ourselves every evening enjoying the vertical rocks and beautiful landscapes there.
After that, the Rainbow-Color-Run took place, where 1000 people threw color powder against each other while running a distance of 5 km. Damian, Hannes and me had lots of fun there, even if our eyes and airways got a bit irritated.
After these intense impressions we made our way back to Shanghai. We spent five days in the 23 million metropolis between smog and skyscrapers. Standing on top of 600m high buildings made us look forward to coming back and setting up some urban highlines next time there.
But instead we set off on our trip to the climbing paradise Yangshuo where Petzl Rock Trip took place in 2011.
My Ecuadorian Slackline mate Alejandro who came by described our first visual impressions like this:
„Yangshuo is a small town in the middle of the Chinese jungle and strange mountain formations. I have never seen anything similar before, the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the scenery was: This is how the dinosaur world must have looked like. “
Between these unique limestone towers we wanted to set up a worthy world record highline. But first we had to find the perfect spot for that. Jerry Miszweski had broken Julian’s world record meanwhile walking a 305m long highline. So our line had to be longer than that, but not longer than 350m in order not to make our project completely unrealistic. We also had to find a more or less easily accessible spot without too much vegetation, which was still aesthetic and exposed.
Although there are hundreds of these towers, it was not easy to find a spot like this. We spent three days on scooters searching till we found two towers which seemed to stand not more than 350m apart from each other and which were 180m and 100m tall. On the next day, Hannes and Gert, a Dutch guy we got to know the evening before, climbed the higher one of the two towers with heavy backpacks in glowing heat in order to install fix ropes for easier access in the following days. At the same time, Rio and me fought our way with machetes to the top of the “jungle-tower”, where we had to move very carefully on the steeper passages due to the miserable rock quality.
Three hours later when I laser measured, all my hope was gone. The shortest possible length was 370m, too long! On the one hand, the length of our doubled up slackline would almost be too short, on the other hand I thought a line like this without training for weeks would be impossible for me to send. I only walked a setup as heavy as this once before, but not that long and near the ground. But the time available for finding the right spot was limited and Rio´s encouraging words made me decide to just try it anyway.
For the next two days, our focus was on the Yangshuo climbing festival where we set up a mid- and a longline. Next to Alejandro several of Rio's friends came there to show some tricklining. The outdoor sports boom in China has just started, but nevertheless there were hundreds of people climbing at the same time. During these days, the weather changed, it became 10° colder and rainy.
On a rainy day after the event, we bought 10m of carpet for padding and taped the line with the help of Alejandro and some others. When Hannes, Alejandro, a Chinese slackliner called Rex and me brought our gear on top of the jungle tower, Rex escaped death by a mere hair’s breadth: a rock he had held on to broke apart. Luckily, he was stopped falling by a palm tree on which he landed. After that incident, the rigging was safer but not less exhausting and difficult. The most effort and time we spent on was just creating a connection between the two towers in order to pull the setup across the gap. Unfortunately it was impossible to carry a line with our drone across the whole length. So we started at the higher tower, first through thorny jungle, after that step by step with the drone, from rooftop to rooftop, across streets and power lines. On the second evening, the connection line got caught in a bamboo forest from where we had to free it with a risky drone maneuver. Because it was impossible to pull the whole setup to the other side at one time, we chose a house right in the middle and pulled both ends of the setup to the towers from that roof top. But even lifting only half of the weight of the setup was a hard job using a 4mm accessory cord. We created a master point with five bolts on the one higher tower, at the other one we just placed span sets around a huge rock and put four more bolts as backup behind the rock. When I tried to lift the line, the line got caught again at a roof where we could finally free it on the following day.
While Hannes and me pulled in the last few meters in order to connect the pulley system to the backup, Gert ascended the other tower to make sure the tension was divided properly to all the bolts. After we tightened the line up to a force of 2kN and installed the backups, I was highly motivated to give it a try right away, despite the rainy weather. During the first steps, the line started shaking extremely, but I got calmer and was able to walk 15m. The fact that I was already able to walk a few steps on this sick line with 20m of sag gave me a little bit of hope. 50m further I decided to return to the anchor because my mates where freezing and it started to get dark.
After a late start on the second day I made it out 100m with uncounted falls. On the way back I got caught in the loose backup which scared me and I didn't have energy left anyway, so I gave up and rapelled.
On the third day, I pulled the backup a little more and was able to walk 30m in one go, but I had to fight really hard. After I fell I didn't get the feeling for the line again, although I had learned not to keep on walking after a mistake but wait for four seconds till the deflection came back.
The increase of tension from 2kN to 4kN changed everything. I started in the middle and after a few tries I got into a flow and was able to walk it from there to the end with just one catch. How much easier it was now compared to what it was like one hour ago! Now I was sure the sent was just a question of time.
Unfortunately we only had two more days till we had to derig, so we decided to extend our visas and change the flights, which also took us two more days. In these days, the bad weather conditions, life in the city and conflicts with our girlfriends pushed us to the limit. But we took some time for our loved ones and found solutions.
Finally, mentally and physically relaxed, we returned to the spot on 19th of November by scooter. Hannes had had a rotten egg for breakfast and had to throw up when we wanted to climb the towers. In order to film and take photos from the other side, Hannes crossed the line with a highline roll. In between, I started to prepare myself for the next try. I was quite sure I couldn´t walk that massive line on that same day, but I aimed to cross the line with as few catches as possible to not make Hannes wait too long in his bad physical condition. I was aware of the fact that I only would have a chance if I was completely mentally relaxed. For that reason, I took a lot of time for everything I did. I increased the tension to 6 kN, put on the same electro beat I listened to during the previous tries. It all felt surprisingly good, and I didn´t fall before the middle as I had expected. For a short period of time, I even was aware of the epic environment I was in. From the middle on, I had to concentrate on deep breath, slow walking and being in the moment. The most important thing was to get away from the fear of failure in order to be fully relaxed and able to react to the oscillation of the line after smaller mistakes. I thought: even up to here it is a big success, if I fall now. The longer I was on the line, the harder it was to keep up the concentration. Twice I thought it´s just still so long, but I had to tell myself: I still got the chance to send this line, so let´s not miss it and concentrate!
On the last third part of the line, wind came up and started to shake the line heavily. Once I already saw me falling but managed to get back control. 30m before the end the wind was gone, but the fear of failing so close to the goal came up instead.
After 40 minutes of walking when I touched the rock, my first words to Hannes were something like: “It´s all in your head; it´s surreal, I can´t believe what has just happened!”
Incidentally two climbers arrived at the same time at the little platform next to the highline anchor.
After a 15 minutes break, I tried the way back and walked it with two catches. When I arrived I was so stoked that I got back on the line right away. The dynamometer in between scaled a force of just 4kN, so the tension during the successful go was between 5 and 6kN. Because I walked half of the length again for some more film footage, I was so exhausted on the next day that I wasn´t even able to walk more than 5 steps anymore.
I spent some more hours on the line on the remaining few days, however, I couldn´t walk the other direction. However, much more important to me is the fact that our trip to China was a great learning experience for me as an individual person. I learned to take my time, without being influenced by any fears. This allows me to live a more relaxed and happier life.
In my point of view now, after a very intense month in China, I can tell: Everything in China is different from Europe. I got to know China as a country, which is in a period of change, with beautiful landscapes and a completely foreign culture. I´m really looking forward to more projects in China and I hope to set up many more slacklines there.
Thank you very much Rio, Gert, Alejandro, Rex, and all the people who supported us and made our trip an unforgettable experience. Thank you very much to Elephant Slacklines and HD+ who support me and all my projects.
Length: 375 m
Height: 100 m
Sag during send: 10-15 m
Base tension: 5 kN
tensioning system: Cobra 1 embedded into SMC pulley system
Mainline Webbing: Pure Dyneema from Elephant (34 g/m)
Backup Webbing: Pure Dyneema from Elephant (34 g/m)
Total weight: 25,5 kg
Date of send: April 19th 2014