Are you guys for real?

highline, malham cove, yorkshire

8am Friday morning, walking in York. Backpack filled, sign under my arm, and sleep in my eyes. I was walking to a spot outside the centre to start my trip. This would be my first time hitchhiking in the UK and I felt confident. After an hour I got picked up by a writer and as soon as I was en route there was no stopping me.

I reached Malham village before midday and went to check out the cove before everyone else arrived. It was breathtaking up there, the view of the river and the horizon framed by this huge natural rock formation coated in a blanket of snow was so inspiring. This would be where we’d be rigging the lines.

After a slow walk back to the village through the snow and the warm sun, Jake and Jed arrived. We warmed up in the local pub and went to collect Sarah from the station. Now that we were together, this project was on.

Full of psyche and good vibes, we took the van up one of the winding country roads towards the cove. BIG mistake; the ice on the roads got us nicely stuck on a grassy sloped verge on the side of the street- we had found our spot for the weekend!

We packed our gear that evening and early the next morning we went to rig something across the cove. The lines that caught our attention immediately were a 65m and 200m monster, both 90m in height. Time to rig! Sarah and I started on the shorter line and after a few hours everything was ready. The rig was fairly straight forward with some large boulders that we could sling with spansets. Where possible, natural rigs are the way to go. As we had already taped the webbing and backup rope the night before, all that was left was to tension the line. After some brief hand tensioning, at 7.5m of sag, the line was ready to play on.

Sarah and I were the first to try and the line felt amazing. The looseness of the Type-18 created slow predictable movements while the static backup brought a sense of unpredictability and the need to stay on edge. The sag however, meant that walking towards the anchors meant going totally uphill, and that highsliding back to the edge was a near-vertical climb

After spending the whole day sessioning the line, and tensioning it a little more, it was time for a rest. After a delicious meal, we left the warmth of the van to brave the cold at night. It was nightline time. Equipped with lights and our harnesses, we made our way through the white fields that took us to the line. Jed was the first on and even though we had been on the line earlier in the afternoon, the darkness surrounding us made it a whole new experience.

After his turn, it was up to me to tie in, this was the longest line that I had been on at night and I was feeling excited to try. As I slid out to the safe zone of the line, I quickly noticed a new complication that had arisen. the line was frozen and covered with ice! after clearing ice out of my immediate area using my gloves, I proceeded to stand up. using very little visual information ahead of me, i started to find my balance and to predict the movements of the iced snake in front of me.

After a few blind steps, I soon realised that this ice would be a problem to continue walking. This indicated that it was time to enjoy some exposure. Facing Malham and looking at the lights in the distance was a remarkable experience. I could hold the exposure for about fifteen seconds with my vision disappearing every few seconds being replaced by a small white cloud in front of my eyes from my breathing.

Next, I looked up at what i was most anticipating- the light cube. A small object with LED lights changing colour every few seconds. This experience absolutely made my night. All around me was darkness but ahead of me, sitting at the anchor was this light, peacefully illuminating a small area of snow that it was sitting on. Walking towards a light source with mutating colours fading in and out in time to my breathing created a new level of focus in my mind. I had a clear aim; to let this light guide me forward on my path.

The next day, Sarah and I were back on the line first thing in the morning. After the repetitive chore of de-icing 65m of webbing, we were ready to start. This day at the cove went through a range of seasons. From snowing at -5ºC in the morning, to warm sun in the late afternoon, to a period of icy high speed winds coming from over the cove creating a feeling of being engulfed into the void.

Jesmond Dream

highline, Newcastle

You do know that there’s a highline spot 10 mins from where you live right?

“Take me there!” I said to Dane. So when we were dry from the waterlining we took our bikes an cycled to Jesmond Dene. The Dene is a beautiful forest valley running straight through the two principal housing districts of Newcastle.

Upon seeing it, I immediately thought that this would be the perfect location for my to-be local highline spot.

So that weekend, we carried our gear to the Dene and started rigging. The line is 45m passing over the Ouseburn weir. At about 15m in height, it makes for a great little highline. I was excited to be using my own gear for the first time to rig this line. The rig was double Type-18 and after a few hours of rigging, one chilly river crossing and an clumsy tumble down a leafy verge, the line was ready!

I tied in, slid to the safe zone, and admired the view. This line was beautiful; with ivy and trees surrounding it and a delightful stone bridge to the right. The soundtrack to this line was the flowing water crashing over the pebbles below. After some time, the noise of the water transformed into a white noise similar to radio static that engulfed the space of the line. With my head in gear, and my breathing composed, I was in a calm state to begin. I slowly stood, and started to walk.

In addition to this line having about 3m of height difference between the anchors, we also made sure to keep it loose. This meant that the end of the raised side was very steep to walk on.

I would chose low tension nylon over high tension when rigging my lines any day. A practical reason includes not shock loading the anchors with too much force. My personal reason for this preference is that I’ve found that the looser the line, the looser my body tension is while balancing. My movements are slower, more controlled, and overall less frantic.

The main difficulty with loose lines however, is that as you get closer to the anchors, the line that you’re walking on gets more and more steep until you can walk no more- This is because your feet start to slide backwards.

I walked the line on my first crossing so now it was time to enjoy myself. Playing in exposure felt super nice on this saggy line. Type-18 was quickly becoming my favourite highline webbing.

For the first time we had the opportunity to do some filming with a drone. It was a surreal experience to be standing on the line surrounded by nothing but this floating machine with absolute control of its movements. We got a shot where the drone flies high over the canopy of the trees. This really nicely illustrated where we were in my city in relation to other landmarks.