Quarry Quarrels

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Nature vs Man… An industrial world long forgotten… Overgrown and magical…

Middle Peak Quarry is the ultimate UK highline spot. This place has potential for 400m+ highlines all at around 80-120m of height.

We arrived on a warm Thursday night. The team was made up of Dane and myself from Newcastle, Sarah from York, and Dora from Sheffield. After the long drive, rigging a line in the dark was not an option. I did however walk down to the edge of the gap. Although I could see nothing in the dark, the simple presence of the void was overwhelmingly powerful. This place felt immense and I couldn’t wait to see the spot in the morning.

The sun steams down through the leaves and a gentle breeze wakes me from my sleep. As I scoot myself higher in the hammock, as I take a look around. The place that we had set up camp was amazing. It was a collection of trees right at the top entrance of the quarry. After a breakfast wrap, we collected the gear that we thought we would need for the rig. As soon as we got to the spot, the laser was out and we started measuring.

300m… 280m… 250m… these spaces are all too long for the material that we had with us! Using the measuring laser, we eventually found a 116m spot that would be perfect. Rigging started and after just 2 hours, the line was ready- Right, who’s up first?!

While we were rigging, we noticed a car that had parked right at the bottom of the quarry next to the lagoon and there was a man watching us. We took no notice of it at the time and simply continued with the mission.

Luckily, I got the first try of the line. As I was tying in, I took in the exposure. This line was a project. Rigged on double nylon with about 10m of sag, it was not going to be easy. As I walked, I felt the void opening up to my right. In my peripheral vision, I could see the outline of the lakes, 100m below me. The feelings that I got while walking this line were so positive and filled with hope and excitement that it was a constant mental battle for me to return to the task at hand!

I crossed the line with about 4 catches. On my way back, facing the sun now, all I could see was the ripple reflections from the lake and the narrow pathway of the line set out in front of me. As I was enjoying the walk, I noticed some movement down at the bottom of the quarry. Squinting, I could make out the outline of two police cars, accompanied by the original car racing towards our level of the quarry. I knew it was just a matter of time before this magical project was to get shut down. I enjoyed a few more seconds of line time and then got straight off the line. I felt strongly that because of this sudden time limit, I would prefer that the others have a chance to enjoy the line too.

As soon as I was untied from the line, Sarah was there in no time. Tag team style, she ties in and gets straight on the line. After a few minutes on the line, Sarah just reaching halfway, the authorities appeared around the corner.

I did my best to sweet talk them into letting us stay but they were going on about the quarry being private land that was unsafe and unstable and about how we were trespassing there… I don’t remember the fence being that big…

After about 10 minutes of trying to convince them, Sarah being encouraged off the line, and fruitless attempts to explain the safety precautions that we were adopting, the conclusion was that we were the uninvited guests of the quarry and we had to leave.

So we proceeded to derig the line and pack up our things from the quarry.

It’s a shame that the authorities of this spot were so difficult to negotiate with but we plan to contact the land owner to arrange authorized rigging missions. Alternatively, the UK highline scene should team up and buy the quarry. We can create suspended structures to sleep in, and have high and waterlines rigged there all year round. BBQs every night in summer and daily lagoon swims. We could rig a zip line from the highest tier going straight into the water. We could even set up some rope swings and host monthly parties in our paradise. This place would be the UK Mecca of the slackline scene…

…in an alternate universe.

Photos Cortesy of Dora DC Photography

Central London Waterline Tour

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Who knew central London had so many waterline opportunities; For the two weeks that I’ve been working in the capital this summer, I’ve done more waterlining here than any other place that I’ve travelled before. Life is great! There are so many water basins and docks here that possibilities are almost endless! 

No.1 go-to spot is Shadwell basin. A swimming area surrounded by housing with plenty of anchoring options. Here there are lines possible from 15m up to 60m (any longer and they would have to have some serious longline tension).

Next perfect spot is in Silvertown. The view of the sunsets here are amazing and add a lot to a session. During the mornings, the water is incredibly still and to me really seems like the perfect way to start the day!

I can’t wait to find an excuse to go back to London for some more waterlining- thanks for everything Chill!

ABANDONED URBAN HIGHLINES

Germany, highline, Urban

To me, everything in that phrase sounds awesome. I was here in Leipzig last summer and we tried to rig a line in this secret abandoned factory district. As we were rigging, the site security came and forced us to stop the project. For one year I have been dreaming of going back and yesterday we finally went.

The line that we rigged was the most beautiful line in the area I think. Two huge storage buildings with 5 storeys and huge exposure. Height the line was about 20-25m and we rigged it with double sonic with about 4m of sag.

It was just me and Viktor rigging and we had some help from Linus and we used Marcel’s piece of webbing. The rig took us about 2 hours and then we were set.

The line was so beautiful surrounded by a huge open space to the sides. Trees and nature mixed with an urban environment made for an epic little project.

We sessioned the line tag-team style until sunset. And derigging took us around 30 minutes.

I walked the line there and back onsight and I practiced walking blind. I walked the majority of the line blind with 1 catch and managed to mount comfortably with my blindfold on for the first time.

I can feel myself improving but I need to be less nervous about committing when I’m blind. I often imagine the line in front of me just stable and not moving and this mixed with steady breathing helps me to control the line’s movements.

A short edit of the day: https://vimeo.com/133139479

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Motivation is key

200m+, France, highline

Account of my 255m Highline walk at Marmotte Highline Project on 3 June 2015

I slowly tie into the line, positive vibes coursing through my veins. Super relaxed and supportive environment at the anchor with. Psyche is thick in the air. One of us was going to send this line very soon. We could all feel it.

Pablo told me to relax, not to rush my steps and to just take my time and enjoy the walk. Best Attempt that I had done previously had been a crossing with 5 catches. This would be my sixth crossing of the line and I had no expectations of walking this line.

I had just drank half a litre of water to try and avoid dehydration on the line but as soon as my feet left the cliff my mouth became a desert. I looked ahead of me and saw the curve of the line to the left. The soft wind was a good sign. It helped to stabilise the line as I was walking. I get into sit start position. Slowly breathing and preparing myself mentally for my crossing attempt. I lean forwards, stand up, and take my first step.

The whole time that I was on this line, I didn’t view it as a Highline but rather as a longline. To balance on the line wasn’t too much of a challenge for me, but I felt like the real challenge was in fact the mental endurance necessary for such a walk. It’s an emotional test of concentration and mental strength.

As I was walking the beginning of the line my thoughts were on keeping my back straight and trying to keep my balance until the middle. I hadn’t walked the first half of this line in one go yet so I this was my aim. I just kept walking and kept my breathing slow and in time with my steps. Soon I stopped walking downhill and my path ahead of me started to level out. This was a good sign, the middle must be near.

I reach the tape marker hanging from the line marking the middle and I was so happy. I had finally reached the halfway point! I imagined the cars passing below me on the road 60m below and it filled me with hope for the rest of the line. As the leash ring passed over the tape I suddenly realised that I was still walking! But how was this possible?! I had just walked half of the line and I was still standing! I silenced my thoughts and kept taking steps.

Just 120m more to go now…

Little did I realise that when I started I had in fact stood up on the reverse side of the line. This meant that every few meters, I had about 1m of super careful walking to navigate my way over the twisted backup. It happened about 20 times in the line that I was walking on top of the backup, the chance of slipping was high if I didn’t take my time.

After the midway point, the road up started. 20m of sag means that in the middle, I am 20m lower than the anchors. So in fact as well as waking a further length of 125m, I was also walking up 20m with a steadily increasing inclination until it gets so steep that further steps are impossible due to sliding backwards.

I kept walking…

Thoughts of a 65m line at Malham Cove, UK started to drift into my concentration. How calm I felt on that line and how simple it is for me to walk that line. How would I be breathing on the 65 if I were about to send it? How would I relax my arms?
Soon after reaching the middle my shoulders began to burn. Calmly and slowly I secured my balance and lowered each arm in turn to rest my shoulders just how I would have on that line at Malham. What a wonderful feeling it was.

It was when I reached the 2/3 point that I was confident that I could walk this line.

Towards the 200m mark, the backup started to gently remind me that it was there. It was up next to my calf when I was waking on the mainline and I had to make an effort to step on it so that I didn’t trip when I reached a tape.

Onwards. Nearly there…

Just 50m to go as I finally reached the last marker. This was the home run. I was almost there. My thoughts began to be a little more disturbed. Where should I look as I get closer? Looking at the anchor was out of the question as it was too high up. I just looked straight ahead at some rocks. During this time I stayed in the same place for about 10 seconds; waiting for my body to calm down so that the movements of the line relaxed and I could keep taking steps. Right, I was ready. Onwards to the anchor. Now the hardest part starts.

My balance completely changes when I get near to the anchors because the line becomes so steep that it’s difficult to keep both my feet facing straight. I usually place my back foot perpendicular to my stronger left leg and advance two steps at a time when the line becomes inclined like this. So close- just 20m to go.

I heard Pablo and Nico faintly encouraging me in the distance far behind me. I could feel their positive energy with me for the whole distance and it was pushing me on towards the end. Finally I couldn’t take any more steps. I look down and realise that I’ve made it! I dismounted 3m from the end. Sliding backwards immediately because of the angle of the line. I guess my feet have more friction than my ass.

I had done it! I had walked a 255m Highline.

I am now one of the few people in the 200m+ club and man does it feel good.

This line had doubled my personal best in longline. And more than doubled my Highline personal best from the week before in Millau at the Natural Games.

I think that not having the pressure to send this line had a big effect on me. I felt peaceful and at ease for the whole duration of the line and my breathing mostly stayed calm throughout.

On my way back to the others I stopped in the middle and enjoyed a bit of exposure balancing and then walked the last 100m towards the anchor.

I have no doubts that I can top my personal best again, I just need the opportunity to session a longer line.

Name: Déshydratation
Length: 255m
Height: ~60m
Sag: ~20m
Time: 15-20 mins
Webbing: Double Fugi by Line Spirit (37g/m)
Location: Lans-en-Vercors, France

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Malham Times

heavyweight, malham cove, yorkshire

Once again, Malham was calling me. The cove’s force field, attracting me towards the gap.

In the first week of February I returned to the Dales with Sarah. We arrived on Friday night and first thing Saturday we rigged the line. To make it more difficult, we quadrupled the weight of the line. Essentially we were walking on three webbings and a rope. The mainline had minimal hand tension but the rest were just hanging below. The sag of the line was around 7m.

We spent the two full days sessioning the line. Luckily we were blessed with the sun so for most of the time that we spent at the line we weren’t worrying about the cold like previously. I even made my first highline walk of the year in shorts!

The weight of the line created very interesting dynamics. With low tension, the line had slow movements that weren’t very strong. I got the feeling that I created were shakes or sways, I could just ignore it and walk straight through it without worrying too much about re-establishing the stillness.

When we added more tension however, this line was another story! Typically in highlining we imagine that increasing the tension, also increases the ease of walking. With this heavy beast of a line, it was not the case. We pulled in about 1.5m of tension, now giving the line around 4-5m of sag and suddenly the movements were much more powerful. It seems like in this case, we had unlocked the key to making this line harder just by tensioning it.

We took some slow exposure photography at night with our silhouettes in front of the moon. It was really an incredible experience to be nightlining with so much visibility from the moonlight. There really is nothing like the feeling of walking on a highline of this length at night. Sometimes my movements were uncontrolled and wild and sometimes my mind matched the tune of the line and we would balance together as if one being. There is no doubt that this is a passage to my flow state.

The next time we go to Malham, we will rig a 120m nylon highline. Time to get practicing!

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.