Over the weekend, a group of thrill-seeking highliners broke the record for the highest successful highline in WA’s history. We chatted to Jack Gooch about what it was like to have his head above the clouds.

AF: You’ve just smashed the record for the highest successful highline in WA history – tell us about the height, length and location of the highline.

JG: The new Stirling Range line is now the highest highline in Western Australia, coming in at 894m above sea level (approximately 50-100m to the nearest ridgeline) and 127m in length. The Stirling Range ridge is considered one of the most beautiful and in the top six most difficult hikes in all of Australia.

There are a few terms we use called perceived exposure and actual exposure. The actual exposure of this line is about 50-100m high depending on where you are on the line. The perceived exposure is more subjective. It’s basically feeling like you’re above the whole range and like you’re on the peak dropping off to sea level.

It’s very difficult to access the peak of the ranges, the tracks aren’t maintained, the walk in is a minimum of 5km, and the mountain tracks are very steep and require scrambling near the peaks. It’s very easy to get lost and take a wrong turn along the ridge. This area’s considered sub-alpine, conditions can change rapidly and the cold temperatures with wind chill can be a challenge to manage while also trying to establish a highline.

Read more: Stirling Range Ridge Walk

How did you decide on the location?

It was a long-standing ambition of the crew to rig a line in the Stirling Ranges. Nick Pontin in particular I know has been dreaming about this since at least 2017. 

To decide on the exact location we summarise a balance between access, safety, environmental impact, exposure, and aesthetics. The peak we chose is very close to the highest point and has EPIC exposure overlooking the entire national park. It was very important this line allowed us to follow natural rigging principles, which means we used slings around boulders and trees and could follow a leave no trace policy with our entire project.


Jack Gooch and Joey Curry rigging the line

Feats like this don’t just happen on a whim. How long have you been planning this highlining trip, what was the preparation needed and how many people were involved?

This trip was planned over approximately five months. The most challenging aspect was getting a good weather window without wind and rain while also having enough crew members free to join the project. The trip required a lot of logistical planning with the right gear to successfully get everything up there and keep everyone safe while following leave no trace ethics. 

It’s a team sport and is definitely not possible without the whole crew. There were eight crew members together that made the trip happen.

Alex Clapin, Jeremy Shepherd, Carmen Schoenjahn, Joey Curry, Ben Austen, Nick Pontin, Terence Chan, and myself are the team that brought this dream to life! On previous scoping trips and who helped a lot but weren’t present on the final rigging day, we also had Matt Bray and Natalya Garcia.

Just a coupla frothers!

It required A LOT of gear, we carried 20-30kg bags up the mountain each. We ascended the mountain on four separate trips, twice for reconnaissance and twice to rig. We rigged two separate highlines, the first was 60m long and 750m above sea level and the second 127m long and 894m above sea level. 

Alex Clapin has played a major role in organising this mission. On top of joining us as the reconnaissance and rigging crew, Alex also scaled the mountain with filming gear to capture the entire project on film. @mediabytheuntamed will be producing a short documentary by the end of year showcasing the entire Stirling’s project.

This isn’t your everyday kind of adventure – did you have any issues with permission or groups that don’t think you should be up there?

Roped activities are popular and generally accepted inside the Stirling Range National Park. Rock climbing is the most popular activity with over 240 routes established in the area. Adventure training companies also conduct roped activity training in the area.

What did game day look like? What needs to be set up on the day?

It took four days to complete the 127m line. A lot needs to be set up on the day including hiking gear up, building natural anchors, tagging the line, hauling the slackline, safety checks and then slacklining! 


From here to there – how hard can it be?


Day one was a recce trip to traverse along many peaks and decide on the best area and possible anchor options for a line. It’s particularly hard to scope because it takes 2-3 hours just to go up and another 2-3 hours to come back down. 

Day two was the first rigging day, absolutely atrocious weather greeted us this day, 40km/h winds and 5mm rain smashing us in the face was a challenge to keep warm and dry atop the very exposed peak. We rigged one anchor and left the majority of our gear at the top and descended to camp at the bottom this night. 

On day three we were greeted with a calm and pristine weather window, we knew it was the day we had to push and could get it done. After ascending again we finished rigging around midday and spent all afternoon walking and playing on the line until dark. 


Nick Pontin walking the line


Day four, the wind picked up strong again, around 20-30km which is barely safe enough for a highline, so we de-rigged and walked out with 30kg+ bags back to base camp.

You walked the highline yourself. How long did it take to cross it?

I walked the highline myself and onsighted the line by crossing both ways on my initial attempt without falling. It took me approximately five minutes one way and five minutes on the way back. 

This was walking briskly because I wanted to finish the line with enough daylight for everyone else to have a turn too!

Which other highliners walked the line and did everyone make it across safely?

Carmen and I made a full ‘send’ of the line, crossing anchor to anchor both ways with no falls, assistance or rest. Nick, Joey, Terence, and Ben all made crossings but with falls and rests.

What was going through your mind when you were on the line?

This is the first WA line that actually feels like a mountain high line. I felt exposed, anxious, excited, and in awe of the beauty of the land all at the same time.

The line brings me into the present moment and my focus is singularly on walking and breathing. Slacklining is like a form of active meditation for me where my body can move and react and my mind is focused on my body without too much chatter or thought.

Are you chasing bigger heights or is it the length that’s the real challenge?

Height and length are both a challenge for separate reasons. Height is a challenge due to the logistics of getting there with the correct gear and planning for remote and harsh environments. 

Length is a challenge in terms of rigging complexity, physical ability, and the skill and conditioning needed as an athlete to perform the crossing safely. The rigging becomes more complex as the lines get longer, a lot more gear, knowledge and experience are needed once the line becomes longer. 

It’s not all about the challenge of crossing long and high lines though, the ‘king line’ of each crag is often not the highest or longest but the most beautiful and best feeling line that fits in with the natural landscape.

Has anything ever gone wrong on one of your highlining trips?

The WA crew places a big emphasis on safety and doing things the right way, we’ve never had any major mishaps. We’ve had a situation where the wind came in so strong and suddenly we had to emergency de-rig several lines to prevent gear from failing and to keep the session safe.

And finally, how’s the view?

The view is incredible! What a special place to take in the enormous natural landscape that is the Stirling Range. As far as we know, we are the first people to ever walk through space in that particular gap, a very special experience.


Photography by @the.wandering.shepherd