When Scott and his mates won the 2017 Osprey Adventure Grant they suddenly realised that they were gonna have to put their grant money where their mouths were and delve into the world of highlining. What followed was a bowel-testing, lycra-clad tale of tension in all its forms.
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You know those moments when you’re leaning back on your chair and you frantically flail your arms in the air as you momentarily suspend in a space millimetres between crashing down backwards onto the ground or returning to a normal sitting position? Yep, that moment of regret as your heart beats profusely as it sinks into your stomach and you subtly check you haven’t accidentally pooed your pants?
So take that moment, extend it for 10 minutes, and you’re half of the way toward experiencing what life is like on a highline.
For those who are unfamiliar, to highline you essentially attach a thin and loose bit of fabric between 2 points really high in the air, whack on a harness and attach yourself to that fabric. Then you try to walk across it…
I know, epic!
So after being picked for the Osprey Adventure Grant, the mission was simple: Acquire the highline gear, source someone who can safely rig one, find some gnarly spots, whack on some silly costumes, and have sick time.
Preparing The Unprepared
Shortly after winning the grant it dawned on us that we collectively can’t rig a highline, nor had we ever walked one. That initial hurdle was a bit of an “ah fiddle” moment.
It wasn’t too worrying though as conveniently, a highline festival in Mt Arapiles was approaching. Here we could experience that “poop in ya pants” feeling we discussed earlier and meet some sweet people that would inevitably help make this adventure happen.
We spent the grant money purely on highlining gear, including webbing, a leash, a leash ring, alpine web locks, shackles, pulleys and more. Like a goat in a library, I had no idea what I was looking at, so my first question was something along the lines of “How the devil do I set this up?”
YouTube was a good friend to us over the next few weeks as we learnt to walk long lines in the park for practice, but we would still need a truckload of help to get our own highline rigged. During the highline festival we shimmied our way into the highline and slackline communities and met some awesome people that were keen as mustard to help us rig a line and partake in our adventure.
Highline gear is heavy. Luckily Osprey sent an Aether Anti-Gravity 85l pack our way, which made hauling around 30kg of lines, pulleys, shackles and weblocks a breeze. Their ultralight dry sacks also came in handy, keeping everything organised and the good stuff dry.
Highlines And High Fives
The scene was set, we had the gear, the people, the eagerness and the Huggies – an adventure was brewing up! Meanwhile, and very inconveniently, a massive storm was brewing up too. We had organised to go to Hells Window at Mt Magdala and rig a gnarly line in the high country, but given the 200ml of rain, lightning and 60km/h winds that weekend, we thought we’d be better off staying alive tucked in at home.
Unfortunately, it became very difficult to organise to get back to Hells Window in the short term; so for now I’ll have to say – watch this space. Instead, and just as gnarly, we all drove up to Werribee Gorge the following weekend to set up a 22m highline in the most picturesque of places.
After smashing out a solid hike to get to the top of the gorge, we spent a day laxin’ on the cliff tops, taking turns on the line and slowly sending it, one shaky step at a time. To make the day even more glorious, Harry and Victor accomplished their first “full man”, which is walking up and back without falling.
We were super grateful to have David – who first spotted this location’s highlining potential and rigged the first ever line there – come along to fully rig the line for us. After Hells Window fell through, David suggested, and went on to massively facilitate, our epic day out at Werribee Gorge. Watching his poise as he calmly walked back and forth on the line made us envious and hungry to practice more and send it like he does.
Hungry For More
As the sun was setting, while we were de-rigging the line and getting ready to head off home, I realised that a special and significant part of the adventure had been missed… the costumes! My dreams of being adorned in tight lycra, high in the sky with the wind blowing in my face, had been forgotten.
This became the perfect excuse to spread the word about “Walking On Thin Fabric In Cool Places Adventure 2.0”. Another adventure was in the making, however we decided to add a little spice this time and rig a line over water, across a quiet little quarry on the Mornington Peninsula.
This time we were ready. With a bag of costumes and sparkles in our eyes, we rigged the line and spent a good 20 minutes trying to squeeze into our costumes.
Except for Harry, who opted for no costume at all… literally.
Our Adventure Purpose
Photos usually speak a thousand words, but in this case, when sharing the photos with my folks, they raised a thousand questions like, “Why?”, “How do you even do that?” and “Damn, how do you look so good in lycra?”
It’s rather odd to voluntarily put yourself in situations where you’re nervous, afraid, adrenaline-filled and looking like a 5-year-old at their first costume party.
These adventures perfectly encapsulated what adventure means to me: pushing the boundaries and having a laugh whilst doing it. It was about being silly; about enjoying the company of quality friends, old and new; it was about pushing my own personal limits and overcoming that fight or flight response, just to get up and take the first step on the line. Highlining has a huge appeal as it requires total concentration and mental presence, it’s like moving meditation.
This adventure was a physical and mental challenge, it was silly, it was shared with great people and it stimulated mental presence. Those are the pillars that define adventures for me.
If you’re keen to get started and want to give slacklining or highlining a go, there’s a community of people that you can find on Slackline Melbourne’s Facebook page. Many people within this group set up beginner, intermediate and advanced lines every Thursday in Abbotsford. Most cities have their own groups so get searching.
Lastly, a massive shoutout to all those involved with getting the technical side of this adventure off the ground (pun definitely intended). David, your gear, guidance and knowledge was instrumental in making this happen. Without your help, we couldn’t have done any of this. Thanks Victor, for being a legend and helping David rig the line. Harry, for rigging the waterline and sending it, nude. James and the rest of the highline community for welcoming us in and showing us the ropes at Arapiles. Osprey for the rad gear and We Are Explorers for choosing this adventure!
Until next time, much love and gnarly times!
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