The Spaceline Eclipse

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Backdropped against the annular eclipse of 2012 a Moab, Utah team slung a three-way highline across Mineral Bottom Canyon. Lead by Super Bowl slackline sensation Andy Lewis, aka Sketchy Andy, the group put up and walked an intersecting spaceline that spanned 92 feet across a chasm more than 200 feet high!

“It was a great highline,” Andy said. “We pre-rigged it, set it up in an hour, everyone walked it. But I was 100 percent disappointed in the eclipse.”

Nicely framed within the path of the setting sun the highline route known locally as the Wet Beaver promised an excellent view of the solar event. Bolts were previously set on opposites rims of the red sandstone feature called The Fruit Bowl, a vertical deep dish of windblown rock at the apex of the box canyon. Andy planned a photo op spectacle to capture the eclipse with dramatic images of highliners sporting headlamps and the webbing route strung with hanging lanterns. But without the light shrouding effects of a total eclipse darkness never happened and the concept crumbled.

“It was the biggest failure of anything I have ever planned,” Andy said. “But It turned out to be one of the more fun things we’ve ever done because everyone came out.”

Several local highliners made the off road car ride to the Fruit Bowl over rocks and desert scrub grass near Canyonlands National Park. With All-Terrain-Vehicles to haul in gear and coolers full of iced drinks the ambitious project transformed into a party.

“For me it was like a big family highline outing. It was more fun and less focused,” Andy said. “It’s not always about the getting the picture. When we realized it was going to be an utter failure it was kind of nice to abandon it and just highline.”

Established by Terry Acomb of Fruita Colorado in 2008 The Wet Beaver is a popular highline site for enthusiasts looking for an exciting challenge. The addition of a spaceline is a new feature that formed a third access point with the installation of two new anchors by Andy’s partner Hayley Ashburn, highliner and author of the book “Modern Slacklining”.

A spaceline projects a second length of webbing attached and perpendicular to a primary highline. First developed among Moab athletes in 2011 the spaceline adds a new level of difficulty.

“Because it points out into space you have no reference points. So it’s a lot harder to balance,” said Moab highliner and photographer Scott Rogers. “But it also allows three people to walk the line at the same time.”

With a center point of tension where each line comes together the spaceline turns one highline into three. And even though the eclipse photo-shoot was a bust the canyon spacewalk more than made up for it.

“Walking it with other people was more difficult than I imagined,” Hayley said. “Each of the three lines was hard to walk in different ways. The two (primary) lines were tighter than I thought they’d be and the space line was looser.”

Mineral Bottom Spaceline from James Mills on Vimeo.

The motion of each highliner is transmitted to the other two lines. So a bit more skill is necessary to walk without falling and disturbing the balance of your partners.

“But it was a lot of fun because you can share the experience with one or two other people.” Hayley said. “Highlining is such a solitary thing but the spaceline adds a whole new dimension.”

The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac and the New Belgium Brewing Company

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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