A group of adventurers from Calgary and myself set out on a highline adventure on July 15,2012. The destination was McGillivray Canyon in Kananaskis Country. The approach was an easy hike through the canyon until we encountered a rather deep section filled with water. There was a cable attached to the eastern wall; however whatever stepping surface had been swept away. We turned back and found a trail on the western ridge of the canyon that allowed us to skip the wet portions of the canyon. The trail led to an open rock climbing area and we found a prospective highline spot near the end of the canyon.
The requirement we established for the highline were two trees on opposite sides of the canyon spaced about 15-35m between each other. We found a few suitable candidates but they were either inaccessible or upon further investigation the trees turned out to be poorly rooted.
The best match we found was in an open area directly above a giant boulder suspended between the canyon walls. Unfortunately, the trees were not at equal heights, so our line would be slanted. On the tensioning side, there was not a lot of land in front of the tree and on the opposite side, the line had to be raised up 2m off the ground to compensate for the height difference. These limitations significantly affected our attempts to walk it.
It took a solid five hours to securely rig the high line. Since it was our first highline, it took us a while to get everything right, there were a few mistakes that had to be corrected. We used BalanceCommunity’s Type-18 webbing for the mainline with climbing rope underneath for the backup line. The line was about 20m long and 30m off the ground below.
Harnessed in, we each attempted to mount the highline, on the ground it is a simple task, but in the air it is terrifying.
Our safety leash was longer than needed, so we tied a few knots in it to use as a ladder in the event of a fall and because we had to start mounting the line off of the ledge (the tensioning system took up all the room) it proved to be helpful. I have not perfected the “sit-start” method, so I opted for the drop knee starting position. With one leg in the leash knot (to step up) and my back leg on the line, fear took over and my body would not balance. After two more attempts to mount the line, I was exhausted. My fellow companions had the same amount of success, we just couldn’t do it.
Although the attempt was a failure, we all learned a lot. We now know that our line is safe, and will be able to have confidence in our gear and in ourselves. Next time I will mount it!