Americas

Friday 1 August 2014

Man crosses 'Grand Canyon' on high wire

Published 24/06/2013|08:01

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Daredevil Nik Wallenda has successfully crossed a gorge near the Grand Canyon on a high wire, becoming the first person to attempt and complete the walk 1,500 ft above the Little Colorado River.

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A misstep would have meant death for Wallenda, who walked without a safety harness or safety net below him. He carried only a pole for balance and took 22 minutes to walk from one side of the canyon to the other.

Despite strong winds and dust blowing into his eyes, Wallenda safely made it across the wire.

A microphone attached to his clothing captured his prayers as he slowly advanced along the wire, which measures just two inches across

"Praise you Jesus. Winds are way worse than I expected," he remarked at one point. Twice he sat down and seemed to need to steady himself.

 But, wearing shoes made especially for the feat by his mother, he got up and kept going, jogging and hopping as he made is close to the end. He was greeted by cheers as he stepped safely back onto land.

Afterwards, Wallenda told the Discovery channel that the winds were at times "unpredictable" and that dust had accumulated on and around his contact lenses.

In this photo provided by the Discovery Channel, aerialist Nik Wallenda walks a 2-inch-thick steel cable taking him a quarter mile over the Little Colorado River Gorge, Arizona
In this photo provided by the Discovery Channel, aerialist Nik Wallenda walks a 2-inch-thick steel cable taking him a quarter mile over the Little Colorado River Gorge, Arizona
Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks on a two-inch (5-cm) diameter steel cable rigged 1,400 feet  (426.7 metres) across more than a quarter-mile deep remote section of the Grand Canyon near Little Colorado River, Arizona June 23, 2013
Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks on a two-inch (5-cm) diameter steel cable rigged 1,400 feet (426.7 metres) across more than a quarter-mile deep remote section of the Grand Canyon near Little Colorado River, Arizona June 23, 2013
Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks on a two-inch (5-cm) diameter steel cable rigged 1,400 feet (426.7 metres) across more than a quarter-mile deep remote section of the Grand Canyon near Little Colorado River, Arizona
Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks on a two-inch (5-cm) diameter steel cable rigged 1,400 feet (426.7 metres) across more than a quarter-mile deep remote section of the Grand Canyon near Little Colorado River, Arizona

"It was way more windy and it took every bit of me to stay focused the entire time," he said.

The high wire walk was watched by a global television audience of several million.

The daredevil, 34, already holds seven world records including the longest walk over a waterfall, which he achieved last year when he crossed Niagara Falls, and the highest bicycle tightrope (235ft), completed in October 2008, live on breakfast television.

Wallenda is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family.

 Before he set off on his attempt to cross the Grand Canyon, he said he planned to try to wrap his legs around the wire and try to hang on if he did lose his footing.

His grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell to his death during a high wire walk in Puerto Rico 1983. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

Wallenda told reporters after the walk that he hoped his next stunt would be a tightrope walk between the Empire State building and the Chrysler building in New York.

Before the walk, a group of Navajos, Hopis and other Native Americans stood along a nearby highway with signs protesting the event.

The stunt was touted as a walk across the Grand Canyon, an area held sacred by many American Indian tribes. Some local residents believe Wallenda hasn't accurately pinpointed the location and also said that the Navajo Nation shouldn't be promoting the gambling of one man's life for the benefit of tourism.

"Mr. Wallenda needs to buy a GPS or somebody give this guy a map," said Milton Tso, president of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation. "He's not walking across the Grand Canyon. He's walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It's misleading and false advertising."

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