Around this time last year I visited North Yorkshire with some friends to rig the most ambitious highline of my slacking “career”.
The location was Malham Cove, an intimidating 90m limestone formation carved out of the dales by an ancient waterfall. Three of us arrived late friday afternoon to meet the rest of the six man team and proceeded to move the mass of gear bags and camping equipment through a series of fields to the top of the precipice.
That night was perhaps the most uncomfortable night I’ve spent outdoors which surprisingly had nothing to do with the sheer drop just a stone’s throw away. Breakfast was over fairly quickly and the six of us delegated rigging responsibilities such as running webbing and assembling anchor equipment into manageable duffle bags.
We rigged what’s known as a spaceline (three slacklines that meet in the middle) across the crescent moon-shaped facade; the two longer arms of the spaceline reached well over 150m long combined with a shorter 30m line to meet them in the void. It took the best part of a day to get the lines up, and by the evening the weather was beginning to turn against us, but that didn’t stop some having a walk in the dark.
Saturday night saw the arrival of the rain. From then on, everything turned cold and muddy, so we retired to the local pub down the hill for a pint by the fire. Stories were swapped and team morale was at an all time high. We stumbled back to camp ready to hit the morning hard.
Sunday approached and to no surprise, the weather was miserable. The temperature had plummeted, fog had descended and everything was soaked; just walking around the site became treacherous. The stark landscape was beginning to take its toll on me and I began to get a little desperate for warmth.
That all vanished the moment I got on the line for the first time. The daunting exposure that had played on my mind for the previous two days became my best friend. My breathing snapped into an erratic rhythm, and the tips of my fingers began to tingle as adrenaline was pumped through every fibre of my being. I should have been terrified. But here I was ninety metres off the ground, my life suspended on an inch of nylon; yet, I was focused and calm. For a brief moment, the world around me fell away and I was lost in the middle of nowhere.
I managed all of a dozen or so steps before my vibrations rebounded like a slinky spring. I could only watch as the wobble approached up the line towards me before sweeping the webbing out from under my feet and forcing me into a fall. Unfortunately I didn’t make it any further. The small progress I did make remains the highest and most exhilarating few feet of my slacklining experience to date.
As per usual, taking the lines down was a much faster process than putting them up. The rigging equipment and all 300m of webbing were sorted back to their rightful owners and we left the cove in the dark.
I hope to return to Malham to rig another highline to test my nerve with the exposure later this year.