Thursday, November 28, 2013

Highline Free Solo (free soloist mindset, that is to say about motivation, preparation and the way)

Lately I posted two full interviews about free soloing featuring Andy Lewis (click HERE) and Jordan Tybon (click HERE). Together with my my part it was going to be featured in a new "Slackline Corner" section in "GÓRY climbing magazine". The main editor after reading the material gave me a call. It was a good news. The full interviews together with the pics will be published on 4 to 6 pages and probably the picture on a cover will promote the article. I am pretty psyched about it and keep my fingers crossed that everything works out. Down below you can find my take on free soloing and the story how I got into it. Sometimes in the nearest future I will also publish interviews with Faith Dickey, Michael Kemeter, Petr Kučera and Spencer Seabrooke.

"I took my first steps on a highline back in 2006. I walked my first line during first slackline competition 'Slackline Masters' organized in Sokoliki Mountains. I remember on the way to this event my imagination was kindled by the thought of trying first highline in Poland ever. I was trying to convince myself that I am capable. I calmed myself down; 'Yet, in the end I am a climber so the high is nothing new', 'I am pretty skilled slackliner and every piece of equipment on a highline is doubled'. But as soon as I tied in and set on that short line strung between two peaks, all of these rational arguments were erased and instantly replaced by incapacitating irrational fear and the will to escape.

Sending my first highline in Sokoliki back in 2006

I was lucky enough to send this line first try. I named it 'Little Boy'. I remember exactly how I felt after sending it and this memory is still quite vivid. In general I am not a type of a guy, which looses it every time after sending a highline. That day though, I screamed so loud I am pretty sure people heard me in a village down below in the valley. My body kept shivering for the next half an hour powered by adrenaline, complete euphoria and pure happiness. I could not calm myself down. In retrospect I know that achieving my goal, defeating myself and most importantly feeling of relief induced that state of mind. I felt safe again and the fear was washed away when I got to the other side. Though at that time I was free soloing some easy climbs already, the thought of walking a highline leashless was just surreal. I promised myself I would never do it. The feeling of being suspended in space, the impossibility to grab and hold on to something like in case of climbing, lack of self-confidence and control over my body and mind excluded that option.

Full circle, after 6 years of constant adventure free-soloing my first highline (photo by Dominik Kapusta/'Little Boy' 2012)
Free soloing five pitch "Regular Route" up the Upper Cathedral Spire (photo by Jordan Tybon/ Yosemite, 2013)

Next three years passed and slackline managed to take over my life entirely. I gained some experience, walked hundreds of highlines around the world and eventually together with Somewhereelseland made it to Joshua Tree National Park in California. During that trip I realized few important things. I was way more aware of my body and mind reactions. I was also much better highliner then three years ago. The other things changed too. The moment of stepping off the line didn’t bring me the feeling of relief anymore, quite opposite actually. Sending highline from beginning to the other side wasn’t that important to me anymore. What matter was the process of walking the line and being in a space was bringing me most joy now. If only it was possible I would like to stretch this moment indefinitely.

Enjoying the exposure (photo by Lidia/ Ostrov, 2013)
Free-soloing at Mt. Lemmon (photo by Jordan Tybon)

I knew I was missing something and it was a bit hard to admit to myself that something was free solo. Still, during these last three years I was constantly looking for new challenges, moving my boundary of fear. I was sending more exposed highlines, the lines which were on my limit soon became doable in a “swami-belt” and the in an “ankle-leash”. After some thought I knew all these challenges were just the search of that moment I felt after sending my first highline.

Free solo is an ultimate test of you skills. The choice you have to make is identical to the one you had to make before sending your first highline. You can face your fears or escape. That doesn’t change although the intensity of the experience is always the same. There is no trying, no “maybe” or time for uncertainty. Once you step on the line you have to leave that behind you. For potential mistake you will have to pay highest price - with your life.

Swaming "The Shenis" on the Lighthouse Tower (photo by Jordan Tybon/Moab, UT)
"Ankle leash" send on the "In Had to be Snakes", just before soloing (photo by Jordan Tybon/Moab, Fisher Towers, UT)

Naturally I had to answer the question if this is something really worth the risk and contemplate possible repercussions of my own death. I continue to think about it everyday. It cannot be denied, free solo is pretty egoistic activity but so is any extreme sport and to some extend every human being. Believe me when I say I don’t want to hurt my friends and my family by my death. I appreciate every one of them, but if I don’t do it I wouldn’t be truly happy. I think they do understand me at least partially and I try to do the same. It is hard to understand it if you don’t do it yourself. I watch my friends, people I love free soloing and I am scared for them too but I also feel what they feel and I get it.

In terms of height and length, my first free solo was almost identical copy of the line in Sokoliki. As it turned out after sending it was also really similar emotionally. Feeling of pure happiness and euphoria came back. Though this time the form was manifestation of perfection, composure and mastery. I was fully in control of the situation and myself.

My first free-solo "Chongo Gap" Highline (photo by Jordan Tybon/Joshua Tree, CA)
Another freesoloco in J. Tree. Here on the "Hall of Horrors" Highline (photo by Faith Dickey)

Even if tried really hard it is impossible for me to fully describe the free solo state of mind. It is equally difficult to answer to the question “why” in a logical to a normal person way or explain rationally what really drives me.

Free soloing is something special to me. It is almost magical. When I am leashless on the line I feel truly free. I can escape from myself and met my true self, experience primary fear. After every free solo I can’t stop smiling and enjoy every moment of it as a baby.

Nowadays everyone tries to hide under security cover, elongate their lives, don’t do risky and rash moves and invest well in their selves. Personally, for me the moment, when I stand up on the highline completely free, I leave that scheme. For the moment I live fully, I live in a moment. My mind is clear and only present counts. There is no past and no future. I am levitating in the air on the one inch piece of webbing and my fear and meditative calmness melts into one. This feeling and this moment are liberating.

That doesn’t mean I play Russian roulette with death. I also don’t seek the worse, but I am trying to enjoy my life. Free soloing can teach you a lot. I try to apply these lessons in everyday life.

The preparation process as well as free soloing itself is way more complicated then it seems. I’m always trying to choose the best decision and I believe I am aware of the risks around me more then, lets say, a person commuting to work be car every day.

Freesoloco on the industrial line in Hamburg (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Free solo double knee drop (photo Jordan Tybon/Ostrov, CZ)

In decision making process I take into account things like my physical and mental preparation, frame of mind, mood, weather, technical difficulty of the line (to which also consists of many elements). And if I have any doubts I just back off. I can come back any day but I have only one life.

Physical preparation covers training, which is focused on proper technique, endurance and automation of motor skills. It is essential to master catching technique and to sustain 100% effectiveness. For example I didn’t take unexpected leashfall in more then three years now. I like to keep it that way just to build my self-confidence.

Free soloing "Hole Rock" Highline just before dark (photo by Jordan Tybon)
First freesoloco ascent on the "Mongol Invaders" Highline (photo by Jordan Tybon/Castle Crags, CA, USA)

For the mental training you can use any limited protection methods, as well as free soloing it self. As far as creating good training methods focusing on the physical aspects is relatively easy, that is not a case with mental training. Even though I learned quite a lot on my own, I did not understand everything completely and a lot of situations, my own reactions and feelings were complete mystery to myself.

That is why I decided to start cooperation with a sport psychologist Dominika Zapotoczna. I will not reveal detailed exercises or exactly how our cooperation looks like. It would be no use for others because it is highly personalized. What I can say is that it helped me a lot already to better control my emotions, concentration level, use my body in a proper way and introduce appropriate actions long before achieving my goal. Everyday I learn something new about myself.

Mostly it is bunch of work (photo by Jordan Tybon/Castle Crags, CA, USA)
With Dominika Zapotoczna, most positive person I know (photo by Wojtek Kozakiewicz)

I am hoping, by sharing my story and thoughts with you, I made the topic of free soloing a bit more understandable. I wanted to show it is not something irresponsible, reckless or just completely inexplicable. Though I cannot recommend it to anyone because of the high risk. If you want to know if it is something for you or not, you have to find the answer like anybody else, that is in your self."

Peace & SlackOn!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jordan Tybon - take on free soloing

Yesterday I published a full interview with my friend Andy Lewis about free soloing. I'm hoping you enjoyed it. Today I am going to present a full take on the same subject by Jordan Tybon. This guy is not only great soloist but great photographer, versatile slackliner and climber, solid industrial climber and dear friend of mine. We met for the first time in Morocco in 2007 during a climbing trip and since then out paths started to cross more and more. Now we both live in Berlin, we are on the same slackline team (Somewhereelseland), we work together doing industrial climbing, train together. I am sure sometimes he has enough of me already, but I couldn't ask for a better friend. Well, Jordan put up some of his thought about the cleanest of the styles in highlining. Since he graduated philosophy his thoughts are always well put and interesting. This time the read is quite shorter but it doesn't mean it's any worse. I wish I could show you more pictures of Jordan free soloing and being awesome but usually frugally he hides on the other side of the lens. You should check some of his YouTube videos for some Jedi rodeo surfing abilities or Monkey Business to see him after sending current world record swami highline (in my mind the record still stands just because of how proud that line was). OK, to come to the point, here it is and enjoy!

Jordan Tybon (Age 30)

Jordan in Ostrov

"It is quite difficult to give reasons why you would free solo. That's probably because the reasons that people have are so personal and distinct.

I can only speak for myself, and I don’t want to be misinterpreted. Honestly, for me it feels like a natural progression. At some point walking with your leash loses its flavor, and your level of confidence rises to the point where you begin to search out new challenges for yourself.

Jordan preparing for his first free solo ever (Ostrov/CZ)

Highlining was always for me a practice of control, of building up a tolerance for fear. And thus perhaps it becomes clearer why this felt like such a natural progression. As the tolerance for anxiety and fear grow, the challenge has to grow along side them, and thus to walk without a leash becomes the most logical consequence.

I cannot say that I have had any really negative experience with free solo, probably the most negative thing I have experienced in my life, turned out to be one of the greatest. That is, the free solo half man of the Lost Arrow Spire. The turmoil and anxiety of that event can scarcely be described, but neither can the joy and feeling of accomplishment.

Jordan topping out on Munginella 5.7 OS free solo - three pitch classic in Yosemite Valley
Jordan is one crazy soul. Pitching during the rodeo ride together with Julien Millot (Lodi, CA 2013)

Motivation? That is a tough one. The easiest answer is to say simply, because we can. And this is partly true, it is something we are capable of doing, we are aware of this capability, and the risks are more than acceptable. It takes no more calculation than deciding whether you should drive your car across a bridge, whether the bridge will collapse. You make a cost-benefit-risk analysis, and act rationally thereupon.

Jordan latest free solo in Ostrov
Raging leashless on some fun midlines in Humboldt

And to explain it like that makes perfect sense to me. I can completely identify with this exact thought-process, but somehow, when I describe it like this, its not why we do it. It simply explains the process.

I think the search for free solos and in general the search for new challenges is a continuous reposing of the question: how well do I know myself? It is the search for our identity, an ability that is within us to say I can do this, I am capable, and thus to free oneself from the limits imposed on him by his environment, his education, and his society.

I think it is also a challenge, a crying-out to those who may be paying attention, not as a spectacle or grab for attention, but rather to simply put on display the limits of human potential. Their endeavors are a search for what is truly possible, what we, all together, are really capable of, when only we are fascinated by something."

Also, if you want more insides on free soloing "Lost Arrow Spire" read this FULL ARTICLE written by Jordan featured at Outdoor Research website.

I actually found really interesting what Andy and Jordan had to say about free soloing. That is why soon I am going to feature few more athletes like Faith Dickey, Petr Kučera and Michael Kemeter. Stay tuned for that and more!

Peace & SlackOn!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Andy Lewis - take on free soloing

Currently I was working on the new article for "Slackline Corner" which will be published next month in "GÓRY" climbing magazine. The title is "Free-soloist mind, what hides in it; motivation, preparation and realization". In that piece I will be sharing my thought about free-soloing, how I got into it, what motivates me and reveal some methods I use to prepare myself physically and most importantly mentally. The article will feature two other athletes which free solo a lot or I should say almost all the time. I am talking about Andy Lewis and Jordan Tybon. I would love to include all the other big names like Michael Kemeter or Petr Kučera (and others) but I am limited with two pages so I will have to cut a lot of material in order to make it work. I got the interviews from Andy and Jordan and they are quite a read. I thought it would be great to give you opportunity to read the whole thing. I enjoyed it a lot and thought you might too. After publishing the article I will post it here and translate to English. OK then, check what Andy and Jordan have to say about freesoloco.

Andy Lewis (Age 26)

Raging together with Andy and Hayley Ashburn in Fisher Towers (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Andy together with Terry Acomb and Jerry Miszewski in Moab during GGBY in 2009. You can see "Bongzilla" in a background. It was rigged then for the first time (photo by Jordan Tybon)

"Free Solo highlining is the act of walking across 1” wide webbing strung flat between two tall objects with no external safety. Your only safety is internal; focus, reaction speed, control. Some people think a free solo isn't a free solo unless it is a 100% chance of death in the case of an uncontrollable fall. Some people think anything over 30-50ft counts as a free solo, because realistically you most likely would die. Free solo however, isn't a number, it isn't a height, and it is complex to define entirely; because in fact - it is a mindset.

When you first start slacklining the control is hard to find. You are unsure, shaky, and the balance necessary to stay in control feels foreign. You can't even take a single step at first. This journey to control from chaos takes time and effort. The more time and effort you put in, the faster you find control. If you need 120 hours of practice, and practice 12 hours a day, you will fill your hours needed in less than 2 weeks. If you practice 25 minutes every three days, the time needed will take you multiple years. This is the exact same journey as free solo; however the journey of free solo is riddled with risk of extreme consequence around every turn.

When I started training free solo mindset I focused on catching the line. I wanted to be able to catch the line in any direction, under any circumstance, even with a blindfold on. I practiced catching in every way shape and form hundreds of times before I did a death solo. I knew that the best solution to being successful was to NOT fall ever, but that catching was the only back up I had. And I needed to train it. When I became confident with my catches I began to focus on training my mind. I started to tie into the line with a safety leash that would save my life in a fall, but kick my ass in doing so. Which was the point. If I was to take a fall in practice I wanted to be punished because I should have just died. The seriousness of the sport could not be overlooked for a single second, a single step, and ultimate focus. This was what started to draw me to free solo.

Double freesoloco with Andy. Even in a exposure turn, making silly faces ready to catch at any time (photo by Jordan Tybon)

I continued to practice free solo mindset. A “swami belt,” a leash tied only around your waist, provides as a safety, but in a fall may break your back or your ribs. “Shackles,” tying the leash from ankle to ankle under the line, saves your life but maybe break your legs in return. A “ball and chain” is the leash just tied around 1 ankle, and most likely in the case of a fall, you may still die when your ankle snaps and falls through the leash. I never took an uncontrolled fall on to any of these leashes, ever. What was and is still really crazy to me is how much different the lines feels when u take off what minimal protection you have. The difference between walking in an ankle leash and walking free solo... seemed miles apart. Just the chance of living, changed the mental game. Bridging this gap, pun intended, was the real challenge. Convincing yourself that you could do it safely, getting the courage to try, and always being forced by your friends, colleagues, fans, random people, and loved ones to answer the only question running through everyones head: “why?” “Why do you want to do this?”

"Ball and chain" in a bit more radical version (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Throughout 2008 - 2011 free solo slowly turned from hobby into lifestyle. Freesoloco became my catchphrase and all I wanted was to walk the longest highline in history without a leash. The hardest part was that I had no reason to do so, other than the fact that deep down inside, it was all that I wanted to do. Was it for fame? History? Respect from my fellow athletes? Was it to get sponsored? Was it because I wanted to die or that I wanted to live? Honestly, the reason why didn’t matter to me. It, and it alone, was my reason. And that was all I needed. I started to push for the record. I started to walk lines that I knew I might be forced to take a catch on. I started making it a goal to free solo at least once a week to stay current. In 2011 I had already free soloed more than 60 different highlines when I laid my eyes on “Bongzilla” Highline. I had walked 100+ feet line OS-FM free solo. I had walked 132ft free solo successfully, which was the current world record, but to me it wasn’t good enough. It wasn't long enough, or high enough. I wanted a record that I could 100% satisfyingly say, was a record. That's just about when I saw the line, and it scared me. This was it. This was my challenge. This was the manifestation of everything I had been doing the last 2 years. Trusting myself was the challenge. Continuously fighting my thoughts. Questioning my intuition. “Dying would be so easy,” I thought. Slip once off of any part of the line; and that’s it. You are dead.

Finishing current world record highline free-solo (photo by Jordan Tybon)

I found myself sitting on the highline free solo; hovering hundreds of feet high. I backed off the line without even standing up. Beautiful. Endless. Magnificent. My confidence shrank in front of the massive red desert cliffs that fell away into the exposure. Enthralled; hypnotized by the idea of the solo walk. But, this was not just any free solo. This was THE free solo -180ft long and 200ft high. If I were to walk this line free solo, it would be longest in slackline history. No cavaleties. No net. No safety leash. It was really simple; just my slackline, the emptiness, and me. “All year,” I thought, as I paced around our base camp. I have been soloing all year. I wanted to walk 52 different highlines free solo up till this moment; 1 for every week of the year. Couple days ago I finished walking all 52 solos more than a month early. I had no need to solo this line. I had achieved my goal. I had not been thinking about walking this line specifically. Nor, would I have ever dreamed that I could walk it solo. But then it hit me. I had been walking all these lines - just for this moment. This wasn’t time to think about goals, or numbers, or what my body would sound like when it hit the sandstone hundreds of feet below the line… It was time to be me. It was time to do what I do best. It was time to show myself what I had trained all year to accomplish. Even though I hadn't planned to walk this line free solo… I had to walk this line free solo.

Double free solo with Andy (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Andy free soloing "It Had To Be Snakes" Highline in Fisher Towers (photo by Jan Gałek)
Little and fun free solo on the "Medieval Turd Tickler" Highline (photo by Jan Gałek)

After 7 hours I scooted out just past the edge like the many times I had done before, but this time I stood up. I gained control and took step after step. My eyes locked on the anchor across the canyon. I was nearly half way out on the line when it happened. I miss stepped… I instantly lost control and all my worst fears came true as I fell. Being in mid air felt like slow motion. I was forced to catch myself! I screamed at the top of my lungs! Not out of anger or frustration, but pure exhilaration. I had a smile from cheek to cheek and I couldn't believe where I was! Dangling literally by a thread in the middle of space. I felt trapped and so free at the same time. I was alive, but couldn’t stand up again, and I was 100ft from either cliff edge… with no rope. It took me a few minutes but I scooted back safely. I felt so relieved to be back on the cliff, but I was ready to try again. I felt so solid; the rig was perfect, and I just new I could walk it. I wasn't scared this time, but I also wasn't as focused. I started out stronger and faster than the last time, but got about 15 steps out and fell and caught again! I came back to the ledge noticeably peeking on adrenaline. I could feel my whole body pulsing with power. I kept pacing and my mind was racing. Everyone around me could see my eyes were glazed over with something powerful. I was questioning whether or not I wanted to walk this line, but I couldn't stop thinking about the edge, the mount, the line, the tension, the focus, being in the exposure, being free, being perfect, being attentive, being alive.... I had to try again. An outside force pulled me. I was going to send this line. I just knew it.

I scooted out about 3ft and stood up on the line again. I forced myself to focus, take my time, and started walking. Then something started happening, something really strange. My vision started to change and go crazy, and I couldn't do anything about it. I was literally losing control of my vision but at the same time I was accessing some other higher mental state. I couldn't focus on the end of the line like usual. I was having a hard time breathing smoothly, and everything started blurring out... slowly being banished from my focus. Everything except for the brilliant white of the highline beneath my feet vanished. The exposure, the background of the hills, even the sky was absorbed into this uncontrollable blurs. I felt as if I was not fully able to control my own actions. My own brain was subconsciously controlling me. Like my heart and my lungs working without thinking, I felt as if I was being walked across this line by my subconscious. By the time I reached the end of the line I was so far gone into this mental state that I couldn't get back to normal for hours. I couldn't eat, or stop smiling. I felt like I could run miles, or climb Everest. I wanted to scream across the valley. I have never felt so alive, so in tuned, so mentally and physically effected by only 2 minutes on the line. Even later that night I couldn’t sleep. “Something powerful walked me across that line,” I thought lying in bed that night. I didn't know what it was, or how it worked… but I had never felt so potently in touch with myself. I closed my eyes, and continued to try to settle my mind to sleep."

OK, That's it. If you want to see more crazy videos from Andy check out his channel on YouTube or Epic TV. Stay tuned for another athlete Jordan Tybon talking about his experience with free soloing. Coming up soon!

Peace & SlackOn!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

'Polizei Macht Frei!' Highline

Last month Jordan and I had a free weekend and decided to start ticking possible highline spots off our urban highline list in Berlin. We did some research on the internet together and found this amazing spot - old abandoned chemical factory. Looking at the pictures online we definitely saw potential of the place but it turned out to be even better then expected.

We packed our haulbags full of gear and took of quite early at the morning (at least for us it was early start). After driving for a while we finally saw two big chimneys sticking out on the horizon. The excitement level reached its ceiling. We were speculating how big it is, how long, if there is a ladder to top, is it strong enough and so on. I definitely felt like a kid going to do something I should not do ... and actually it was totally justified feeling as we were going for illegal ninja highline action.

We parked our car further away and started hiking. It was kind of hard to find the spot but eventually we found the right path. We had to climb over the fence and soon we could scope and play inside this amazing location. Besides the chimneys we came here for, there is bunch of outdoor and indoor highline possibilities which have to be explored. This place is so big and awesome you could organize here a urban highline festival with lines from short up to 130m or more.

To not spoil to much I will stop right now ;) ... We unpacked everything, made a plan and started right away. We tried to be fast, but being a two-person team has its limits. We also forgot few things, had to fix the gear which shifted, haul the 'pig' with whole gear up the rigging side or other things like that. At the end I don't even know how many times I had to climb both chimneys up and down. Even though it just a ladder, when it's 70m up high and you try to be as fast as you can and don't fall of during the same time it can be quite exhausting.

The line is ready, getting ready to rock! (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Because we wanted to rig the lines as fast as possible and stay as low profile as possible we decided to rig the line with single piece of VecTec and pad it really well. After a while the line was ready to go and I think both of us were getting more and more nervous. We never had a chance before to do something like this. It was our first chimney highline. It was quite a line for the first time. It turned out to be 70m high and 38m long but man, it offered some crazy exposure. As far as you could see and all around you was just space, a bit of windmills with faint outlines of Berlins architecture in the distance. I got to send first. I started my normal routine and soon I was sitting in a chongo position.

On the way back (photo by Jordan Tybon)
and near the end (photo by Jordan Tybon)

As soon as I stood up everything melted together. It was a classic tunnel-vision. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It didn't happened to me for quite a while. I managed to send OS-FM. I was really, REALLY psyched. This was just pure 'epicness', together with my best friend during beautiful sunny day. "It doesn't get any better then this", I thought.

PSYCHED! (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Now it was Jordan's turn. He was quite nervous but I wasn't surprised. The exposure, illegal aspect, bunch of rigging involved, single line, something completely new. All together made this line pretty serious. We were joking about free-soloing but that would be some ultimate free-solo shit ... Maybe some day ;)

Jordan sending first direction
And on the way back

After a few falls, Jordan sends one way and returns on the fist try. We are both very happy but also quite tired and done. De-rigging goes quite, well, besides the ropes getting stuck all the time on the metal rings around the chimney. Finally we are done, packed and ready to leave. No problems so far, what a perfect day! Then we realize we left something on the top. Jordan was the last to leave the platform on top so he decides to climb back up. Somewhere around 20 meters or so he freezes up and doesn't move for some reason. Then I hear someone whistling at us and Jordan yelling to me "we have company!". After exchanging few more sentences I realize the company he is talking about is the police. Shit! Jordan flies down the latter, we put on our heavy backpacks and run away hiding around the old buildings. We can't climb over the fence because it is too visible. We decide then to crawl under it. The fence was pretty heavy and both our backpacks were huge. One person had to hold the fence up when the other guy was crawling underneath, then moving the backpacks to the other side. We thought we made it. We didn't follow any regular path in a park, trying to be stealth as much as possible. It was actually kind of funny. Finally we were at the street where we left our car. It looked like it's clear. Jordan checked out if there was no car coming and ran to open the car and I followed.

As soon as we were by the car and opened the door the police car pulled out just behind us. "What da fuck?!" We threw our packs inside pretending like nothing happened ;) ...

Jordan took the responsibility of talking to the officer and the guy turned out to be pretty nice about the whole thing. Though the lady sitting inside the car and checking our ID's seemed to be really angry and unhappy. We didn't lie. It was quite obvious what we were up to. Long story short, Jordan said we though it was OK to rig the highline there and we heard it was done before, blah, blah ... Fortunately the officer knew what highlining was. He even said he thinks it's cool and also that next time we should just call the company owning the place and ask for the permission beforehand. The lady tried to give us a ticket just to teach us a lesson but the 'good-cop' responded to her; "Common, they are good guys, lets let them go"!

We couldn't believe how random the whole situation was. If only we were there few seconds earlier. We came back home, still stressed as hell. At the end it was a great day, story and adventure. Hell yeah! In a tribute of the 'good cop' I named the line "Polizei Macht Frei!" which in my broken German means "police makes free".

Peace & SlackOn!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ostrov in Autumn (shocking end of the highline season)

During last weekend of November Jordan, his girlfriend Lidia and I made a short trip to Ostrov in Czech Republic. This place is magical and we always come back. You can not get bored of it, always finding new places, re-discovering old ones and during this time of the year enjoying natural painting made by nature and colorful trees all around you.

Jordan with Lidia - lovely couple :)
Autumn in Ostrov (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We thought it's going to be really quiet time but it happened to be lots of friends had the same plan (or just Facebook did its job). It was actually really cool to meet again all the friendly faces, got to know some new people, highline and then enjoy some party time in Pod Cisařem.

Where there is a lot slackliners there is also a lot of lines. It wasn't any different this time. You had anything from short up to "Master of Universe" Highline which is 96.5 meters long. I have some unfinished business with this line (have to full-man it) but both Jordan and I felt mostly like chilling, climbing a bit too, having good time not stressing too much on a bigger lines.

The first day was really windy, foggy, cold and wet. Jordan and I walked just one short highline and went down to eat delicious Czech food and consume large amount of bear and Kofola.

Petr "Peeto" Kučera (aka I call him 'Czech beast') free soloing the short line first day (photo by Jordan Tybon)

The second day started with bad weather but soon after that it got really pretty. Together with Jordan we decided to rig new line we saw last day. It wasn't anything big (probably 25m long/25m high) but it esthetically it was really pleasing. The line was located between two thin towers, perfectly leveled - just waiting to be rigged. The boulder sitting on top of one of the towers looked like half old lady and half a slug with a backpack on her back. That is why Jordan named it "Old Lady Slug with a Backpack".

Danny Menšík on one of the new highline and characteristic boulder on top of the tower (photo by Jordan Tybon)

But before we had a pleasure to name the line we had to rig it, which wasn't that simple. Because the rock was still totally wet and slippery we couldn't climb it. By using combination of throwing ropes over stuff, jumping from tower to tower, a bit of climbing, scrambling and other shenanigans we were able to reach the top of both towers.

Jordan on the way back, definitely way more sketchy (photo by Lidia)
Flying Jordan

Rapping off the second tower (photo by Jordan Tybon)

From there it was classic Ostrov rigging; sling the towers, protect it, tension your like and send it. We rigged the line with Slackline Brothers pulleys and piece of VecTec. It was really nice to walk. Both of us sent the line free-solo and then went back down.

Jordan sending like a boss
Free solo on the "Old Lady Slug with a Backpack" (photo by Jordan Tybon)

The last day was even more fun. We started by free-soloing the line we walked first day and then went back to new tower line. During the day Czech guys rigged another two new highlines sharing one common anchor with the line we rigged the day before. Jordan and I free-soloed all of them. I got to realize my stupid idea which was the 'ear-shackles' meaning the leash attached to my ear piercings going under the line. It was silly but it had to be done!

Ready for some silliness (photo by Jordan Tybon)

It was great time and I recommend this place to everyone who didn't visit this yet. It is amazing every time and you will definitely come back.

Lately my new addiction - exposure turns for full length of the song. Here in an ankle-leash and when I'm recovered free-solo version has to follow (photo by Lidia)

We drove back same day back home to Berlin. Back to work, back to training ... the next day I had a climbing accident at Ostbloc breaking my right leg. To make it more exciting I managed to make sure it was an open break. Lots of pain, fear, stress and uncertainty in a split of second when I slipped from the top hold on a boulder problem. On the other hand during this three weeks I already feel like I didn't do before. I can not describe with words how grateful I am to all my friends who were there for me since the day of the accident, then everyday in a hospital (yes, there was no single day when I was alone) until now ... Well, I will write separate post about it, but right now what I would like to  I miss Ostrov and I really appreciate that trip which happened to be the end of the highline season for me. I had some goals for which I wanted to come back even this year and this kind of bad experience made me realize even more how wonderful is to have a place like this and play in it together with friends. I think a lot of times I took this thing for granted ...

Now as an extra if you want you can enjoy a movie I made a while ago about free soloing in Ostrov. I think I might have just enough time to do something with tons of footage from that place which was never used before.

Peace & SlackOn!