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Sedona, Arizona, United States
~Adventure Seeker ~ Animal Lover ~ Lifetime Learner ~ Battling Lyme ~ Contact: emily.sukiennik@me.com

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

lost arrow spire


It has been a goal of mine for about three months now to walk the Lost Arrow Spire Highline in Yosemite National Park. I started slacklining (kind of like tight rope walking, but the line moves underneath you as your walk) just about when I began working at a Rock Climbing gym in El Cerrito,CA called Bridges. My friend and boss Damian Cooksey (one of the best slackliners on the planet! no really, it's true) and I had planned to go in the beginning of July to rig the line and make a trip out of it, but it turned out that some of our friends were already up there in June and the line had been rigged...so it was really temping to just drive out there and walk it! On Friday night we decided to do it, spur of the moment. We left at midnight, drove for a few hours and got to a campsite about 40 minutes outside of the Valley. We drove in but couldn't seem to find the actual campsite! We were way too tired to search so we got out our sleeping bags and slept on the ground in the middle of the RV campsite. Good thing nobody caught us. Such rebels :-P

The next morning we got up real early and drove into the Valley. We had to clear the car of all food and scents to prevent bear break ins and we also had a bag full of food that we didn't want to hike up the trail with us so we were going to put it in one of the big bear bins. Stupidly, out of instinct or something, I threw it away! Damian had climb onto the dumpster and fish it out with his hiking pole. I had thrown away this special sunscreen of his that reminds him of his honeymoon. Oopsies! Good thing Damian is the coolest ever.

We met up with Libby and others that were hiking up to the rim. We all stayed together for a while then Damian and I fell behind. It took about 3 1/2 hours to hike up. Brutal. I was sooo thrilled to get to the top! The whole hike up I could see the Spire Line and on occasion see someone walking it!

We got to the top, were soaked with sweat, and it was freeeeezing up there! So we bundled up and sat and watched while our friends Andy and Jenna walked the line. Jenna had sent it the day before, 2nd woman in the world!!

Storm clouds were rolling in, so Damian and I decided to get our butts down there and try it out. We had to repel from the top down to the flake where we could sit and prepare. I hadn't repelled like that in a while so i was a little freaked out. When we got to the flake I was feeling alright; not too nervous just yet. I decided to just give it a go rather than lingering there and thinking about it for hours. It was really cold and actually snowing a bit! I was wearing about 4 layers. Damian set up so that he could hold my hand for the first couple of feet. I felt like I was going to throw up once I stepped onto the line. It took me a little while to gather myself, but surprisingly I just went for it. I took my first couple of steps, let go of Damian's hand and off I went! I was pretty solid until I got to the center and the line changed (it feels a lot looser in the middle and it can throw you off). I started to lose control, my mind started to race and I bailed. Almost lost my favorite scarf while hanging upside down! There were two guys on the Spire that had just climbed it, and Damian was on the flake so I felt pretty comfortable and less alone than I expected to while dangling 3,000 above the Valley floor! I pulled myself back to the flake and let Damian give it a go. After a while I started to shake both from the cold and from the fear, so we jugged back up. Funny stuff actually. It was my first time "jugging" up a rope (you use aiders and walk up the rock while attached to the rope, and it's actually very difficult to figure out the flow of things!) I ended up swinging about 15 feet into Damian. Check out the photos and you'll see us struggling, it's hilarious.

We spent the night next to the fire drinking wine, "smacking the teet" (a silly game where you smack a bag of wine), giggling, telling stories, etc. Damian and I had to set up our "tent" in the dark and it was the most ridiculous piece of equipment we had EVER experienced. I don't think I could even begin to describe this thing. It must have been a scene. Anyway, we finally got it set up so that we wouldn't get rained upon. Goodnight.

When we woke the next morning, the weather was perfect! Sunny skies, a bit chilly, but no rain. We ate breakfast and headed back over to the Spire. When we got there Becca was walking; she sent it that morning! Both ways! 3rd woman in the world!!

When I got down to the flake that morning, I was more scared than the day before. I didn't expect that at all. I was shaking uncontrollably and my mind was playing games with me. We got a call from Libby while we were out there; she told us that the rangers were possibly going to come up and make us take the line down, so the pressure was on for me to send it! I went for it. The first steps were the hardest mentally, I just had to steady myself for the rest of the walk. I moved slower this time which helped a lot. Damian encouraged me the whole time, reminding me to breathe, to move nice and slow, and not to think about anything but the moment. I couldn't let myself think about the end or else I knew i would lose it. I'd been practicing on a longer line for weeks at the gym, so this was a walk in the park skill wise. It was the mental part that was getting to me. I lost my balance a bit in the middle but saved it this time! The last few steps....I didn't let myself panic, and there I was!! I made it! It was such a strong feeling of accomplishment that I felt like I was dreaming. I couldn't believe that I had actually done it. I had just become the 4th woman in the world to send the Lost Arrow Spire Highline!!!

It was the most incredible feeling, sitting out there all alone. I felt like I was on top of the world, maybe in heaven. It was so beautiful and I felt so proud, yet I couldn't stop my legs from shaking! I was pretty terrified thinking about what I was going to do next. I tried to ignore that and just enjoy the moment, the view, and the glory of reaching my goal. I didn't have a hand to hold this time and I was not yet comfortable doing a sit start (where you scoot out a bit onto the line and start from a sitting position). I decided to crawl back (pulley myself back underneath the line). This was more comfortable for some reason. I wonder what makes it so much scarier to stand up! I asked myself whether or not I would be disappointed if i didn't walk back. I decided that for me, just getting to the Spire was enough. Next time i will send it both directions, I know it!

I got back to Damian and a weight was just lifted from me. Some of the fear and shaking went away. I sat and watched him play around on the line for a while then it got too cold to sit there anymore. I'm trying not to forget these feelings; I honestly can''t believe that I actually did it....