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

Thursday, April 4, 2013

"Wild Cat" - My first solo highline establishment


"Wild Cat" - 120 feet (ish) :)

For about 4 years now I've been involved in the sport of highlining and it's so amazing to stop sometimes, look around and see all the progress I've made over those years. One of the things I love most about the sport is that there's always something new to challenge yourself with, always some way to get better. That can be done by trying longer lines, higher lines, learning new tricks, learning to rig your own lines and much more, the list is endless. During the whole journey I've been very cautious and careful not to push my limits too far, or push myself further than I am ready for. I remember about two years ago a friend of mine asked me to go rig a line with her, just the two of us. At the time I was still fairly new at the sport and wasn't quite ready to go out and rig something without an experienced and knowledgable rigger with me. I said no because I wanted to stay safe and I felt like I had a lot more to learn....and I did.

Years later, being just last week, I "established" my first highline. This means that I scouted it out, climbed, bolted, rigged and was the first person to walk across. This was a HUGE step for me. I am so proud and feel a big sense of accomplishment. I had been scouting this particular area out for about a year before it was the right time to set something up. The area is relatively untouched when it comes to both highlining and rock climbing and the line that I envisioned required not only bolting but trad climbing to get to one of the sides. I was so excited to get started because a lot of the fun is in the process of it all.

My boyfriend Mark was out of town when I started so I had friend and photographer Krystle Wright help me out by belaying me up to the side that required climbing. I bolted the easy access side first and it was fairly simple, although I was using a drill that doesn't have "hammer" action. This means it's a bit more difficult to drill the holes and takes a bit longer than it would if it did have the hammer action. A very big thank you to my friend Mick for lending it to me! Once the bolts were drilled on the "easy" side the next day I geared up to make my ascent to the other side. I climbed up a gully that I'm guessing was about a 5.7 or 5.8 crack climb (with really only 2 fairly difficult moves). Once I got to the point where I was ready to bolt I realized that it was not going to be easy. There was no real place for me to sit or position myself that was both comfortable and a good angle for me to bolt. I tried to make the best of it and it ended up taking me 2 days to get only 3 bolts in due to the drill, battery life and the other limiting factors. Once I got the 3rd bolt in I decided that was enough. There was a really nice crack to place some camelots as extra protection up there so I decided that I had put enough bolts in. Thanks to Krystle for being so patient with me and for being an amazing belay!

The next day I ascended again to start getting the gear up there and attaching the line. I was up there for approximately 2 1/2 hours hanging in my harness and setting up the anchor, which really starts to get uncomfortable! Meanwhile, Krystle was hiking up and down the other side attaching lines, hauling gear and getting things ready for me. Once I was finished and everything looked satisfactory, I realized that Krystle had fallen asleep in the desert sun so I hurried down to join her for some rest. The line was just about ready! All we had left to do was tension it and tape the main line to the back-up line before I could walk it. I finished it off that day but decided to head home, rest, and walk it the next day. Rigging takes a lot out of you!


Shot from below by Erin Hamilton
That night, Mark got home from his trip to California and I was able to tell him all about the past 4 days. He was so psyched and couldn't wait to watch me walk. I was actually quite nervous and for a few reasons. The first reason was that I had put the bolts in myself. Up until that point, I had just blindly trusted the bolts that other people had put in, which you do when you're climbing established routes or rigging established highlines. This time, I had a bit more knowledge of them and due to that knowledge had more doubt and worry in my mind (not sure if it was justified or not, but it was there). Secondly, the line was pretty long and also fairly loose. But, despite my nerves I stood up confidently and walked across on my first attempt, an "on-sight". SUCCESS! I was ecstatic, my heart pumping, full of appreciation and feelings of such accomplishment. So much work and I had done it! This is what I love so much about what I do....it's difficult and sometimes grueling but that feeling when you make it across is priceless. I decided to name the line "Wild Cat", a childhood nickname that was given to me by my father. I have always been a bit on the wild side and I find it very fitting for my first line establishment to be named that :)

**The pics are few and a bit obscure because I want to save the good pics for when Krystle releases them :) Stay tuned!