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June 23, 2013: Nikolas "Nik" Wallenda becomes first man to cross a Grand Canyon area gorge on a tight rope
Nikolas 'Nik' Wallenda became the first person to high-wire walk, without a safety net, across a Grand Canyon area gorge on June 23, 2013, crossing the Little Colorado River Gorge in the Navajo territory outside Grand Canyon National Park. He successfully completed the walk without safety devices in approximately 23 minutes, making him the first person to tightrope walk across a Grand Canyon area gorge.
Nik Wallenda trains for his Grand Canyon walk in Sarasota, Florida.
Nik Wallenda had been planning to walk across the canyon since 2008, but put the plan on hold first due to logistical difficulties and then to highwire walk over Niagara Falls in 2012. After his success at Niagara, he accelerated plans to cross the canyon. In March 2013, Wallenda and Discovery came to terms on television rights for the walk.
The air temperature during the walk was expected to exceed 90 °F (32 °C), with the steel cable hitting 100 to 110 °F (38 to 43 °C). To prepare, Wallenda walked a 1,000-foot (300 m) wire twice daily along the banks of a Sarasota river with fans watching. He practiced with wind machines to simulate wind gusts up to 91 miles per hour (146 km/h). During Tropical Storm Andrea he practiced among 52 miles per hour (84 km/h) wind gusts and heavy rain. Wallenda said it was "hard to prepare for [the updrafts] ... when it comes down to Mother Nature, we’re not in control." His highwire shoes, which are custom made by his mother, had elk-skin bottoms to counteract the heat.
Wallenda simulates windy conditions using a large fan, June 14, 2013.
On June 23,
As the walk began at 7:38pm MDT, Wallenda realized the wire had become slippery due to gathered dust. He spat on his hands and rubbed his shoes for better grip. Shortly thereafter, he stopped and crouched down on the wire due to wind gusts. He later stopped a second time to break the bounce of the wire that his walking had induced. Throughout the walk, Wallenda could be heard praying, repeatedly saying "Help me to relax, Lord", "God, you’re so good. Thank you for this opportunity, Lord", and "Thank you, Jesus." Midway through he said "Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God". Wallenda ran the last few steps then jumped off and kissed the ground.
At 1,500 feet (460 m), the walk was the highest of Wallenda's career, about seven times as high as the Niagara crossing. He covered a distance of approximately 1,400 feet (430 m) in 22 minutes, 54 seconds, using 2-inch-thick (5.1 cm) wire. He carried a 30-foot-long (9.1 m) balancing pole weighing 43 pounds (20 kg). Wallenda said it was important for him to vary his pace throughout the walk to prevent resonance effects.
Little Colorado River gorge near Grand Canyon National Park.
The location was outside Grand Canyon National Park's borders, about 40 miles east of the main tourist facilities. According to the United States Geological Survey, the Grand Canyon geological area includes the Little Colorado River Gorge. A Grand Canyon National Park spokesperson said the walk "would not have been approved" to take place in the Park due to regulations that "events must not unreasonably impair the park’s atmosphere of peace and tranquility or have an unacceptable impact on the experience of park visitors.
After the walk, Wallenda said it was more difficult than he had expected and that "it took every bit of me to stay focused". He said that dust had accumulated in his contact lenses and called the walk unusually stressful. Additionally, he said an "optical illusion" made it hard to concentrate. However, he called the view breathtaking, and said the opportunity "was a dream come true.
"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." -Albert Pike
"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." - Clarence Buddinton Kelland