Many people would be horrified at the idea of balancing over a gorge, at dizzying heights, on a strip of polyester webbing just 2.5 centimeters wide. For me, walking across such highlines is an everyday thing. I’m a professional slackliner—and I love testing the limits of what’s humanly possible.
For me that means: the more extreme the conditions, the greater the challenge. Despite this, I’m no adrenaline junkie. I only slackline with safety gear and never lose respect for heights. It really is a primal fear for humans, being so exposed, that never really completely disappears.
In any case, trust plays a very large role for me in what I do. Firstly, the foundation for every highline crossing it that you have absolute trust in the material itself, and also in the anchor points. You must be convinced that the construction will hold. This also includes being able to have one-hundred-percent trust in my team, who sets up the slackline. They cannot make more than one mistake. One mistake can be compensated for because for a highline, everything is set up with redundancy. There are two independent systems that protect me, so if I fall or the system fails, the second system would catch me and I would be safe, dangling from the slackline. A second failure would be life-threatening.
I very seldom experience a sense of panic. Despite this, there are moments when I become aware of nature’s sheer power. Last year, I was highlining in the Auvergne in France, across the world’s longest nylon highline: 615 meters long, and 200 meters above a gorge. However I had to abort this world-record attempt because it became too dangerous.
The conditions were bad due to strong winds throughout the day. As the sun set, the wind suddenly shot up to more than 100 kilometers per hour, which meant I was pushed 100 meters sideways. The slackline was like a gigantic lasso, whipping through the air. My whole body felt the raw power of nature, and I had to trust that the material could withstand the gale-force winds. It held.
Yet I don’t let that deter me, and we’re already planning the next project. I want to climb Pico de Orizaba, the tallest mountain in Mexico, with my team. The peak is more than 5,600 meters above sea level—and is also an extinct volcano. Our goal is to span a slackline across the 400-meter-wide crater. It will be doubly challenging for me, because of the extremely high altitude.
PHOTO: one inch dreams
Alexander Schulz, 26, was born in Rosenheim, Germany, in 1991 and has set several world record in slacklining.