Monday, July 18, 2011

Highline - Walk the Plank

The adventure quotient at the North Rim went up several notches this summer. Following a major effort by Dave Hobbs and friends, the area now offers a serious new highline located west of the main climbing area.

Many thanks to Hobbs for the vision, the work, and the following report,

The climbing on the North Rim of Mill Creek saw a new kind of development earlier this summer. I set out on a mission to establish and walk the first Bitterroot highline. "The Plank," as the line has been dubbed, is located between the Eagle Head buttress and top of the Pie for Strength sector. The line spans about eighty feet and has a slight downward slant making it quite the experience for my first highline!

It's hard to judge the exposure below the line because it's at the top of the rim. There is a ledge around a hundred feet below you, but unless you're looking straight down it doesn't come into play. Instead, it feels as though you are above the entire canyon, making the exposure change from a mere hundred to potentially a thousand feet.

The line we used was made of two pieces of threaded Bluewater webbing with super tape inside. Bolts are used for anchoring, with four per side. They are set close to both edges so that the line does not cross over any rock, lowering the risk of abrasion. A boulder pad and a carpet square are perfectly adequate for padding. Although this makes the line safer, it makes it so that a below line mount is required to walk the line. There is no place to step on. Sit starts and chongo mounts were our preferred methods.

It took three days of walking spread over two weekends before I got the first send. Adam Blythe and Brian Martens also helped with setup, and worked the line. Adam got close and Brian eventually got his send on his second day of trying. This was a new experience for all of us, but it will not be the last. There are a few more potential areas at Mill Creek that we will be exploring looking for new, longer highlines. I want to give special thanks to Dane, Ken, Michael and Kurt who helped give bolting beta, let us use their drill and sold us bolts!

Plain and simple: Highlining is very dangerous and should not be attempted by anyone without proper gear and rigging experience!