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How Highlining Works

How to Walk the Line: Highlining Techniques
Highlining by the light of the moon
Highlining by the light of the moon
Jared Alden/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Highlines consist of two main parts: the line and the anchors. The line is usually made from 1-inch-thick (2.54-centimeter) tubular nylon webbing, which is hollow. At each end is an anchor, which can be set up in a number of different ways but often consists of steel bolts drilled directly into the rock. Because of the tremendous forces placed on this equipment, redundancy is crucial. Highliners typically attach a backup line below the main line, and install multiple steel bolts to help anchor each end into the rock. This means that if one line or bolt breaks, another will be there to save you from certain death.

A tether can also help ensure your safety. These consist of a short length of rope tied to a climbing harness on one end and a solid steel ring on the other. Highliners wear the harness and thread the highline through the ring, so in case of a slip they won't fall far. If you do take a tumble, get ready for the ride of your life as your tether jerks you to a stop, then bounces you up and down like a yo-yo for a few moments!

Just as important as proper highline installation is site selection. You might think that setting up a relatively low highline, maybe 15 or 20 feet (4.5 or 6 meters) high, might be a good way to introduce yourself to the sport, but you'd be wrong. Even if your tether is fairly short, a fall might stretch the highline enough to send you careening headfirst into the ground. Location is just as important as height. Only put up a highline where you have permission to do so. Drilling into rocks on public or private land without the proper approval can get you into a lot of trouble and could hurt other people's chances of getting consent in the future.

When it comes to actually walking on the highline, different people have different strategies. Some wear shoes while others go barefoot. Some find focus on the sounds of nature while others wear headphones and listen to music. All make slow, yogalike movements with their arms and legs to maintain balance and safely reach the other side.