On Sunday June 10th, Said, Dylan and I went to set up a highline at “The Monastery”. The Monastery is actually really close to Estes Park. If you are coming from Denver, you take I-25 to Loveland, and then take highway 34 west towards Estes Park. Once you get to the town of Drake, it is a fun drive up a bunch of switchbacks on a steep dirt road until you get to the trailhead. At that point we got out and started the hike. The hike is only about 1.5 miles, but it is really brutal. It is probably close to 1000 feet of elevation gain and loss in the first ¾ of a mile to get through a really steep cliff section and then across the valley to the climbing area. We hauled butt and it only took about 20 minutes. The rigging took a lot longer though. It was about 3 hours before we had a walkable line. The gap was 35 feet long and about 110 feet high, with Longs peak dominating the horizon in the background. I can honestly say that it is one of the coolest areas I’ve ever been to in, and the fact that we were highlining there was even cooler.
Dylan, one of the guys we met up with for this line, is a really good highliner. He has been walking highlines for several years now, and has quite a few significant walks. Two summers ago he walked the lost arrow spire line in Yosemite. This is the highest established line in the US, and the second highest line in the world. Because of the intensity of the exposure, there have only been 20 people in the world who have walked it. Dylan’s highlining has been featured in many different catalogues and magazines, and it was no surprise that while we were highlining, a couple of older guys who work for Scarpa offered to hook Dylan up with a shoe sponsorship right there at the crag (There were a lot of strong climbers working on 5.12s and 5.13s right near us). They wanted him to wear their shoes while he walked the line, and he gladly agreed. It was really cool. Hopefully after I get some more experience in the realm of highlining, I can get sponsored as well.
Because the line was so short, it was really quite easy to walk, so we all tried doing tricks and other fun things to push the envelope even further as we were on the line. I got the knee drop, lay down and sit start. Said was able to pull off a lot of really cool moves that I don’t know the name for. Dylan was really incredible though, pulling off a couple of surfs, no-hands walking, and a lot of really hard sit moves. It was pretty fun.
Dylan with Longs Peak in the background
By the end of the day, we had all walked the line several times, all with very minimal falling. Nobody took a leash fall, which was great.
This is only my second outdoor highline, but I feel that it was scarier than the first one. In fact, while I was up there I was really questioning my decision to do any sort of intense activity. I couldn’t really find the fun in it for a while. In the words of my Buddy Jeff, “for me I love it...I think that you can never fully understand the beauty of life unless you are scared ****less with the possibility you might die”. Well I’m not so sure that I agree with that, but Jeff jumps out of planes for fun. In my opinion, life wasn’t meant to be drab and boring. God didn’t put us all on this earth to sit on our butts and push the button of a remote all day or complain about everything. It really grinds my gears when people who do nothing with their lives think they have a right to argue about meaningless issues like war, american idol, etc. I think life is so much more worth living if you are on the edge. Of course I make sure that everything is safe on the highline before I do step out onto the void, but at the same time, once you are on the line there is no control whatsoever regarding your fate, except for the ability to put one foot in front of the other. How many people can say that they have simplified their life so much that their entire fate rests on the ability to take a step? Walking is something almost everyone takes for granted and it is an incredibly important human function, but it is never simplified to a matter of life or death. What if everything were simplified in this manner: eating, breathing, blinking, pouring a cup of coffee? Because highlining simplifies life in this manner, I grow an incredible appreciation for everything that I come in contact with. It is hard for people to understand this without having a similar experience, but I feel that I am actually a better person because of highlining, and this is a gift and blessing from God not to be overlooked.
I think that "The Monastery" is an aptly named location.