Hoots of encouragement and support echoed as participants in the second annual Assault On The Chief attempted to highline across the gully.
People from as far away as California and Montréal gathered at the North Gullies of the Stawamus Chief on Saturday, Aug. 16, their common cause: to traverse the 30-plus metre gap between the two peaks via inch-wide, nylon webbing. Though the slackliners were tethered, the drop to the net below was a lofty 100 metres, making for exhilarating experiences.
Martin Lafontaine, who drove from Fort McMurray, Alta to attend, has been slacklining for 10 months. He learned in the Stewart Canyon, near Banff. This is his first time in Squamish and the first highline he’s ever walked successfully.
Lafontaine quivered with excitement and adrenaline from his success on the line
“[I’m] pretty psyched. I’m going to Smith Rocks during the first week of September for the festival there. And then there’s Utah in November.
“It’s because of [event organizers Brent Plumley and Spencer Seabrooke] putting up the gear, encouraging and pushing you.”
The group of excited slackers came together around the impetus of the Slacklife BC.
Plumley and Seabrooke went to high school together in Ontario. These days, they just can’t seem to fit in enough slacklining so they created Slacklife BC, and started to organize and promote various highline events.
Plumley said the festival is growing.
“Last year, there were six people walking on the lines. It was really just a nice weekend and it was like, let’s rig two lines here and one on the South Gully the next day. As soon as we were taking down the gear, it was like… ‘So, next year?’”
Last weekend 100 people came to check out the highlines, half of which walked – attempted to.
For Plumley, summers are all about slacklining. After this event he said there are several more taking place elsewhere he plans to attend.
“There’s the Smith Rocks Highline Festival, so we’ll be down there. Two weeks later, we’re spending a week and a half in Yosemite and we’re just going bang off a bunch of lines there. Like last summer, I had every week booked before it even began. Busy, busy.”
In total there are five lines atop The Chief – three across the North Gully (between the second and third peaks) and two at the North-North Gully (between the third peak and the Zodiac Summit).
For redundancy, each line is comprised of two lengths of webbing and rigged one on top of the other. The lines are fixed to the granite on either end with four, half-inch bolts or five, 3/8 inch bolts and the load is equalized between all of those points.
When walking across the lines, the slackliners are visible from the ground as floating black dots.
Robyn Jenkins has been slacklining for a year. She’s walked these highlines and on a previous occasion swung on a giant swing set up in the gully. She says that the appeal is in feeling progression. “Every time you do it, you get better and stronger.”
“It’s cool because it brings people from all over the place together with a similar interest. It’s not just highlining. It includes a big hike up to the top, then rigging, highlining, de-rigging and going back down again,” said Jenkins. “It’s a whole experience.”