If Lynn Hill says that something is a good addition to a climber’s training, it means just that. It cannot be questioned.
Now, I’m going to assume for a moment some of you are from Mars and haven’t heard of Lynn, so just a brief recap. In 1993 she was the first person to free climb the Nose. And a year later the first person to free climb the Nose in under 24 hours. And yes, she did it before any guy could do it. So, as just said, if Lynn Hill says something is good for your climbing, it is good for your climbing. Period.
‘There was a pull-up bar tied to the fork of a tree’ – she recalls an improvised gym in Camp Four of the late eighties – ‘a rope ladder made with sections of PVC pipe, free weights lying about on a remnant of a carpet, and a chain strung between two trees on which one could practice tightrope-walking – all useful tool for developing the strength and balance needed for Yosemite’s climbs.’*
These days we’ve got it so much easier. To practice tight-rope walking you don’t need to drag a chain behind you anymore! Buying a slack-line is as easy as buying bread (but you know that bread is not good for you, right?)
I remember first seeing slacklining climbers. It was in Spain around ten years ago and I was young and stupid and had even less of a clue than I have now. But seeing Dani Andrada walking on a rope made me think there must be something to it. And then I forgot about it until last year in Fontainebleau my friends hung their slackline between two trees in our gite’s garden. In a quick flashback I saw Dani bouncing up and down on a rope in Rodellar and enthusiastically tried to copy him. My sudden meeting with the ground was a bitter disappointment.
Slacklining is not easy. It takes quite a while to master standing up, walking and turning, usually in that order. Once you get these down, there are infinitely more manoeuvres to practice, but the first three will take some time. In the process, you will develop better core strength and body consciousness, both adding to your balance. To me the most important lesson was in forcing my mind to focus on a seemingly easy, repetitive act of stepping forward. The benefits of being able to pull that state of mind when climbing are obvious. As my very eloquent physiotherapist friend puts it, ‘yeah, this slacklining thing is awesome’.
For all female slacklining info and activities check out https://www.facebook.com/pages/Girls-Only-Slackline-Festival (hoping to bring you some more information about the festival soon) and https://www.facebook.com/SlacklineGirl. Here is what Jillian, the founder of SlacklineGirls, says about her website and the community:
‘I originally started SlacklineGirls a year and a half ago to spread the word among people with similar sports interests. I realized there was a large rock climbing community, as well as other outside sports; however, it was hard to find communities specifically built around slacklining, especially in the US!
I was first introduced to slacklining a few summers ago while I was at the beach, so naturally I thought it was a beach sport. However, all of the slacklining blogs were more aimed towards the rock climbing community. This is when I decided to make a place not JUST about slacklining, but about all the different types, places and people that do it. I wanted to show people that it could be done anywhere, by anyone, especially girls! As the blog and website progressed more and more, women started coming out of the woodwork and proudly announcing how much they loved the sport.
The goal right now for slacklinegirls.com is to stay up to date with the latest trends and people in the community, while also helping to advance the sport. In doing so, we will continue to post article, photos, and videos about the women involved. We also hope to eventually start sponsoring slackline women at competitions.
As you can probably tell, slacklinegirls.com has a lot of goals but with the help of the women’s slackline community we’re confident that we’ll reach them!’
In the below video you can get a hang of what highlining is all about:
- Webbing usually comes in three widths: 25mm (~1″), 35mm(~1.37″) or 50mm(~2″). The wider the webbing the stiffer and easier the line.
- If you want to be able to quickly set up your line in a park or wherever else you like, go for a set with a ratchet that allows for fast rigging.
- If you want to be more of a pro and think of high-lining in the future (setting the line high above the ground) you will need to learn how to operate a system of pullies, that make for a safer set up. How they work, is a mystery.
- A smaller distance between anchors means that the line will be stiffer and easier to walk. Setting like this is an easy way to start learning. Starting on a loose and long line is more difficult but will make you into a slackline ninja.
- Bare-feet or in shoes – the choice is yours. There are benefits and downsides to both, just do as you please. I try to mix it a little.
- It’s not expensive. I got my line for under £40 including delivery.
- Slacklining is becoming more and more popular and some department stores started stocking toy lines. Steer away. Get your line from a climbing shop (e.g. Rock On). Look around for trusted brands (e.g. Gibbon for many happy users, Macaco for value for money, Mammut for the best out there)
- Slacklining is highly addictive.
And last but not least, meet Faith Dickey, the slacklining super girl and TED talker.
If you want to get into slacklining in London and happen to have absolutely no slacklining friends, (although if you’re a climber that’s not really possible) just look around Victoria Park and be sure to spot a tight-rope soon. Or, if you’re short sighted, give me a shout and I’ll let you know where to meet us.
And as always, a big shout out to kiell for my phone snaps.
*quotation from Hill’s autobiography Climbing Free: My Life in the Vertical World, Hill L., Child G. 2002