Daredevil crosses gorge without safety net

Wind was biggest problem for Nik Wallenda as he completes crossing in under 23 minutes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 11:44am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 3:52am


US daredevil Nik Wallenda has become the first man to cross a Grand Canyon-area gorge on a tightrope, completing his latest record-breaking feat in under 23 minutes.

The 34-year-old, who walked across the Niagara Falls last year, said he prayed constantly as he crossed a tributary gorge of the US landmark on 426-metre-long high wire some 450 metres above the Little Colorado River. He had no safety line or net.

Wind gusts were higher than expected, and he twice crouched down on the wire as it wobbled. "Those winds (were) so unpredictable ... just out of the blue there would be a 35 miles an hour (64 km/h) gust," he said.

"My arms are aching like you couldn't believe," he added, hugging his wife and children after the nerve-wracking walk - without a harness - over the stunning gorge in eastern Arizona broadcast live around the world.

Organizers said he took 22 minutes and 54 seconds to cross the wire - faster than anticipated - giving a thumbs up and half-running the last several metres to reach the other side.

There was some debate over whether the walk was over the Grand Canyon itself - technically it was over a tributary gorge in the Navajo Nation, east of the main part of the world-renowned landmark.

But organisers insisted he had walked across the Grand Canyon, and many who watched the death-defying stunt were willing to forgive any over-zealous marketing hype.

Wallenda has been planning the walk for about four years, homing in on a remote location at the eastern end of the mighty geological chasm, on land operated by Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.

He had hoped to be able to take questions from journalists live while on the high wire, but it became clear within a few minutes of the start that he needed to concentrate on the walk.

Wallenda was rigged up with a microphone and live cameras, including one on his chest looking straight downwards to the Canyon floor below -- a distance more than the height of the Empire State Building.

As he passed the half-way point he continued to pray - but as he neared the other side, the tension lifted palpably, notably when, instead of thanking God and Jesus, he said: "Thank you Discovery Channel for believing in me."

After dashing the last several metres he fell into the arms of his wife Erendira and his three children. "It's so important to have my family there. I wouldn't be doing this if it wasn't for their support," he told waiting journalists.

Wallenda, who has talked about Egypt's pyramids and the Eiffel Tower in Paris as possible venues for a future stunt, said after Sunday's walk he would likely stay closer to home.

"My dream for my next stunt is to walk between two skyscrapers in New York City," said the daredevil, who also paid tribute to his great-grandfather Karl, who died in 1978 after falling from a wire between two buildings in Puerto Rico.