It was high noon when Taylor VanAllen stepped out on a slackline 400 feet above the cheering crowd gathered at the bottom of Eldorado Canyon on Saturday morning.
A wind had been cutting through the canyon, and the 500-foot-long line wavered with each gust. VanAllen slipped a few times during his first attempt.
“I don’t think he’s going to make it,” said onlooker Judy Koenig. “I don’t feel very good about this. I’m glad he has a harness.”
Although VanAllen was at 400-feet off the ground, he was leashed onto the line, and the entire rig had been set up with redundancies to keep him safe.
When all the safeguards in place, slacklining becomes known as “highlining,” according to event participant Marcus Nelson, who added that slacklining is not usually allowed in Eldorado State Park.
“This is pretty special,” he said. “We were able to set this up with park approval.”
He said it took about eight people six hours on Friday and Saturday to set up the rig, which involved walkie talkies, scaling the canyon wall and stringing a rope across the canyon before the slackline was pulled across. Breaking it down would be much quicker.
VanAllen, a Morrison resident, was retracing the steps of legendary tight rope walker Ivy Baldwin, who traversed the canyon many times in the early and mid-20th century. The anchors he used to set a high wire are still in the rocks.
“He did really well,” said Jaime Pletcher, marketing director for Slackline Industries, which is VanAllen’s sponsor.
“He did well considering the wind was whipping him around every place,” Pletcher said. “We thought it was going to take 40 minutes.”
Because he was already up there, VanAllen walked the line three more times, doing tricks on the fourth trip. The third trip, however, was the most important, because he got his “send,” a term slackliners use to describe getting across the line without any slips.
“It was good to see success,” VanAllen said. “It was great to get the send. The first walk was pretty rowdy. It was windy, and the line was moving every way. It slowly started to calm down, so I got some good walking in.”
The money raised through ticket sales will be donated to Action Committee for Eldorado, which board member Scott Bennett said will be used to maintain trails and keep anchors that the rock climbers use, safe.
Bennett said that some of the climbing trails in the park were made in a “free- for-all” fashion in the ’80s and ’90s, with no thought of whether they would be maintainable. As the sport increases in popularity, keeping them maintained and sustainable is paramount.
“Climbing has become massive on the Front Range,” he said. “People are moving here just to do it.”
VanAllen walked down to the canyon floor after his fourth walk, stopping to take photos with onlookers. He said that the route he took on Saturday will henceforth be known as “Poison Ivy.”
“Ivy Baldwin said wire walking is like poison ivy,” he said. “One drop will kill you.”