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Outside Bozeman Magazine


Working at Outside Bozeman Media gave me a live look into the world of working in the outdoor publication industry. Being a staff photographer allowed me to develop a variety of skills from Networking to Advertising to developing a publication in the eyes of a photo editor. I met and learned from some incredible people while engaging in the surrounding Bozeman environment practicing some of my favorite skills as a photographer. I've had dozens of photos published by some of Outside Media Groups four publications, most notably including the cover photos of their 2022 Spring and Summer and 2024 Summer Edition of Outside Bozeman.

Bend Magazine

Bend Magazine Highline Article.jpg

Balance Magazine

Stretching the Record, One Step at a Time


Article and Photos by Daniel Teitelbaum 

Contributing Words by Sean Englund 

Interviewees: Chris Arndt, Sean Englund, and Mike Ashworth

Walking towards the rim of Rocky Gulch Canyon in Central Oregon, the morning sky began to ignite, and the sun threw its rays from the horizon, illuminating the canyon below. The highline emerged from its meandering shadows, glimmering in the air and swaying in the breeze until the webbing disappeared from sight. While not visible, the far anchor lingered in the distance, anchored 2.16 kilometers away. Looking out, the breeze calmed, and the air fell still. Even before anyone touched their feet to the webbing, there was a sense of achievement in the air. 


In a delicate dance between opposing forces, balance is a harmony achieved through focus, precision, and mindfulness. Highlining is the essence of perfecting that art. 


During an eight-day stint in May 2023, highliners Sean Englund, Mike Ashworth, and Chris Arndt, along with a team of 18 others, pushed their craft to a level few thought was possible, breaking the record for the first 2-kilometer highline project in the United States, and the first 2+ kilometer line rigged using the curtain rod rigging method. 


"The motivation for the 2.16 km project was the next step in a progression of going bigger and bigger," said Arndt, who had a significant role in planning the project and bringing it to fruition. "In the past, we've had a 470-meter line in that canyon, then a couple of 1-kilometer lines, and then a 1.53-kilometer highline. To me, it really was just the next step to be taken." 


The Plan

On a project of this scale, many hours went into planning, and many logistical challenges needed to be overcome. Arndt spoke about the main challenges of the project: sourcing the webbing, the logistics of how they were going to rig the line, and, most challenging, calculating how much force was going to be exerted throughout the rigging and the walking of the line. 


The first planning challenge was sourcing the webbing. "A handful of those involved in the project owned around 500 meters of webbing, but if one person didn't show, it would've put us in a bad spot, so ensuring that everyone would be there and stoked on the line was the first step" Arndt said. 


Highline webbing stretches and sags with weight, making one over 2 km long challenging, especially with a low-tech backup. A considerable concern throughout the planning process was the amount of force that was going to be exerted on the taglines, pull line, and curtain rod throughout rigging. 


Tom Brown, a computer engineer and vital team member, played a crucial role in calculating these forces ahead of the rig. "Tom made multiple calculations by inputting numbers into a spreadsheet he had created that told us the forces we would see on the anchors with numerous materials. This allowed us to decide the material we needed for our tagline and curtain rod," Arndt said.


Brown's calculations played a crucial role in the decision to attempt the record. They ensured that the forces exerted would be within the controllable parameters for the line to both be rigged safely, and for people to walk.


Englund gives all the credit for the project's planning to Arndt. "He was making Excel spreadsheets for organization, doing communication, and gear prep. It had always been on his radar to break the U.S. record, and Chris just decided to do it, inviting close friends and making an open invite to whomever may be interested," Englund said.

The Rig

As Arndt also pointed out, one of the hardest logistical challenges Englund mentioned was relying on all the highliners from across the United States to show up and not be called into work or bail on the project altogether. 


"There was a lot of uncertainty. The weather played a huge role, but the first big achievement was getting everyone to the canyon," Arndt said. "Once everyone was there, though, it was game on."


The crew consisted of like-minded individuals who were all stoked to connect the canyon gap and had all made the time to make it happen. Everyone was up early each morning from the get-go and ready to hit the road running. Despite the afternoon lightning storms that cut each day's rigging in half, the morale was still high, and everyone wanted to see the rig through to the end.


"This was a little different than your standard straight pull rig, where you tag the gap with a small diameter cordelette, then pull the webbing across," Englund said. "Instead, we used the curtain rod method, which is becoming increasingly popular for big line rigging."


As used in this particular rig, the curtain rod method involved securing a thinner line of 4mm amsteel to a series of natural anchors at either end of the canyon. This method allowed the team to slowly send the larger webbing segments across the canyon, connecting the final two anchors with webbing. Ultimately, due to weather and logistical matters, the rigging process took three days plus a morning. 


Englund mentioned that the rigging process was quite involved, not in difficulty, but instead in the sheer amount of rope pulling. 


"The first gap had to be tagged by hand due to just the vast distances that needed to be covered," Englund said. "First a 400m gap, then a 220m, 350m, 530m gap were tagged initially, then one-by-one were released to connect the bigger gaps. Eventually, we had a mile of line in the air, and the last anchor was released, forming the full 2.16 km." 


Ashworth was part of the seven person hauling team on the static anchor side of the canyon. “It’s amazing how much fun you can have spending days hauling soft goods across the canyon,” Ashworth said. “Despite the challenge, it was definitely one of the highs of the whole project.”


Once the less expensive tagline was connected between the anchors, it was used to pull across the curtain rod and a pull line. After that was completed, the curtain rod was tightened by using the integrated "clutches" while the pull line remained loose below it. 


The biggest unknown at the time was whether the curtain rod method would still be easy at such a long distance or would hinder the project. 


In 2021, Englund and eight other friends from Colorado proved that the current rod method worked at a kilometer distance, but before that, it had only been done between 300 and 400 meters. Yet, here he was again, on the 2km project. The crew had a solid gut feeling that everything would work, but there was always uncertainty. 


"The thing about big lines is that they're big! Like massively, unfathomably big, to the point that you contemplate if it's even possible to rig one between the two points, let alone walk it," Englund said.


According to Englund, one of his initial worries was getting the tagline across the 2km+ gap without damaging it, but it went fairly smoothly. They managed to tag the mile gap in about 42 minutes and then proceeded to release it out to the 2km+ gap. 


"After days of rigging, enduring the common afternoon storm, and issues with sagged taglines due to poor clearance when swapping for thicker lines, the team was still juggling, laughing, and cracking jokes over the radio," Englund said. "Out of all the things that went successfully, I would have to say our teamwork as a whole was on point throughout this project."

The Walk

On the morning of the fourth rigging day, Tom Brown got up at the crack of dawn and went out onto the line to release the last segment of the curtain from the highline. Walking towards the canyon's rim, the highline gradually came into view, laying still between its two anchors. As the sun continued to rise, the team trickled over from the nearby campsite to lay eyes on the reward of their tireless work. 


After some needed stretching and time spent calming the mind, Englund tied into his leash. Stepping out from the canyon, 160m above the river below, Englund became the first person to ever walk on a 2km line in the U.S. He began shortly after sunrise when there was no wind and not a sound in the air. To Englund, and most in the highlining community, this sensation is blissful – a state of heightened concentration and connection with the space around you.


When Englund starts his walks, he tries to silence his thoughts. They come and go, but he has to focus on his breathing and steps, one after the other. This can sometimes take hundreds of meters before finding the space where everything becomes fluid, "in a trance type of way," he said. 


"Unlike climbing, the benefit to a highline is it's the same movement time after time, allowing you to slip away into an altered head space," Englund said.


"I started off shaky with lots of feelings and emotions going through my head," Englund said. 

"At a certain point, though, I realized that I just needed to submerge myself in the line and, as corny as it is, become one with it, and, eventually, I found my rhythm and began making fluid steps, one after the other." 


One of the most complex parts for those walking the line was reading the line's movements. “On such a long line, the webbing humps with every step, shifting back and forth horizontally between the anchors. The walker is just along for the ride,” Ashworth said. Reading its movement is challenging, but it's easier to continue moving forward once you find the pattern. It also helps to feel its movement when, for example, you make an awkward foot placement; your body can quickly readjust to balance out. 


While walking, many people like to lock their eyes on a focal point. Englund, however, prefers a wide gaze, allowing all of his surroundings to become one. He finds that this helps him when instability occurs because rather than trying to find that one object or spot, you can continue to look at the whole picture around you.


"I didn't experience much sound around me during the walk, or at least I don't remember it," Englund said. "I vividly remember seeing the occasional bird fly by and a car or two pull over to observe and snap a photo." 


Walking swiftly, Englund moved confidently on the line, making it look like a walk in the park. Around the 1750m mark or so, however, his leash ring got snagged at a connection point, where a beer sling that extended the backup webbing had twisted up into a tension knot. After 2 minutes of finagling with his leash ring and fighting the hump of the line, Englund took a fall onto his leash. 


"On any smaller of a line, this problem could have likely been mitigated while feeding out the webbing, but on a line of this scale, once the line was up, we just had to go with it," Englund said. This was the only time Englund would fall on the line, both on his first attempt and second. Englund responded, “frustrating, sure, but it's just how it goes sometimes.”


Ashworth was the second person to attempt the whole line. On his best walk, he too recorded just one fall. “I was there to be a part of the team, and in return, I got to continue pushing my own capabilities and the limits of this sport,” he said. “One of the biggest highlights for me though, was watching my friends on the line. It was a really awesome experience to watch.” 


Englund felt incredibly grateful to have had the first attempt walking the longest highline in the U.S., not to mention the third longest line ever rigged.


"It was such a beautiful morning, and the walk was nothing short of magical," he said. Englund chooses, day in and day out, to find ways to incorporate slacklining into his daily routine and lifestyle. He describes it as a focused meditation, where you continue to submerge yourself in it until you gain the whole experience you're looking for. As he said, you'll only become more comfortable with it by being in it!


After a day and a half of the line being up, a Bureau of Land Management ranger showed up to the canyon, stating that the line couldn't be rigged in a scenic viewshed. A scenic viewshed is a title given to well-known and heavily trafficked areas for viewership. 


"After some conversations with the ranger, we agreed that we would derig the line when we had the proper amount of hands to derig it safely," Englund said. Ultimately, the line was only up for three whole days before being taken down. 


Since the completion of the 2 km project, Englund’s mantra, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got," resonates profoundly. These highliners, visionaries in their own right, have not only broken an incomprehensible record and expanded the boundary of their sport but are already looking forward to what's next.


The team is filled with excitement and anticipation for what's to come. Their journey doesn't end with this record-setting feat; it's a stepping stone to even greater objectives. Arndt said, "There's always room for growth and improvement, and we're eager to push our limits even bigger." 


Chris, Sean, and Mike want to extend their appreciation to the rest of the team for bringing the 2.16 kilometer project to life. “It only takes one to walk a line, but it takes a village to bring that bridge to life,” said Englund. “That week in the desert is a time that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”


A special thank you to the team at Balance Community as well for supporting Englund and the team, and for filling in some of the gaps where gear was needed for the project.

Montclair Art Museum

After a trip to Tanzania, Africa, my photo titled 'Through the Eyes of Africa' was acknowledged as a Gold Key Image by the Montclair Art Museum. There, it was hung for 6 months as part of an exhibition. The image captures a young boy's first glace into the lens of a digital camera. For most born into the Masai tribe of Tanzania, there is little digital contact to the outside world.

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