Belgium Dreams and Disappointments

Text by TomnnPhotos by: Martin Wattersn www.martinwatters.comnnAfter having some great experiences in Belgium with highlining recently, we decided to try and repeat one of the most beautiful urban lines in Belgium. Already established by BeSlackers, 40 meters long and 40 meters high between two old mine cranes, it would be a great way to enjoy a beautiful view over the Belgium landscape. Some online ninja work by Florian Beyer was needed to find the exact location, before we could really start planning. The night before, Jens and Flo from Germany arrived in Tilburg to join us on this mission. Leaving at 7am, all that was standing in between walking the line was a two and a half hour drive and an easy rig, or so we thought… nnArriving on the scene, the cranes looked incredibly huge and strong from a distance. We decided to go take a closer look, but none of us expected what we found. After climbing a five meter high ladder, there was a set of stairs running up completely along the internal tower up till the highest point. In theory, the best and safest way to get to a highline, but in reality there was danger all around. The crane was completely rusted through, and entire sections of stairs had fallen down completely. The plates to stand on had giant holes in them, many steps were missing and some others would have fallen down in case we had stepped on them. Climbing up on the beams also wouldn’t have been an option, since beams the size of my upper leg rusted through and disappeared. nnAfter checking out both sides and discussing with the group for about three hours, we could not find a safe way to make it to the top of the cranes. In case of stairs, steps or beams breaking we could not only fall down ourselves, but also drop huge, heavy pieces of metal onto our friends below us. Often we get called daredevils or risk takers for what we do, but safety for ourselves and our environment is the most important standard in our sport. Highlining is our biggest passion, but when you get faced with these challenges you have to stay realistic and make the right choice. Deciding to walk away from what would have been a beautiful project is probably even more difficult than walking the line itself. If it can’t be done in a safe, responsible way it’s just not worth it. nnTo deal with this disappointment, we decided to eat a huge amount of Belgian fries. It was during this potato feast that we came with a new idea: One of us had spotted some old abandoned buildings close-by and we all felt like doing some urban exploring. After walking around a bit, Jonas and me decided to enter an old office to wander around. We made it to the dusty attic and when we looked through one of the small windows we saw a super obvious highline waiting to be established. We shortly checked through the room for anchor points, and there were plenty of solid wooden beams to anchor from. It took some time to access the other side of the building, but eventually we found a way in and spotted bomber anchor points as well. nnWe had to make a quick decision, whether to go home without doing anything, or establishing a really small new highline between these abandoned buildings. It didn’t take us long to decide we needed to do this to get our spirits high again, but also because establishing any new line is fun for me. It’s a great feeling to be in a space that no one has been in before. Walking a line for the first time also gives you a unique view of the scenery you are in, from an angle that no one has looked at it before. It would also be disappointing for the guys from Kassel to drive 600 kilometers just to look at two rusty cranes. After knocking out some windows and making a small plan, we were ready to start rigging finally!nn50 meters of static rope provided for a safe, redundant anchor on one side, while Jonas equalized a few beams in the attic on the other side. We decided to skip the tensioning process, because at this length it just isn’t necessary. There’s something really calm in walking a highline without tension, and I am curious to find out what the limitations in length are for this type of highlines. We all walked the line both ways on the first try, and played around for a while before we decided to take it down. Funny thing is that while standing in exposure, you had a perfect look over the two old cranes towering out of the landscape. nnThis project wasn’t about a mental or physical challenge on the line, but more about redemption for some of the disappointments you have to deal with as a highliner. I’ve never spotted a line, to be standing on it an hour later. Seeing a project in such a location and realizing it immediately gives a different kind of satisfaction than getting a new personal record. In the end, the Kassel boys continued their trip to beautiful Freyr, while the Dreamwalkers started preparing for another project in the early morning next day, which turned out to be the Morning Glory line. n



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