Rigging with Jonas and Basti was a fun, but time consuming process that got us all incredibly dirty from being in the old cooling tower. The line itself felt really nice and comfortable. It was also cool to test a new webbing in such a nice setting for the first time! The shows all went well, and I was able to walk the line every time I wanted to with some exposures and bounces during the walk. The transition from highline to trickline and back, 2 times per hour, seemed tough at first. After the relaxed reggae sounds from the first jumpline show, we managed to stay in that vibe for the rest of the night.
Derigging the line however was a completely different story for me, and honestly the most scary experience I’ve ever had. Since the cooling tower was incredibly hard to access, the plan was for me to leash in, slide to the cooling tower with a rope, derig the line and rappel down. Before sliding over, everybody was in place and we went through the plan again. Two minutes later I sat down on the cooling tower, which was about 50 centimeters wide at the rim. My left leg was hanging inside the cooling tower, and my right leg on the outside, with about 20 meters below me. So far so good, and I gave Jonas the sign to detension the highline. At this point, I still had not seen the massive thunderstorm coming from behind.nnOut of nowhere, a strong gust of wind knocked me down with my chest against the rim of the cooling tower. When I got up and tried to look what happened, I couldn’t see anything around me. One second later, I saw a lightning bolt striking down not too far away from me, and I realised I was in big trouble. The rim of the cooling tower was the highest point around, and I was sitting right on top of it with no fast way to get off. Sliding back was no option, as the line was already detensioned. Already completely soaked, I concluded that staying on the cooling tower to wait out the storm was not an option, and I had to get down as soon as possible. Building a rappel from the rope in my backpack was the best option. However, I could not even see my hands and I was laying down on the rim to shelter myself from the rain and thunder. There were still lightning strikes everywhere around me. I managed to get the rope out my backpack, tie an eight to a shackle, throw the coil down and clip in with my eddy. During this whole process, I could not see what I was doing. The circumstances were everything but ideal to rig something which my life was depending on. Being super exposed in the middle of a thunderstorm, every second was counting, and I made sure I was not spending any unnecessary time on top of the cooling tower. Another quick double-check using only my hands, and I decided everything felt right. I never rappelled down so fast in my life. nnFeeling solid ground beneath my feet has never been so good. I ran inside to hide from the rain. As soon as I was in a dry space, I just laid down and was unable to speak or react for quite a while. Even though the whole sequence described above only took 1 or 2 minutes, it drained me of all my physical and mental energy. My friends still had no idea what happened, and were relieved to find me down safely. nnWhen rigging and derigging highlines, I try to be as safe as possible and make sure my friends and I are at all times clipped in to a rope. Sometimes, you cannot control all the factors. What you can do, is take all factors into account and plan and prepare accordingly. In this case, we failed to properly assess the weather before going out to a potentially dangerous place. Luckily, it ended well but it was a scary lesson to be learned!
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