Smith Rock Highlining Festival 2012

Posted by tkuester on 09/01/12

“If you build it, they will come”. That is what they say in Field of Dreams, and that is what Brian Mosbaugh is doing. Only instead of baseball he is using slacklining as a way to lure out the best and most passionate line monkeys to the first ever Smith Rock Highline Festival. Rather than a field some where in the middle of Iowa, the towering crags of Smith is the staging place, and instead of a pickup game of baseball, the prospect of ten plus highlines stretching from 30 feet to the freshly bolted 382 footer has convinced people from all over the world to make the journey to Smith Rock.

The event officially started Friday, and while there were a couple of early arrivers, the real action didn’t start until today, Saturday, when at the crack of dawn lines started to see some activity. It didn’t take Peter Hudnut long to set a new personal record, sending five different lines in one day, three of them onsites. When asked if he was going to try and beat his record again tomorrow he responded with an enthusiastic, “Heck yes!” Following in the tradition of breaking personal bests Ben Plotkin-Swing, who has only been highlining since March, drove all night from Seattle and when he arrived atop Smith Rock at 8 o'clock got the onsite of a 90’. Ben’s goal for the festival is to the slay the 220 footer.

At one point during the cooler morning hours there were 18 people stretched out enjoying the sun together, trading war stories, and sharing beta on other popular areas to highline. In the distance spectators lined up to gape in, what I hope is, wide eyed amazement. When asked about what they thought of so many people highlining one woman said, “Were trying to figure out what a person would have to be possessed by to want to do something like that.” The group she was with nodded in agreement after a quick chuckle.

Quite possibly the most dramatic line set up for the festival is the 382’ set up by the current highline record holder Jerry Miszewski. The line is easily viewed no matter where you are in the park, and sits adjacent to a another freshly bolted 220’ line. While Jerry has already got the first ascent, I will hold off on telling you any more about how he did it until tomorrow when I will sit down for an interview with not only Jerry, but the festivals founder Brian.

Just a FYI for anybody located close enough to Smith Rock and wants to come out to enjoy the last long weekend until winter, the festival will last until Monday. It is a free event, welcome to all, and the only expense will be parking fees for your car. If you can make it to Smith, head to the Bivy (Smith’s camping site) and ask around for “The Highliners”, or if nothing else head up Misery Ridge and look for the people with the biggest smiles on their face, they will tell you everything you need to know.

Travis Kuester

Feeding the Wild Life

Posted by tkuester on 06/01/12

From time to time, even though the signs warn against it, it is necessary to feed the wild life. I’m not talking about pilfering out a couple peanuts for the local chipmunks, or scattering crumbs for a couple of hungry looking birds, I’m talking about nourishing one's inner need for adventure. That part of your self that calls out for a hike, a climb, or a ride into the unknown.

Lately I’ve been malnourished, only sustaining myself on the few scraps I could salvage from the afternoons after work. Hungry for more, I packed a bag and jumped on a plane and found myself in the buffet known as Smith Rock. With a quick look around it is easy to see how filling this place can be. Spandex riding gear, harnesses swaying from the backs of climbers, and more sun screen than you can imagine make up the ingredients that can turn any person's hunger into blissful satiation.

While Smith Rock has numerous options to appease even the pickiest of patrons, I found myself partaking in the heartiest of delicacies, highlining. If you are unfamiliar with the sport, imagine a tight rope walker at a circus; now take away the long pole they use to balance, take the tension out of their rope so that every step results in both lateral and vertical movement, then take the scene out of a circus tent and put it outside in a setting where the wind, daredevil cliff swallows, and 500 feet of nothing below you can play havoc on your mental faculties. Trust me when I say just witnessing the sport can be a heart-pounding experience.

Over the span of four days a small group of highliners traversed across Smith Rock walking—and establishing—various highlines. For some members this was their first experience with lines so high, for other veteran highliners this was a chance to challenge their personal records, not only for the height of the line, but for the length of a line as well.

On the last night in Smith Rock I looked around at my fellow adventure seekers. Their robust attitudes trumped their exhausted bodies; the talk is riddled with developing more highlines, and the possibility of a highlining festival in late summer has many people’s mouth watering. It is in these last moments at Smith Rock that I realize my hunger for adventure has been curbed, but like all cravings I know that the appetite will be back, and when that day comes you’ll hear me calling, “bon appetite”.

A few pictures of the "Wild Life"