Bird's Eye View

Written by Buddy Thomas of the Slackrobats

- Bend, OR - USA -

It’s so necessary; the light, energy and heat we get from the sun… It’s so powerful and giving, yet it escapes my mind sometimes how much I love the beaming sun blazing down on my skin. How much my body thrives as it soaks up the energy of the sun, the colors of the plants and flowers as they glow under the soul shine of the sun around me…. Just a few steps along the trail and I remember how amazing the suns rays of life are. I'm so pumped and excited, because a few friends and I are heading towards Asterisk Pass at Smith Rock State Park. Now I have been to Smith Rock numerous times before, but I have never been aware of Asterisk Pass, so I agree to go along for the ride. As we get closer to the Pass, I start to wonder where in the Park we are going to set up this highline.

  The Gift - Photo by Nick Braun

The Gift - Photo by Nick Braun

This is a fantastic adventure for me! Hanging out with friends, going to familiar places with new perspective, and getting another chance to highline. It's the Summer of 2014, and I'd gone highlining just a handful of times prior to this experience. At this point, I’m not comfortable rigging highlines by myself, so given an opportunity I jump at every chance I get to go with folks who are experienced in that department. As we hike up the mountain, we walk along jagged rocks and face the hot summertime Central Oregon winds.

Asterisk Pass is a fun yet slightly dicey shortcut up and over a low point in the park. Once we scale the short scramble we get to the backside of the park and start our hike up to our destination, “The Gift”. One step after the other, my legs go into auto pilot. While gaining elevation, I look over the sky and landscape to see the epic views unfolding before my eyes. After so many times on this mountain, I’m still in awe at how breathtaking the views are.

As we complete the final few steps of our hike, I see just how exposed this area is." We are going to set up a line here?", I think to myself... Okay, well now I’m really glad there are experienced riggers with us. Basically, we have to scramble up a 20 foot rock to set up one anchor point, while the other anchor is anchored to the tip of a rock ledge. We are surrounded by steep cliff edges that drop down about 300 feet or so! Just to set up the line is a task in itself, but I'm all in. “Here and ready, what can I do?” I ask, and I'm sent over to the sketchy rock ledge to help anchor the line in, this gets my heart pumping!  

  The Gift - Photo by Nick Braun

The Gift - Photo by Nick Braun

As the line begins to be tensioned, everything is fine until we hear a loud “POP” sound from the gear that is securing the line on our side. “Wait, hold up!” we shouted, “Stop!”

Turns out that a locking pin in the weblock got bent as the line was put under pressure. Most likely the pin was installed incorrectly. This gets me thinking about how the gear can be misused and/or fail while I’m on the line and that is an unsettling thought to say the least. Still, we fix the problem by changing the weblock and we give it a second go. This time there is no loud popping noise and the line is tight and ready to walk. I am assured that the line is safe, and I know it has a back up line as well, but I'm just not as eager to get on as I was before the POP noise. Still I push pass my fears and when it is my turn I put on my harness, do my safety checks on the harness and leash then stare at what I am facing.

I scoot myself out onto the highline to a point where it's safe stand, a spot where I will clear the rocks if I fall and whip. I settle down for a second, taking in the forever horizon that exists in front of me and the forever fall zone underneath me! Way down there, below me, I look at the flowing river and the tiny trees that line the banks. I sit there and think about the way birds must see things, and imagine that I'm in flight with a bird's eye view. 

Slowly shifting my perspective back to the line, I lean forward putting weight into my arms preparing for a Chongo mount. The line is shaking and my mind is too, but I stand up anyway. For a moment time stops, I’m standing in mid-air, complete silence, disbelieving…...  then time crashes up with me and I lose control, turn to bail and whip off the line. Dangling now, 4’ under my 1 inch wide pathway through the sky, a bunch of feelings are bouncing around inside. I’m happy I stood up, but I really want to walk this highline. I’m disappointed in myself because not more than 1 step in I fell, but at the same time I know the day is young. Crawling back onto the webbing, I reset and get ready to stand again. Again, in Chongo mount I take a deep breath, “I can do this” I tell myself. Once again I stand, another moment of bliss, but its short-lived this time as I get thrown off head first barreling towards the ground. My leash catches me and sends me flipping and twisting in all sorts of directions. Once I can finally tell which way is up, I pull myself up the leash and back onto the line again.  After a third leash ride, my body and mind decide it’s time for a break.

  Buddy Thomas coming back to center closer to the ground.

Buddy Thomas coming back to center closer to the ground.

We took everything down with enough time to make it back to the car before the sun set into the horizon. On the drive home I thought about how The Gift offers a lot of different presents, depending on who you are and what perspective you may choose to have. I like to imagine that it gives you what you need, and today it offered me time and time again to enjoy being on the line, but I choose to focus on walking across the line. I learned that sometime I need to be reminded of the moment, and worry less about the end result…a true Gift!

Thanks for reading!


Buddy Thomas of Slackrobats

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