Not getting a good night’s sleep? Are the acoustics in your rehearsal space feeling a little tight? City life depriving you of the fresh air you really need? Pack up your guitar & hammock and set up camp between the peaks of Monte Piana where this year’s International Highline Meeting took place. Just remember: Don’t. Look. Down.
This eclectic mix of thrill-seekers gather each year at Monte Piana because it is “easy” to tightrope (relative to Everest, sure) and it has an inherently mythical, magical quality. While most of us struggle to take a casual somersault off a standard diving board, a fear of heights is obviously not on the cards for these guys. This could perhaps be the perfect way to overcome such fears?
Monte Piana is among the Dolomites, offering a spectacular 360 degrees view out across the range and over the Lake of Misurina below. The views are astonishing, the heights are dizzying, and the thrill of hopping into your hammock for a quick chat with a nearby dangling human are second to none. There are – of course – harnesses, so it should be pretty easy to relax and just stroll across, right?
This year marked the third meeting at Monte Piana, but there are multiple groups of “Slackliners” throughout the world with festivals coming up in Germany, Argentina, and Sweden. However, if you want to join in the Monte Piana fun – and seeing as it is “easier” according to the pros – here is how to get there. First of all, register with the team which you can do directly from their website. Fly into Innsbruck, Austria: Austrian Airlines en route from JFK to Innsbruck works out at approximately $1,000 USD and 11 hours to look out your window and begin to panic about heights - and then it’s a 2.5 hour drive from there. The group will offer you directions on how to get to the mountain as well as carpool systems for people travelling alone – somewhat retro, everything is done via Facebook, from equipment and camping suggestions to chirpy playlists and check-in selfies.
Where to Stay:
Speaking of camping… you will need a tent. The September weather is forgiving and the terrain is grassy and lush – not snowy and hypothermia inducing, which makes the barefoot tightrope walking slightly less ominous. However, there may be occasional rain so make sure you get something waterproof and light – you will be carrying this up a mountain, remember? Check Outdoor Gear Lab or Mountain Hardware for the most durable tents – they’re not cheap, but there’s no hotels to flee to if your tent fails, so it’s worth the investment. Budget $500 - $800. Also, I refer back to what has to be the most useful Facebook page of all time - there are plenty slackliners offering spare “spaces” in their tents so it could be more fun to bunk in with an experienced Woodstock Mountaineer. As for equipment check the Slackliner Express gear guide - all of which you can order online. Your budget is going to vary wildly depending on how much camping / tightrope equipment you already have, if any at all, and whether or not you even want to directly participate in the slackline walking part. However, the general vibe is sharing and the pros will lend a hand as well as a loan of their sturdy – and most importantly tested - equipment. Phew.
What To Do:
Once you get there, the group offers a range of activities throughout the week. There are about 18 highlines, from 6 to 100+ meters, a highline competition (no pushing allowed) as well as tandem flights across the mountain range which look incredible. For those more inclined to watch and simply enjoy the views (there is also an option to register as a photographer) there are slackline movies and presentations, special guests from both old and new generations of slackers as well as yoga and acroYoga workshops. As much as I wish I could brave the treacherous tightrope, I think I’m more likely to stay in a downward-facing-dog and soak in the atmosphere. Very zen.
The views alone should be enough to get you up there, and the people who do this every year seem like the most fun, chilled out group of adventurers. If there’s anyone who can encourage you to take the first step onto a tightrope thousands of feet in the air, it’s a charming bearded man in a hammock strumming a ukulele with a big grin on his face.