A Month Of Highlining In Remote Tasmania
Tasmania is an island off the coast of Australia that is often overlooked because it is remote and expensive to reach. Yet in a relatively small space it boasts an incredible wealth of outdoor recreation. In just a few weeks I experienced sub-alpine landscapes with crystalline-blue lakes amidst scree fields and 200-meter cliffs, rugged and wild forests of Eucalyptus and conifers rising to sharp peaks and sheer drop-offs There were hexagonal pillars dropping hundreds of meters to the ocean, white sandy beaches and turquoise waves, ancient alcoves carved out by the ocean, button-grass marshes and winding trails climbing up to epic peaks. Almost all of these incredible landscapes were reached by a minimum of several hours of trekking and a maximum of two days, with harder to reach locations left for the next trip.
What is often overlooked in the sport of highlining is the percentage of time spent hiking. Spanning a void may be the pinnacle of the experience, however getting to the void is a journey in itself. When planning a trip such as my recent exploration of Tasmania, I must carefully consider how much of my time will be spent carrying equipment, food and camping supplies. Choosing the right pack for the journey is a large part of that planning. For my trip to Tasmania I knew it could involve heavy loads and in those cases, I rely on the Air Contact system. Most of my highline trips involve the Air Contact Pro, but for Tasmania, I wanted something a little more compact and streamlined that could be used for day-hikes as well. The Aircontact 70 + 10 SL ended up being the perfect size even for the last project that involved a two-day hike in and two days of bivying deep in the heart of Lake St. Claire National Park. Not only did I have to help carry climbing and highlining equipment, but I also needed four plus days of food, my tent, sleeping bag and pad, clothes and personal items. The trail was part of the Overland Track; a famous trail dissecting Tasmania and allowing hikers to see some of the wild and rugged landscapes it has to offer. Between wallabies, shallow lakes reflecting the sky and beds of perfectly geometric moss, I understood why the trail is popular.
I also took a Speed Lite 20 on my trip, which proved helpful when I just needed to pack my harness, camera, solar charger, water and a snack. I love the Speed Lite for multi-pitch climbing for this reason as well; it's almost like you don't have a pack on at all. One part of the Tasmania trip involved an overnight exploration and highline on the Tasman Peninsula, where impressive three hundred meter cliffs drop down from the plateau to the dark navy blue ocean lapping at their bases. I was able to attach my Speed Lite with fragile camera equipment to the outside of the Air Contact and avoid damaging it packing it inside with heavy highline equipment and water.
Though hiking is often just an activity to reach my ultimate endeavor of highlining, it is a key aspect of what I do. It also keeps my legs strong for battling the swing and sway of a loose highline strung between the Tasmanian sea cliffs, and without a comfortable way to carry my gear there is no chance I could spend a month exploring an island that is fifty-percent natural preserve or national park, where the roads end at the entrance and my only transportation is my feet.
Once on the line, thoughts of the hiking quickly disappear as my mind focuses on the task at hand: reaching the other side. I slow my breath down and use it as a meditative focal point, attempting to quiet the chatter in my head, ignore the physical fatigue, and step by step, make my way across the void. I let my fear of failure dissolve and focus on each muscle engaging, using my posture to feel the equilibrium, and if I'm lucky, I even manage to smile, knowing that that process is exactly why I am there in the first place. Highlining not only takes me to the most beautiful places in the world, but invites me to experience them in a unique way, and I don't only leave with memorable images but also with self-transformation and a deeper understanding of fear and purpose.