After a quick transition from climbing six years ago, Heather Larsen’s professional highlining career took off. The Tennessee native skipped the classic origin story of slacklining in the park. Instead, during a rest day on a climbing trip in Moab, Larson embarked on an epic highline walk. Since then, she’s been conquering highlines around the world. From the ancient walls of Jerusalem to the cliffs of the Tasman Sea, Larson has become one of the world’s most elite highliners. But her most challenging rig was a little closer to home.
According to photographer Dave Burleson, the gaps in the cliffs above White Pine Lake near Logan, Utah had never been walked before. The two, along with Burleson’s roommate Nolan Matthews, set out on an exploratory mission and brought along their gear for good luck. Little did they know, they’d end up scouting, establishing and walking an epic line 300 feet above the lake that day.
“After five miles of hiking in the beautiful and steep Utah mountains, we came across a blue-green, clear, magical looking alpine lake,” recalls Larsen. “This was truly one of the prettiest bodies of water I’ve ever seen. We scrambled up above the lake to the cliff edge and started scouting. We saw several gaps that could work, but decided on the most prominent feature that would work with the gear we hiked in.”
Once the line was rigged, she and Nolan took turns walking it. The length was well-within her scope, but she battled a new challenge that day.
“The exposure of the line was more extreme than a lot of the lines I regularly walk,” Larsen remembers. “I had to constantly remind myself to breathe and be calm while I was walking. The view was incredible though.”
At 10,000 feet above sea level, the line was surrounded by mountain peaks in every direction.
Their mission was cut short when a storm rolled in. Describing the unpredictable elements, Larson says, “Temperatures started dropping rapidly and it was raining on us within just a few minutes, so we decided to de-rig our line and head out.”
The five-mile hike out could have been miserable, but their excitement to establish new lines over White Pine Lake in the future kept them motivated.
Larsen’s advice to future highliners is simple: find your crew.
“I suggest reaching out to your local and global communities of slackliners,” she says. “It’s best to learn from someone with experience.”
Highlining is a dangerous sport, so Larsen suggests practicing on a slackline between two trees as the first step.
Slackline.us is another source to learn about slacklining. “The nonprofit organization aims to protect access rights for the slackline community and foster safe practices in all forms of slacklining through education and community development,” Larsen says.
But the biggest lesson she’s learned during her professional highlining career is less practical and more psychological. To anyone building their skills to tackle tougher lines, Larsen says, “It takes time to learn to manage your fear to be able to walk a highline. The best advice I can give anyone wanting to get into the sport is to be patient with yourself in the process and have as much fun with it as possible.”