Written by Drew Abernathy
Photos by Aidan Williams
In the late spring of 2022, what began as ambition to push the limits of highlining in Australia became the reality of the most momentous Australian highline record to date. On November 17th, 2022, a core crew of the NSW highline community successfully established a 1.29km-long highline in the Blue Mountains of NSW.
This is not the first time this NSW crew have broken records Down Under. In the past two years, the Australian highline length record has been broken no fewer than three times by this team. The knowledge, skill, resilience, and enthusiasm of the team – as well as the favorable topology of the Blue Mountains and recent availability of high-tech webbing – are key contributors to the success of this dream.
The conversation began immediately following the successful establishment of the previous Australian highline record – the 777 meter highline at the Blue Mountains Highline Gathering in March of 2021.
When will we crack the one kilometer mark!? Several other countries have joined the 1km club. We cannot allow ourselves to fall behind!
At the time, a material limitation was the lack of high-tech dyneema webbing within the community. Without such lightweight webbing, the ability to push past existing length records was significantly more challenging. That changed in 2022 with the in-country development of WallAce Climbing’s high-tech dyneema webbing. For the first time enough dyneema webbing was available to the Australian highline community to truly entertain the prospect of a 1km+ highline. A spark of hope had been lit.
With material concerns covered, the next question was where. Where is a suitable gap of that length to be found? It’s not a simple matter of finding two points on a map. Critical details such as the approach, access, anchor points, clearance, airspace, and legality of our presence all had to be considered. Fortunately, Lead Rigger Nathaniel Glavurdic already had an ideal location in mind. Indeed, it was in our proverbial back yard – just a few crags over from some of the most well-known and well-loved highlining crags in the Bluies. In no time he had reconnoitered the gap and identified potential anchor locations. The fire was starting to burn!
After several months of juggling schedules, a date was finally set and a plan developed. The plan called for the line to be rigged on a Friday and left up for a full week to allow as much walking time as possible. Mother Nature had other plans. Four days ahead of the project kick-off date, the weather forecast called for 100 km/h winds to hit on Day 3 of the rig week, lasting for 3-4 days. This forecast threw a real spanner in the works. Between the time spent rigging and de-rigging, that would leave less than one day to actually walk the line – definitely not enough for everyone to have a go. Postponing the entire project was considered, however several team members had imminent extended travel plans. In any case, there was no guarantee when the next weather window would arrive.
The decision was ultimately made to take advantage of the fair forecast leading up to the wind storm, and rig the line one day ahead of schedule. The extra day would give the team just enough time for everyone to have one red hot go. With that decision made, the call to arms was sounded, and final preparations were collectively made. Pacha Mama would smile upon their boldness with three of the most beautiful highlining days one could ask for.
In ones and twos, the crew arrived in the Bluies late into the evening on Wednesday. Webbing was organized and gear prepped for an Alpine Start the next morning. A beautiful sunrise heralded Rig Day with positive energy as yet more of the crew arrived. The entire highline was laid out on the ground in the carpark as the plan to tag the gap was reiterated. The team then split in two, and set off for each anchor.
Art Bayly and Adam Evans sort tagline in the carpark.
The team intended to tag the gap using not one, but two drones. One of the biggest concerns with tagging such an immense gap was the sag in the tagline becoming entangled in the trees below. A plan was developed to deploy a leader/follower drone system: The lead drone would carry one end of a fishing line across the gap, as per usual, and a follower drone would chase the leader several hundred meters to the rear, lifting the sag with a carabiner clipped freely to the line. Once the lead drone reached the far side, the follower drone would hover in the middle while tension was taken in. The follower drone would then slowly return to its starting anchor.
Thanks to the skill of the drone pilots, the plan was executed flawlessly.
Once the connection was made, the receiving side reeled in the fishing line to receive a series of progressively larger taglines.
The order of the taglines was:
0.5mm fishing line (MBS 40kg) > 4mm VB cord > 4mm Spectra > 5mm VB cord > webbing
James Collins catches the tag drone as Adam Evans receives the tagline. Chris Wallace oversees the work.
James Collins and Arthur Pera reel in the tagline with the help of a power drill and custom reel mount.
Once the fishing line was reeled in with a power drill, the receiving team hauled the 4mm tagline with hand ascenders. Eventually a 3:1 hauling system was deployed, and then a Harken Riggers winch to finish the job. The Harken winch saved a lot of physical effort.
After several hours of hauling tagline, the webbing reached the far anchor, and tensioning could commence. Both anchors tensioned the webbing simultaneously for almost another hour until the dynamometer read 5kN of standing tension. The line was rigged, and a new Australian highline record had been created!
Rigging officially completed around 5pm on Thursday. With 2 hours of daylight not to be wasted, Nathaniel Glavurdic mounted the line for the inaugural sunset crossing. His journey would see him climbing off the other end as the last light of the day faded in the west.
The line would remain up from Thursday evening until Saturday afternoon. In that time, two individuals crossed the line without falling to become Australia’s newest highline record holders. Gabriel Camolesi sent the line early on Friday morning. True to form, his familiar patience and focus saw him through increasing wind speeds in the last 100m of travel. At times he waited up to 30 seconds between steps, and recalls asking the wind, “Who will have more patience??” Clearly we know the answer.
Not to let Gabriel have all the fun, Nathaniel matched his achievement on Saturday morning in an impressive 1 hour and 45 minute crossing.
True to highlining practices, Gabriel and Nathaniel share the record for the longest highline send in Australia.
Gabriel Camolesi takes his final steps during his record-breaking send of the 1.29km highline, “It’s Legit”
Nathaniel “Fanny” Glavurdic releases his elation as he sends the 1.29km highline, “It’s Legit!”
In all, seven crossings were made, and a half-dozen others had a cheeky go at her. The line was crossed by the following individuals:
Gabriel Camolesi – 2h30min (sent)
Nathaniel Glavurdic – 1h45min (sent)
Arthur Pera – 52min
Drew Abernathy – 1h13min
Brendon Plaza – 1h25min
James Collins – 2h
Brady Hayes – 2h01min
Tom Oliver – 2h30min
During Abernathy’s crossing, one of the anchors was visited by a pair of Police Mountain Rescue officers. In fact, these were the very same officers who had shut down this team at their then-record-breaking 580m highline rig in October 2020. This time the officers admitted to having no qualms with the team’s activity, as this line was not on National Park land. After inspecting the anchors and snapping a few photos, the officers wished the team luck. As they walked away, Nathaniel overheard one saying to his supervisor on the radio, “Yup, it’s legit!”
Honored and amused by the officer’s radio declaration, the newly established highline’s name was born; “It’s Legit!”
Article written by Drew Abernathy.