Made it! Daredevil on tightrope conquers AZ gorge - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas


Made it! Daredevil on tightrope conquers AZ gorge

Nik Wallenda (Source: Nik Wallenda (Source:
(Source: Discovery) (Source: Discovery)

Daredevil Nik Wallenda has successfully completed one of his most ambitious feats yet - crossing a tightrope 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon.

"The winds are way crazier than I expected," he said about eight minutes into his walk early Sunday evening. Wallenda was wearing a microphone during the live television event.

The television audience heard him say to himself several times, "Just relax."

The 34-year-old Sarasota, FL, resident set out on a quarter-mile cable stretched over the gorge that was eyed by another high-wire performer decades ago. The stunt came a year after he traversed Niagara Falls, earning a seventh Guinness world record. He used the same 2-inch-thick cable he used to cross the falls, only this time he didn't wear a safety harness.

It took Wallenda 22 minutes and 54 seconds to reach the other side.

"It took every bit of me to remain focused," Wallenda said. "I was fatigued until I was three-quarters of a mile across, then it was all adrenaline."

Before the feat, Wallenda reflected on his task.

"It really is just going to be me, the canyon and the cameras. It's intimate. It's me fulfilling a dream I've had for a long time," Wallenda said.

"I was probably 8 or 9 and they [Wallenda's parents] brought me to the Grand Canyon and I thought, this would be a cool place to walk and I never forgot that," Wallenda told CBS 5 News recently.

"Fear is a choice but the danger is real. In my mind I can control my thoughts," Wallenda said in days leading up to the event. "So when I look over the edge of something, I say yes this is dangerous, but it's also possible to walk on a wire."

Wallenda is a seventh generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous "Flying Wallendas" circus family - a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats and great tragedy.

His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.

Nik Wallenda, who was born a year after his great-grandfather died, began wire walking at the age of 2 on a 2-foot high stretched rope. He grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager.

French high-wire walker Philippe Petit had that same desire and set up a cable above the Little Colorado River, but Navajo officials said he never went through with the stunt and left his equipment there only to be taken down recently by Wallenda's crew.

"I don't understand why he didn't," Wallenda said. "It's a site that works, makes sense. He clearly failed at it, so I want to do it successfully."

The Discovery Channel aired Wallenda's walk on live television with a 10-second delay. Wallenda wore two cameras, one looking down the mostly dry Little Colorado River bed and one facing straight ahead. His leather shoes with an elk-skin sole helped him keep a grip on the steel cable as he moves across.

A paramedic was looking up at him from the river, he said.

Wallenda was highly confident in his ability to reach the other side, having walked in 52 mph wind gusts during Tropical Storm Andrea with a torrential downpour and training with wind machines that simulated 45 to 55 mph gusts.

TheTV broadcast also showcased the Navajo landscape that included Monument Valley, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly and the tribal capital of Window Rock.

The stunt was touted as a walk across the Grand Canyon, an area held sacred by many American Indian tribes, and the fulfillment of a dream. Some local residents believe Wallenda hasn't accurately pinpointed the location and also say that the Navajo Nation shouldn't be promoting the gambling of one man's life for the benefit of tourism.

"Mr. Wallenda needs to buy a GPS or somebody give this guy a map," said Milton Tso, president of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation. "He's not walking across the Grand Canyon, he's walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It's misleading and false advertising."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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