Step inside the mind of a highliner

What goes through the mind on a highline, hundreds of metres off the ground? Mich Kemeter explains.
By Tarquin Cooper

The image of a highliner, precariously balanced in the sky, seemingly walking on nothing, is uniquely awe-inspiring. The balance, the nerves of steel required. What goes on in the mind of a highliner during a crossing? Well, that's exactly what we asked pro slackliner Mich Kemeter. Below, he walks us through a new highline he made in the Verdon Gorge, France in six steps. Then scroll down to the bottom to watch his amazing crossing in full. 

Choosing the perfect spot

“There are many factors that go into choosing the right spot. For me, I thought this would be a cool place! But distance is really important and you have to be really careful when choosing the right place to put anchors in. You need confidence in them. You have two different systems so in case one rips you have a backup.

And for a highline, it obviously needs to be exposed! This was only 40m above the ground but the river is about 300m below. You also need some cool people.”

The first steps


“For me the highline starts when I'm fixing everything up. I go into a kind of meditation. It's a long process and you start visualising being on the highline.

Just before I go on it I go through everything in my mind and think about really good things. I stretch a little bit but after the walk and the climb there you're warmed up – everything is flowing. 

You're so focused on the moment that when you tie the knot in your harness you just want to keep going and all you can focus on is the next step.” 

The moment you fall

“My goal was to onsight the line – I wanted to do it in the first attempt. It almost worked! I had to focus on so many things – so many different things. In the middle I was a bit brain fried and I got a negative thought in my head and it caused me to fall. I wasn't thinking about falling down but I just lost my concentration. It's easy to get back up though. That's no problem.”

'Do' look down

“For me it works best looking down! The ground beneath me is only 40m but it's more like 300m to the river so that's a bit of a hitter! You don't want to be in the river. You're not thinking about he river but you see it. You're thinking but not thinking! You're just there, in the moment.

But actually, it's really nice to see the river: the river never stops. It makes a huge difference in your brain. You are also not allowed to stop. you have to keep going. It's a cool metaphor to keep going.”

The moment your heart is pounding...

“My heart was beating hard at the beginning because I thought I was going to do it the first time and was thinking a lot of things. My mind was not completely empty. But I just try to breathe. Breathing is everything. You need to breathe like a yogi. Highlining is almost meditation.

I reach my maximum heart rate of 149 after the half way. It's quite high because I have never done this line before. You use a lot of energy to stay high. You try and stay calm but after a while, you have so much to deal with you don't care and you just let it do its job of just pumping blood throughout your body.”

The last steps to the finish


You just focus on the next step – every one is a big journey and it doesn't matter if you fall at the first or the last step. Like BASE, you have to stay controlled but at the end it's very hard – so many emotions are going through your mind. You're not really there.

One part is finished and something new is coming. It's very difficult to describe. You have to be trained to deal with the emotions! It's not just a feeling like great, job done. It's something more. When you live for the dream and the dream comes true, it takes a long time to digest.”

Now watch the amazing highline in full below:


© Wolfgang Lienbacher

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