A highly-daring highline way up in the Dolomites

Take a look at this winter highline at the spectacular Vajolet Towers in the Italian Dolomites.
See the speck? That's a human © Michael Meisl
By Josh Sampiero

The Vajolet Towers in the Dolomites may be among the most popular climbs in Italy. Relatively accessible and incredibly aesthetic, they attract thousands of climbers every year. But what no one – male or female – had ever done was highline it in the cold of winter. That's why Hayley Ashburn, supported by a girl-powered team of skiers and climbers, travelled halfway around the world from her home in Moab, Utah to give it a shot.

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Just chilling out... © Michael Meisl

“These towers are a high liner's dream,” says Ashburn. “We're always looking for two towers of the same height, and these are perfect. And in winter, they're more beautiful and dramatic than any other time of year.”

Anything past mid-point is much more than halfway © Michael Meisl

It started with a one-day ski-tour approach to the Rifugio Vajolet – which they had to dig out of the snow – and then a day spent climbing the towers and setting the line. The climb – while generally considered fairly approachable and easy in the summer – had added difficulty thanks to warm temps that day, and water literally running down the face of the climb.

Easy access? Not exactly © Michael Meisl

After the highline was set, Ashburn spent the next two days working the project. It proved to be one of the toughest challenges of her six-year high-lining career – which has also included climbing, BASE jumping, trapeze artistry, and more.

Not a bad place for a sunrise © Michael Meisl

The line itself was a 50m highline between the Torre Stabeler and the Torre Winkler – with about 300m of airy space below. There's a rumour that it was done by an unknown balance athlete last summer, but it's definitely never been done in winter, which is another challenge entirely.

The definition of 'just hanging out' © Michael Meisl

“The cold air turned my rubber shoes into hard slippery rocks! I couldn't get any feedback from the line!” However, being determined, Ashburn found a way to deal with the problem: body heat. “I was taking my shoes off, and putting them inside my jacket next to my skin to warm them up enough!” she says.

It's all about feeling the line © Michael Meisl

The going was tough – she made nearly 60 attempts at the line over an exhausting two days. “I've never worked so hard on a project, ever! I was eating four times the amount of food that I normally do just to keep my calories in me. Without that I don't think I would have had the energy and body heat to do the project!”

A view you can only get from the helicopter © Michael Meisl

So how did it go? You'll have to check back on Thursday, November 13 to see the incredible helicopter-shot video from above Val di Fassa.

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