Winter lines – seven bitterly-cold balance acts

Want to take slackline challenges to a new level? Do it when it’s so cold you can’t feel your toes.
Lukas Irmler on the Wilder Kaiser © Adidas
By Josh Sampiero

Highlining is all about feeling and feedback – sensing minute vibrations and swings of the line through your toes and feet, and moving your body accordingly. So it's obvious that when your toes are frozen and your body is wrapped in multiple winter layers, the balance sport is not so easy. What's it like? Lukas Irmler, pictured above, tells us: “You are stiff from the cold, you can´t properly warm up and so you have to throw yourself on the line and just fight your way through!”

Nevertheless, snow-covered peaks offer a stunning backdrop to the high-altitude balance sport. So we rounded up some of our favourite highline shots from some chilly winter locations.

Got epic adventures of your own to share? Show us here, and you can win big prizes from adidas.

Going wild on the Kaiser


Lukas Irmler on the Wilder Kaiser © Emile Ducke

Distance: 40m
Chill factor: Bring your jacket
Challenge: Getting there – crevasses and dangerous terrain

Lukas Irmler tells it to us straight: “I had done a few highlines in winter around Garmisch Partenkirchen and Rosenheim, but the Wilder Kaiser was some very different terrain. Even in good summer conditions it is a challenging environment to navigate yourself. Just reaching the hut was a mission for our first day and from there on it was anything but easy. We had to find a way through the very high snow, taking care about the terrain, and watching out for dangerous slopes and crevasses until we reached our destination – and the rigging and setup was also quite complicated and took us the whole day!”

Keeping it together on Loser

Winner on the Loser - slacklining in Austria with Mich Kemeter
Mich Kemeter © Harald Schober

Distance: 30m
Chill factor:
Austrian Alps, mid-winter
Challenge: Setting a record

This mountain may be referred to as the 'Loser', but Kemeter's clearly a winner here with a jaunty stroll through a winter wonderland deep in the south of Austria. Says Mich: “At the time, it was a record for one of the longest highlines in Europe!” Um, coldest, too. The BASE jumper, climber and slackliner is constantly up to new adventures – follow him on his Facebook page.

Tightroping the towers

This is a spot to take a walk © Michael Meisl

Distance: 50m
Chill factor: High altitude, freezing temps, frozen rubber
Challenge: The 'solo' factor – with no other slackliners present, Ashburn was on her own 

Hayley Ashburn's attempt on the Vajolet Towers in the Dolomites didn't end in a send – but it was epic no matter what.  Even just getting there took a lot of work – and line was nothing short of challenging.

How cold was it? Ashburn was taking off her shoes and placing them against her skin to warm up the rubber on the soles. That's hardcore!

Ringing the big bell

Distance: 45m
Chill factor: Austria's highest mountain, ice on the line
Biggest challenge: Wind – lots and lots of wind

Mich Kemeter's highline across the two peaks of Grossglockner may have set the standard for cold, high and crazy – he was warming his feet using a bunsen burner stove, and scraping snow and ice off the highline every morning of the attempt. Not to mention it was really, really windy. How windy? Watch – and listen – to the video above.

A chilly-willy walk

That's what we call chilly willy
Cold... and very, very crazy. © Sébastien Montaz-Rosset

Distance: About 40m
Chill factor: Tough to say – some ladies might find these shots pretty hot
Challenge: Being on camera in your undies, shrinkage

French film-maker Seb Montaz put together a highline shoot in Chamonix for fashion line Paul Smith – and even though this shoot didn't happen in the dead of winter, we're pretty impressed that Tancréde Melet and Antoine Moineville were high in the Alps sporting nothing but underwear. It certainly wasn't warm!

What was curious about this line? It ended at a wall – meaning the athletes had to turn around and walk back.

Pushing it in Peru

lukas irmler slacklines in the snow
Snow-mounted slackline © Outdoor Peru

Distance: 21m
Chill factor: It's rarely warm above 5,000m
Challenge: Altitude and access, remote location

Lukas Irmler also set the highline world altitude record in Peru with this snow-anchored highline. Says Irmler: “This 21m long line, at an altitude of 5,222m above sea level, was one of my absolute dream lines.”

Winter workouts in Austria

lukas irmler slacklines in the snow
Sun, fun, and a little snow with Reini Kleindl © Reini Kleindl

Distance: unknown
Chill factor: Temps well below zero - 'As soon as you rest, your body freezes'
Challenge: Setting the anchor on an overhang

Highliner Reini Kleindl trains in the winter near his hometown of Graz. Where exactly is a secret. What's unique about the spot? The anchor is set on an overhanging, meaning once you get the the end, you've still got some extra exposure.

“As soon as you rest, your body freezes,” Kleindl says. “Once you are out on the line, you can feel the cold air and your own warm breath in your face. As you stand up and start walking into the void, your body gets warmer and the movement becomes smoother. It's an amazing feeling!”

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