Nik Wallenda completes Grand Canyon tightrope walk

Nik Wallenda near the end of his quarter mile walk over the Little Colorado River Gorge. Picture: AP
Nik Wallenda near the end of his quarter mile walk over the Little Colorado River Gorge. Picture: AP
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NIK Wallenda is walking on air. The American trapese artist has strolled into the record books by walking a two-inch steel cable stretched a quarter of a mile across the Grand Canyon.

Using only a pole for balance and watched by millions on live TV, the performer took more than 22 minutes crossing the chasm 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge in northeastern Arizona.

Twice during the crossing, he had to crouch down so that he could stop the cable from bouncing as winds whipped around him.

Viewers around the world watched the world-record attempt with a ten-second delay on Sunday night, designed to allow the producers to cut away if he fell to what would be his certain death.

Mr Wallenda, who is a Christian, prayed almost constantly during the attempt, and at one point said: “Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God.”

He did not wear a harness and stepped slowly and steady throughout the attempt. He even jogged and hopped the last few steps.

Winds blowing across the gorge were expected to be about 30mph. Mr Wallenda said after the walk that the winds were at times “unpredictable” and that dust had accumulated on and around his contact lenses.

He said: “It was way more windy and it took every bit of me to stay focused.”

As part of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family, Mr Wallenda is no stranger to death-defying feats. 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.

He grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. The successful attempt came a year after he traversed Niagara Falls, earning a sixth Guinness world record. This was his seventh.

Mr Wallenda wore a microphone and two cameras, one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that faced straight ahead. His leather shoes with an elk-skin sole helped him keep a grip on the steel cable as he moved across. About 600 spectators watching on a large video screen on site cheered him on as he walked towards them.

He told reporters he hoped his next stunt would be a tightrope walk between the Empire State building and the Chrysler building in New York.

Before the walk, a group of Navajos, Hopis and other Native Americans stood along a nearby road with signs protesting against the event. The Grand Canyon is an area held sacred by many American Indian tribes.

Some argued Mr Wallenda had not pinpointed the right location. Milton Tso, president of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation, said: “He’s not walking across the Grand Canyon. He’s walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It’s misleading.”

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