Daredevil Nik Wallenda walks tight rope across gorge near Grand Canyon

June 23, 2013 at 10:24 PM
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NEW YORK, June 23 (UPI) -- Daredevil Nik Wallenda successfully walked 1,400 feet on a 2-inch-wide steel cable stretched 1,500 feet above an Arizona gorge near the Grand Canyon Sunday.

With a wind causing his bright blue shirt to flap in the breeze, the 34-year-old tightrope walker from Sarasota, Fla., carefully placed one foot in front of the other -- again and again and again -- while balancing himself with a 40-pound pole high above the Little Colorado River. When he reached the far side of the gorge, he bent over and kissed the ground.

Wallenda, the seventh-generation high-wire artist of the celebrated Wallenda family, began his televised walk a bit before 9:40 p.m. EDT, as the sun was setting, USA Today reported.

The newspaper said Wallenda, who was wired with cameras and a microphone but no harness, could be heard saying prayers as he started out.

"Winds are way worse than I expected," he said about 6 minutes into his daring stroll.

Prior to crossing, which was carried live by the Discovery Channel, Wallenda said said it will be just him and Mother Nature.

Last summer, he walked across Niagara Falls.

Wallenda told People magazine he was looking forward to doing the walk with just a pole for balance. During last summer's Niagara Falls walk, ABC required the high-wire artist to wear a harness for his safety.

"Part of my Niagara dream was taken away because I had to wear a tether," he said. "This one will be done the way I want to do it: just me and Mother Nature."

Wallenda, who did pre-stunt training in his hometown of Sarasota, said he used an air boat to simulate wind gusts he might encounter while high above the Grand Canyon gorge.

"I think the reason people think I have a death wish is that people can't relate to what I do," he said. "What I do is extremely calculated. I know that the wire is exactly the right tension, and I trained on it. Also, there are backup plans. It's not as if I go, 'If I die, I die.' I train to stay on that wire. It's all about success."

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