Daredevil Nic Wallenda, who scaled Chicago on a tightrope (Photo: Discovery)
Phew! He made it.
Nik Wallenda took crazy to new heights by walking a tightrope strung between three Chicago skyscrapers on Sunday.
The seventh generation performer with the “Flying Wallendas” — a circus family famous for its death-defying aerial stunts without the use of nets — did it without a harness or net. Adding to the drama, he did part of it blindfolded.
With the cheers of an estimated 60,000 spectators below and framed by a dazzling Chicago skyline, the 35-year-old walked across the three skyscrapers on a wire roughly the width of a penny.��
Wallenda, on a tightrope above Chicago (Photo: Discovery)
“When you stand on top of Marina City West and look up that cable, it’s doggone intimidating,” Wallenda said at a press conference immediately following the performance. “That’s the hardest part … leading up to it, the moment before stepping onto that cable and waiting.”
For the first part of the walk, Wallenda crossed two city blocks at an uphill incline of roughly eight stories between Chicago’s Leo Burnett Building and the Marina City towers. The buildings face each other, on opposite sides of the Chicago River.
For the second part of the walk, Wallenda crossed between the west and east Marina City towers, at 65 stories high, blindfolded.
Related: Chicago: Three Days, Three Ways
Would you do this walk?(Photo: Discovery)
“Hugs never felt so good,” Wallenda said, recalling what it was like to make it to the other side after his historic walk. “That wire was shaking underneath me, and I just wanted to make it to the other side,”
After a lengthy live-television build-up on the Discovery Channel, Wallenda was on the wires for less than 10 minutes total. He said strong winds compelled him to complete the walks quicker than anticipated.
“When I get nervous, I wire-walk faster,” Wallenda said. “If there’s wind hitting my face and if it doesn’t feel just right, then I’m getting my butt across that wire. That’s all I care about, getting from point A to point B.”
High-wire walking in the Windy City certainly added to the drama, but Wallenda got reasonably lucky with Chicago weather. He braved temperatures in the upper 40s and 10- to 15-mile-per-hour sustained winds. By comparison, just two days earlier, Chicago saw winds of up to 60 miles per hour and snow — conditions that likely would have canceled the event.
Strong winds on Sunday prevented him from achieving one goal, however: taking a selfie.
“I had every intention of taking a selfie,” he said. “I’m so bummed that I didn’t.”
No biggie. The walk netted Wallenda two more world records: one for steepest incline and the other for highest tightrope walk while blindfolded. That brings his total to 10 world records.
The Chicago River, which Wallenda crossed on a tightrope (Photo: Erica Bray)
Wallenda has been training in Sarasota, Fla., for the past several weeks amidst conditions mimicking any weather or distraction possibility he might have faced in Chicago. This included wire-walking with wind machines blowing air at up to 60-miles-per-hour, as well as family members shaking the wire and throwing pinecones at him. He even practiced walking on the wire backwards while blindfolded.
But his death-defying feats in other destinations also prepared him well.
In 2013, Wallenda wire-walked across a 1,400-foot cable in brutal winds over the Grand Canyon. In 2012, he did the same over Niagara Falls.
Wallenda, on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon (Photo: Discovery)
So which of his high-wire stunts has been the most challenging?“I try not to compare them because the dangers are all the same,” Wallenda said. “If I fall, I die.”
Death has not escaped his legendary family mid-performance. On a windy day in 1978, his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda fell to his death during a high-wire walk between two hotel towers in San Juan Puerto, Rico. He was 73 years old.
To honor his great-grandfather’s legacy, Wallenda plans to replicate Karl’s tightrope walk over Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge in 2015. He hopes to recreate that performance, which included two headstands atop the wire, with his great-grandfather by incorporating footage from that historic walk using the latest technology.
“I really, really want to do that walk,” Wallenda said. “I get goosebumps and chills just thinking about it.”
Contemplating the Windy City (Photo: Discovery)
No doubt Wallenda will be giving the public goosebumps and chills with more death-defying stunts in years to come.
“I was born to perform in front of a live audience,” he said. “I started walking a wire when I was two. It’s what I love to do.”