Highwire stuntman plans to cross Grand Canyon without a tether

PHOENIX Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:08am IST

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda winks as he exits the beach after walking a high wire over the California Avenue beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Tom Mihalek

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda winks as he exits the beach after walking a high wire over the California Avenue beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey August 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tom Mihalek

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Aerialist Nik Wallenda plans to cross the Grand Canyon in June on a tightrope 1,500 feet in the air, without a safety harness - a feat that will be televised live.

Wallenda said he would traverse a remote section of crimson-hued canyon owned by the Navajo Nation in what will be his first major stunt since he last year became the only person to walk a wire over the brink of Niagara Falls.

"This is another one of my dreams coming true," Wallenda, 34, told Reuters in a brief telephone interview. "This is one that has been on my bucket list for some time."

Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the "Flying Wallendas" acrobat family, said the tightrope walk across the famed gorge is higher than he has ever before attempted. The walk, scheduled for June 23, will also be about 1,500 feet long.

Wallenda had bristled at wearing a safety tether during his Niagara Falls crossing last June. But ABC, the television network that aired the event, said it would pull the plug on the broadcast if he unhooked the harness.

The tether was never needed as Wallenda took 25 minutes to complete the walk from the United States to Canada while some 200 feet above the falls.

Wallenda said not using a tether this time was non-negotiable in his talks with those bidding to air the Grand Canyon crossing. It will be televised live on the Discovery Channel.

"I always said it was my dream to walk across Niagara Falls and I felt that part of that dream was taken away because I had to wear a tether," Wallenda said. "That wasn't going to happen again if I had anything to do with it."

He said the canyon crossing has been in the making since 2008, but he only recently received permission from the Navajo Nation.

"We're really excited to be able to showcase our homelands on such a large scale," Navajo spokesman Erny Zah said. "We're hoping that people will enjoy the scenery on television and will want to come out and see the area in person."

The plan calls for Wallenda to spend about three weeks preparing for the event at his Florida training base, including using wind machines to help simulate conditions.

Wallenda said he will use the walk to honor his great-grandfather Karl Wallenda, who died in 1978 during a walk between two buildings in Puerto Rico.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)

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