Travis Foster, a resident of Cranbrook, British Columbia, has become the first person on earth to set up, and successfully walk, a highline in Bugaboo Provincial Park.
In the recent issue of Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine we ran a story about how Travis Foster introduced the sport of highlining to south-central BC. He’s set up highlines over the Bull River and Moyie Falls, among others, but last month he took his passion to new heights by highlining in the Bugaboos.
Highlining is akin to tightrope walking except, rather than a rope or cable, users temporarily tension 2.5-centimetre-wide tubular webbing between two elevated points. The practice grew out of slacklining – it’s lower-elevation predecessor – which Travis first tried a decade ago at the Shambhala music festival. He attempted to walk on five metres of nylon webbing strung between two trees but kept losing his balance and falling 20 cm to the ground. A decade later he’s set up similar lines but they’re 55 metres long and 75 metres high.
“The trickiest part of the sport is learning about the anchors, equipment and tensioning,” 26-year-old Travis explained. “It’s constantly evolving.” But what doesn’t change, he says, is “that immediate feeling of being super exposed. There’s nothing quite like it.”
The practice is becoming more popular in the Kootenays. Last year, 27-year-old Nelson local Caleb Hull also enlisted the help of some friends and rigged up a 50-metre-long highline 60 metres above the Grohman Narrows slot canyon just outside of Nelson. But until now, no one had attempted to highline in the Kootenay alpine.
“I’ve been highlining since 2012 and had always thought about the Bugaboos, which is pretty much in our backyard here,” Travis said. “It’s the zenith of what highlining could be.”
Taking advantage of an early season weather window, Travis and his climbing buddy Drew Leiterman hiked into Bugaboo Provincial Park with over 35kg of gear each that included camping equipment plus:
- Two 70m climbing ropes
- Double rack of cams.
- Double rack of Tricams and nuts for anchors
- 40m of static rope
- 150m of webbing.
- Pullies, web locks and other gear for the tensioning system
On the first day the pair climbed the route “Edwards-Neufeld” on Crescent Tower and scoped it out. The second day they returned to the car to retrieve more equipment and then climbed “Ears Between” in three pitches and hauled the gear. On the third and final day they strung up the highline between the top of “Ears Between” to the North Tower using five Tricams in a horizontal crack for the main line and four Tricams for the backup. On the other end they slung a large block. It took them four hours to rig the highline, which was 55 metres long and 80 metres high, and then they sessioned it for 90 minutes.
Travis managed to cross the line with four falls onto his safety harness before they broke down the line, packed it all up and returned home.
This feat is the second alpine highline in Canada and the highest in the country at 2700m. The pair decided to call the line “Where the Clouds Can Go” in memory of Conrad Kain, who first climbed the Bugaboo Spire a century ago. When asked what’s next for him, Travis replied, “More Canadian alpine highline firsts.”
AUGUST 2016 UPDATE
August 7 – Travis Foster and a team of buddies just established the fist alpine highline in the Canadian Rockies. The crew rigged the line from the iconic Grand Sentinel spire, which is located at altitude 2,400 metres in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Banff National Park, Alberta. The 50-metre-long and 85-metre-high line was rigged by Travis, Drew Leiterman, Tim Desmond and Ben Richardson on August 5th and was sent (walked without any falls) by Tim Desmond who named it “Diesel Power” on August 7th. This is the third alpine highline in Canada.