Slackliner Alexander Schulz and team brave gusty conditions to make 180-metre crossing off Orkney island
With vertical faces rising above the north Atlantic Ocean, the Old Man of Hoy, off the Orkney island of Hoy, is a fearsome climb that stood unconquered until 50 years ago.
Now a team of adventurers has not only tackled the ascent, but walked a 137 metre-high slackline from the mainland to its summit and back. Alexander Schulz, a German slackliner, braved gusty conditions to make the 180-metre crossing.
“We didn’t have the most easy of conditions,” Schulz told BBC Radio Orkney . “We were actually pretty lucky, quite lucky, with the weather. But the wind was quite gusty and the water moving below me was distracting. All the time you have to be concentrated, like 100%. And then you eventually make it, to continue standing, balancing. And taking steps.”
Schulz made the crossing on Sunday, supported by a team from One Inch Dreams, a professional slacklining outfit. They insisted that the tension in the line posed no threat to the Old Man’s soft sandstone, which perches on a plinth of basalt.
Dan Hunt, who was part of the team that scaled the Old Man, wrote on Facebook : “[T]he team was very conscious of the climbing ethics on the Old Man – only removable slings were used for the anchor, not a single piece of equipment or rubbish was left behind and the stack was not altered in any way.”
Schulz told the BBC that although he had walked longer slacklines in the past, making the barefoot journey along the wire to the Old Man and back had been “really hard”. Even after eight months of planning by a team of eight, he had to search inside himself for the calm he needed to overcome his fear, he said.
Schulz made the crossing on Sunday, 50 years to the day that the first team to conquer the Old Man reached the summit of the sandstone stack in a climb that was the subject of a groundbreaking live BBC broadcast.
Despite its name, the Old Man of Hoy is thought to have been carved out of headland just 250 years ago, making it a relative youngster in geological terms. Anyone wanting to recreate the adventure may have to work fast: geologists believe that the column, which is battered by gales an average 29 days a year, will soon collapse.