Slacklining

Walking on thin air

Adventure sports have always been the thing everyone wants to do at least once in their lives. Once in a while, we go camping, rafting, trekking, etc. and feel rejuvenated. We feel relieved from our stress and tensions. Nature has its own ways over us. It never misses to amaze us. And that is why we long to go back to it every few months. But there are some people in this world who have dedicated their entire life in nature, free from the regular nine-to-five and board meetings. Accepting adventure as their way of life, and not some weekend activity. These guys are doing it, and so passionately that their stories are sheer inspiration for us. Rohit Vartak is one such guy, who has dedicated his life to the mountains. He is counted in one of Maharashtra’s and in fact even India’s (if I may say) best climbers, slackliners and high liners today. He shares his journey to Fitrangi…

The first time I saw slacklining was in an adventure activities competition where I had participated for a rock climbing event. I was amazed by the sport. After some research and reading some blogs about it, I decided to try it out. Earlier, I used to tie a rope to the trunks of two trees and try to balance myself on it. But then gradually I came to know that it’s a slack and not a rope that is used. And then I saw some more videos and tried the technique for some more months. It was difficult, but then it is fun once you learn the technique. It’s all about balancing your body weight on a one-inch wide strip called a slack like because it is slack (not tight).

My biggest inspiration, amongst others, has been Dean Potter. A man known for his craziness and daredevilry. Whatever I have learnt in this field, is from reading about him and watching his videos online. So, after a lot of practice, we rigged our very first high line in Sandhan valley. Well, it could not be called as a high line as it was just twenty metres above the ground. A slackline is categorised into a highline if it is rigged about forty metres above the ground.

So this was kind of a mid-line. The entire team of Shivdurga had come to support us and I was the only one who was going to walk on the line. And I was not able to walk. So many people watching and holding their hopes high, and I had failed to deliver. But I had decided not to stop. The mountains had taught ne to be strong and persistent. I practiced even more and rigged another highline on Duke’s nose. This time, I had not told anyone to save myself from the embarrassment. It was just a colleague and me who had gone on the expedition. And surprisingly, I could manage to complete the walk in the first go! We posted the video online and it went viral. I started getting congratulatory messages on all social media platforms. A number of professional slackliners and high liners called me and wanted to collaborate.

So this was kind of a mid-line. The entire team of Shivdurga had come to support us and I was the only one who was going to walk on the line. And I was not able to walk. So many people watching and holding their hopes high, and I had failed to deliver. But I had decided not to stop. The mountains had taught ne to be strong and persistent. I practiced even more and rigged another highline on Duke’s nose. This time, I had not told anyone to save myself from the embarrassment. It was just a colleague and me who had gone on the expedition. And surprisingly, I could manage to complete the walk in the first go! We posted the video online and it went viral. I started getting congratulatory messages on all social media platforms. A number of professional slackliners and high liners called me and wanted to collaborate.

For the next couple of years, I travelled across India attending various events and competitions. It was fun. That expanded my network, I came in contact with a lot of big names in the fraternity – people whom I always looked up to, people whom I had only dreamt of to meet with, and people whom I considered my inspirations. In the meanwhile, Samar Farooqui, another slackliner, contacted me and we organised a huge festival called Between Years which brought adventure enthusiasts from all over India and even some foreign adventurers together under one umbrella. The event was a big success. Today, there is a nice community of slackliners and high liners in Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. A lot of young talent is been seen in the field of slacklining in the past few years.

Our next project, the one which we are currently working on, is to rig a highline between Jivdhangad and Wanarlingi. The total walk is of about 43 metres. We have completed the set up a few days ago. We also tried to walk on it, but could not do so due to dense fog in the mornings and scorching heat of June at mid-day. And now, with the monsoon approaching, it’s going to be even tougher to execute that. We are planning to go back in November, hope to achieve another milestone! Rohit and the rest of the team of Shivdurga has been an inspiration for many and still continues to be. It is not death that these guys are afraid of. It is getting to the end of life, only to realise, that you never truly lived.

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