CONNECTING ISLANDS – A NEW KIND OF HIGHLINING04.02.2020.

Quirin Herterich is a slackliner and always looking for new, more extreme places to pursue his passion. In his first own film project “Connecting Islands”, the 25-year-old makes the first-ever attempt to stretch a slackline between the island of Sardinia and the offshore “Pan di Zucchero”. Quirin describes this unique experience for PowerBar.

On-site preparations

We arrive two days before the actual start of the project. We want to get to know the surroundings as well as possible, inspect the rock, know the paths and all the shortcuts, as well as sight some climbing routes. The 133m high Mediterranean rock is freestanding off the coast of Masua and can therefore only be reached by boat. We want to reach its highest point via a climbing route with several ropes. 

Things always turn out differently than you expect

The first task is to take accurate measurements. Using a laser measuring device to measure the length of the line we were disappointed to find out that instead of the previously assumed 350- 400m, it’s a full 490m to the highest point of Pan di Zucchero. This fact presents us with a completely new starting situation. We have sufficient material for a maximum length of 400m. Is the project now in jeopardy? No, we won’t let it come to that. Since shortening the line is out of the question for us for both aesthetic and athletic reasons, we’ll instead get additional equipment in Cagliari at short notice. That should work!

The connection is established

The wind picks up as we’re working on the connection between the mainland and Pan di Zucchero. That pushes us to the limit. Despite this, we manage to set up the connection between the two anchor points with the help of a drone and fishing line. With this accomplished, an important and delicate milestone has been reached. Without the fishing line connection, the whole highline would not be possible. The success or failure of our project now depends on this 0.2mm thick thread.

The strenuous setup 

After further weather-related delays, we get started at dawn and arrive ahead of schedule. We all know that we’ll have to make good time. Part of the team transports the equipment to the Pan di Zucchero summit while the others wait on the mainland. After a 1.5h walk on narrow paths and small climbing passages, we reach the anchor point and start: the first step is to wind up 500m fishing line. This is an unpleasant undertaking, because the fishing line is long and cuts into our palms.

But the much more difficult part, pulling the slackline towards us, is still to come. Due to the strong and gusty winds, the slackline setup is again and again pushed 30-50m meters to the side. Since we can’t hold off the power of the wind from halfway down the line on, the cameraman has to help as well. Pulling the slackline demands all we have, we must pull with all our strength – our hands are burning.

As we take short breaks, we continuously doubt whether we can finish pulling the line; but we try to keep each other in good spirits. After two sweaty hours, the end is finally in sight. The line is within reach. With great confidence, we pull the last meters to our side and anchor the slackline successfully on the mainland.  

The crossing 

Finally, I sit on the first meters of the mighty slackline. There’s still a gusty and strong wind blowing, which pulls at me and the line. As usual, with such a long crossing during a windy storm, the slackline does not lead straight ahead but curves in a huge arc.

I begin by getting an idea of the line and crossing. My T-shirt is fluttering strongly in the wind. It’s hard to maintain balance under these conditions, but I finally reach the other side with only three falls. I feel exhausted, but good. The day has advanced and the sun will soon set; I quickly get ready for the return trip.

“I’m determined to walk this slackline NOW and WITHOUT falling down.” – “Sendingpressure” is what we call this feeling among slackliners and I’ve learnt how to deal with it. I combine meditation with a certain amount of “bad-assery”. It’s exactly what I need right now. After a short break, I take another deep breath and prepare myself for the way back. I still take time to pay attention to the world around me: the sun is slowly setting, bathing the scenery in a perfect light. The strong wind rustles in my ears and blocks all other sounds. I love this wild feeling of freedom. Below me, there’s 130m of emptiness and then the black glittering surface of the Mediterranean. Nobody will be able to help me should I get into trouble in the middle of the slackline. This unconditional reliance on my body and my abilities on the slackline is what attracts me every time I do this.

I stand up and get going. After the first meters, I get into the zone, which I know well. There’s no sense of time and I focus only on the next step. Looking at the line about 30m ahead of me, I work my way forward. The gusty wind challenges me to fight again and again. Towards the end of the line, I reduce my speed and put my feet even more consciously on the slackline. No more mistakes now! The last steps are once again a big challenge. I sit down carefully and let the feeling of pure joy wash over me. I’ve done it! I’ve defeated the monster with all its tricks. I crossed 490m in 35 minutes. Only now do I realize the extreme level to which I’ve pushed my body to its limit. As I leave the line I feel completely empty – but overjoyed. The sun has almost disappeared. My elation is so high it overtakes everything else and I notice only a little of the descent down Pan di Zucchero and the boat trip back.

* The “Connecting Islands” documentary will be released in summer 2020.