Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda Crosses Grand Canyon on High Wire

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walked over the Grand Canyon in Arizona on June 23, 2013. David Welker/Getty

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda made history on Sunday, June 23, when he crossed over the Grand Canyon on a 2-inch-think steel cable set 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River. Known as “The King of the High Wire,” Wallenda completed the death-defying stunt in just over 22 minutes, with only two brief pauses during the 1,400-foot walk. The event was broadcast live on the Discovery Channel.

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The 34-year-old aerialist — a seventh-generation high-wire artist from the famous Flying Wallendas circus family — did not wear a harness and had to crouch twice as 30 mph winds blew around him and caused the rope to sway. He could be heard murmuring prayers as he walked.

“Thank you, Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God,” he said a little more than halfway through the feat.

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After the walk, Wallenda told the Discovery Channel that the winds were “unpredictable.” He also said he’d gotten dust in his contact lenses. “It was way more windy, and the movement of the cable and the side walls as I was walking were getting in the way and confusing,” he explained. “It took every bit of me to stay focused the entire time. My arms are aching like you wouldn’t believe.”

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Nik Wallenda walks a high wire over the Grand Canyon in Arizona on June 23, 2013. Tim Boyles/Getty

Wallenda previously made history one year ago, in June 2012, when he became the first person to cross directly over Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Speaking about his penchant for such feats with the Hollywood Reporter prior to his Grand Canyon walk, he said the most difficult part of the stunts was getting into the right mindset.

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“Mentally it’s a lot more draining than physically. I’ve done it my entire life and the physical part comes fairly naturally,” he said. “The mental part is always something that I have to work on.”

Next, Wallenda hopes to cross between two skyscrapers in New York City. And someday, he’d “love to walk from one continent to another,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “I can walk from Europe to Asia over the Bosphorus [a.k.a. the Istanbul Strait].”

“I don’t know if it’s about topping myself,” the married father of three said, “but it’s about carrying on a legacy that’s lasted over 200 years.”

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