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Highlining 101: Section 3 of 7 - Highline Safety

“Look good, feel good, safety third”


Episode 3 of 7

This is a free course shows you how to use a highline that is already set up. Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.

Highlining can be a very safe way to achieve the most reliable flow state from any extreme sport, but it is inherently dangerous and we need to respect the “gravity” of the sport. We have lost members of our slack family to using an improper leash, forgetting to tie in, anchor failure and falling out of a harness in extreme weather. Fortunately, as far as we know, we haven’t lost anyone to being near a cliff edge without a personal anchor.

Mistakes can happen, and they can be fatal. But a more common occurrence is non-fatal injuries that can happen when whipping around metal rings, getting body parts caught in the leash and being near cliffs when taking a leash fall. A REPORT by the ISA shows what types of injuries happened during 2015.

  • Use a PAS (personal anchor system) whenever you are working near a cliff edge!

  • If you are just sliding across a line, you can use a PAS clipped to both the main and the backup while sliding on a line slide.

  • You CANNOT use a PAS as a leash. Do NOT walk a highline with a PAS connecting you to the highline.

  • Don’t get distracted while tying in. You only do this once, it has to be perfect. There is no redundancy for leashes.

  • Even if you don’t understand rigging, check highlines before you get on them.

    • Are they padded properly so the webbing doesn’t rub cliff edges?

    • Are there obvious flaws?

    • Are there aluminum carabiners in the anchor system (this is not generally accepted safe practice)?

    • ○ Is the leash tied properly to the rings?

  • Buddy check every time before highlining. Be checked or check your friends for these 5 things:

  • Is the harness on correctly and is it double backed if the harness requires it?

  • Does the leash go through the same 2 points of the harness that the belay loop is going through?

  • Is the figure 8 tied right on the harness. You can count the parallel lines 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and see the tail is tied off.

  • Is figure 8 tied right at the rings.

  • Do they have loose things on them or things in their unzipped pockets?

  • If you see someone tying in, don’t talk to them but instead buddy check them when they are done tying in. Keep your friends safe, don’t put them at risk.

  • If the weather is bad, don’t get on a highline. Lines can get struck by lightning or high winds can cause injuries or shake you out of your harness (by opening the buckle).

  • You cannot fall out of your harness if you are upside down (if it is installed properly). A properly installed harness cannot be pulled off. You should only be able to fit 1 fist inside the loop, anymore than that and it is too loose.

  • Don’t drop anything while highlining. Check your hats, phones and other random loose things on you so you don’t litter or drop things on people that may be under you.

  • You want your figure 8 as close as possible to your harness and your figure 8 to not have holes in it so you don’t get fingers stuck inside when it cinches down during a whipper.

  • Try not to grab the leash when you whip, so many injuries happen when people fall and grab a leash that wraps around their arms or fingers.

  • Don’t catch or lift your weight off highlines inside your knee, elbow or armpit area. This can cause nerve damage. Rather, use muscular areas of your body or your hands.

  • Avoid areas on highlines called “no fall zones” where it is not safe to take a leash fall or you may hit the cliff wall or a rock. Scoot or slide past these sections.

  • Don’t put your arm over the highline near your lineslide, it can pinch that soft skin near your bicep!

  • Don’t get your hair, clothes or fingers stuck in lineslide wheels. Be mindful about where things are.

  • Control your speed while sliding. Ziplining a highline can cause heat or damage to webbing.

  • If someone hangs unconscious in a harness, especially upside down, they could die in only minutes from blood not circulating properly. They need to be rescued ASAP.


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