Moab Space Net
Every November slack liners and BASE jumpers from all over the world gather in Moab, Utah for an annual event of epic proportion. On the rim of a four hundred foot canyon ten to fifteen high lines are rigged up of varying length and tension down one of the narrower parts of the canyon. Out in mouth of the open bowl there are two LONG high lines rigged, one 540 feet and the other 730 feet, it is awe-inspiring watching people on these! And smack in the middle of the canyon is the most glorious hammock contraption ever imagined - the Moab Space Net.
At any given moment there can be heard the loud BANG of BASE parachutes opening from people jumping from the walls of the canyon or off the net itself. Men and women in spandex, tutus, and fleece animal onsies are walking high lines. Guitar and drums can be heard along with squeals of excitement as people rope swing down into the canyon. Its literally a extreme athlete and hippy dirtbag wonderland of dreams.
This festival lasts for about seven days every year and brings in some of the best athletes in the world, also some of the most eccentric. Every year people are trying new and more innovative ways of participating and pushing their craft to new levels. Quite amazing to simply be present and watch some of the interesting things that come together there.
It starts out with the high lines getting rigged and as more people trickle in, word is put out that the net is ready to go up. Hundreds gather with helping hands to rig the monstrous contraption, a work of art really.
The outside border of the net is made of Amsteel, a braded synthetic fiber called dyneema stronger than steel. The body of the net is a hand woven web of one inch slack line, climbing rope, and parachord. Each of the five legs suspending the net above the canyon is one inch spectra webbing which is backed up with another strand of one inch webbing. Designed and brought to life by some of the best and most innovative slack liners in the world... Andy Lewis being the Godfather.
To erect the net, every thing must be rigged and ready to go on the ground. Tag lines are strung across the canyon and the five anchors for the legs are rigged to bolts on the canyon rim. Everyone works in unison to maximize efficiency, its beautiful to be a part of.
Once ready about a hundred slack liners and BASE jumpers gather around the rim to gently pull and stretch it into place. The outer legs of the net go over the rim first, attached to the tag lines and pulled to opposing sides. As everything is pulled into place slowly, we make sure nothing is dragging across the rock or ground. With a hundred humans around the rim, hand over hand moving it out like an assembly line, the net slowly takes shape in the open canyon. Each leg has a team of people attaching the webbing to the anchors. At the base of each of the five anchors a Dynamometer is attached with gives a constant reading of the tension and force on the leg.
Once tensioned and rigged, Andy heads out with a few jumpers to jump off the net in somewhat of an opening ceremony. Everyone is still gathered around the rim of the canyon, Andy gives a short speech and jumps off. The loud BANG of his parachute opening sends cheers from the rim, and we all go back to our projects and fun.
The net generally stays up for about five to ten days depending on weather and the group available to take it down. The Tyrolean traverse technique is used to get out to the net, which simply means you ferry yourself (and what ever gear you want with you) out on one of the five webbing legs. To do this you need a climbing harness, webbing hang over (carabiner type device to slide out on the webbing and not damage it), and an ability to handle a whole lot of exposure. If your highly skilled you can also try to walk the high line leg out - no thank you.
Getting out to and jumping the net...
I have been going to this event for years now, and I have to admit that it is a little bit terrifying every time I traverse out to the net. Interesting to me with my background in rock climbing and BASE jumping that this gets my heart racing every time, but honestly both rock climbing and BASE jumping get my blood pumping every time I do them as well. Fear and fear management is exactly what drives me to do the things that I do - but that is for a different article.
As an aerialist I have been bringing my aerial silks out to Moab with me for this festival for the last few years. There are a few other women who also are aerialists at this event and each year the number grows. This year we managed to have a synchronized three woman show from the Moab Space net that was humbling to be a part of and produced some fantastic pictures and video!
This year was a very special year for me because my adventure partner, Keith, and childhood best friend, Teresa, came out to see what all the fuss was about. Keith is the best travel partner I know and also extreme athlete with a background in rock climbing, skydiving, canyoneering, and many more. Teresa is a badass mountain biking, skiing, outdoor woman with some rock climbing experience but being around the vastness of this canyon and the full exposure of the net is something completely different for even the most experienced climber.
To be able to share this experience with them and watch their awe and excitement was very rewarding. Teresa got out there with me and experienced some interesting shenanigans from a BASE jumper not quite prepared for the net, and we got to just hang around and catch up on time and our dreams. Keith was with me for the whole trip and with his climbing and slack lining back ground was a key part of the anchor setting and build. He was on and off the net every day, constantly running around taking part in different projects, and taking heaps of pictures (seen in this post).
We were in Moab for over a week! I was on the net every day I was there, either playing on my silks, BASE jumping, or helping people on and off the net. With so much to do in that town, I am surprised we slept at all. Keith and I flew our gliders at Ken's Lake, managed to live thru a rainy slot canyon adventure, and also partied all night long at one of the best parties of the year with all our friends and friends gone. It was a magical week - and a magical adventure.