Saturday, April 12, 2014

Co-operation with SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA

I've always liked cooking and eating. In my mind these are such a obviousness it is almost weird to state that. I don't think that everyone likes cooking but we can probably agree that everyone likes to consume foods. I remember when I was a kid I used to eat any amounts of whatever and definitely didn't pay attention to my diet. Later in my life I decided to study biology because in high school that was one of my favorite subjects. After one and a half semester I realized I am not really interested in botanic, mycology, life cycle of tapeworm and such ... Due to my long interest in sports as well as my both passions - climbing and slacklining, I decided it might be better to focus on topics connected with it.

Back in a days (photo-credit Michał 'MihÓ' Jędrzejewski)
The trip which started it all ;) ...

I did study at the Sport and Physical Education University but then my life took unexpected turn. I got a chance to do a big sponsored slackline trip with friends and I took it. Since that moment I spent 4 years traveling, highlining, slacklining and living life of professional athlete, which in the sport of slacklining is almost equal to being a dirtbag.

E.g. 1: My best bud Jordan and professional haircut - total dirtbag ...
E.g. 2: Dirtbag kitchen/diet ;)

I was obsessed with slacklining and didn't spend as much time climbing and doing other things, as I would like to. I tried to expend my knowledge of human physiology, anatomy as well as training and nutrition methods and apply them to my life. I never had enough time to focus on training and put these ideas in real use.

Back in 2008 when I climbed and slacklined more equally. Here climbing my first 7c "Madre Salvaje" in Desplomilandia (Spain) (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Nowadays, my philosophy on life as well as slacklife changed quite a bit. I would like to connect my two passions and use them for challenging alpine projects, progress and get stronger in both disciplines and maybe even find some time for some other things I always wanted to try.

This by itself is quite a challenge with which I struggled during last few years. It is really demanding dream, which requires some quite strict tactics to stay positive and successful. I made up my mind and decide it will be better to focus on training and when I live for a trip I should have a certain goal, schedule and be totally ready in my body and my mind to use my power and time most efficiently. When I am back home that's time to work, progress on different grounds a train some more.



I used word 'train' in last sentences quite a lot but that's what it comes to both with slacklining and climbing. If you connect this two it can be and most likely will be harsh on your body. That is why I started looking ever more into training methods, came up with some ideas to train for my highline goals and decided I need some help with my nutrition. I believe nutrition and proper training are the keystones for my further progress.


Because of my daily responsibilities, training and lack of time I felt like I wouldn't be able to come up with well-balanced training-nutrition program. Then I found out about "SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA". This team is formed by a friendly couple of professional trainers and nutritionists. They climb by them self and are more then qualified in a field of sports, coaching and nutrition. I reached out to founder of the company Marcin Bończa-Tomaszewski and after a few months of co-operation became a sponsored athlete which I am really proud of.


SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA promotes healthy way of living and program which is adapted to your needs. I was shocked by the effects on my life. My habits changed completely as well as the way of thinking about it as a diet. It doesn't feel like a restriction. I chose to eat certain way to improve my performance, supercompensation, regeneration and frame of mind. Marcin put up with all of the challenges I created for him. As you know already I had a serious accident and I am still struggling with my recovery. As soon as I could barely walk and got a green light from a doctor I wanted to train as much as I could. By adequate training program, well balanced nutrition and well selected supplements I was able to achieve that.


I like the the co-operation methods. I work one on one with Marcin. I can ask all of my questions and I get the guidelines and files to learn how to properly put together my training and meals. I introduce one new habit every two weeks which helps me to master it without compromising others already in use. I found that really effective. I always wanted everything right away. I believe that is one of the main mistakes people do. It is much better to improve the same way as you do on a line; step by step.

I will try to share more knowledge from that field in the next posts. I am also really happy that Marcin supported and helped me with stopping eating meat. When I was younger I did stop eating meat completely for a few year but didn't realize how to replace it, what are the risks and that is a huge challenge. I achieved this goal gradually over last couple months and it has been smooth shift. I am happy to be vegetarian. It was a personal decision dictated by ethical reasons.

The supplementation and eating habits makes me feel good, my body regenerates really well and I can't wait to be done with my post accident recovery. Trying to stay humble and patient which is much easier with a help from SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA as well as my mental-coach Dominika Zapotoczna (check Dominika's project Extreme Mind Game).

My life is different and definitely better. Even when I am down I am happier then I was before. I don't want to get into details now but as a sneak peek here is what's new:

- I am keeping habits and training logbook which helps me to monitor my progress and health (that includes measurements and pictures),
- Have to do some bigger tests from time to time (like a big physical test, complex blood tests to monitor my health),
- In every meal I am eating a portion of fats, double serving of source of protein and veggies,
- I eat most of my carbohydrates during training days,
- I take my supplements everyday,
- Everyday I am trying new recipe or variation of some meal I already know,
- Every single day drinking at least 2 liters of water,
- I keep up with my training and rehabilitation.

I am hoping that was somehow interesting. I will try to share more practical info about training, recipes, nutrition knowledge useful for slacklining and climbing purposes as well as some ideas for slackline training I've been developing. Can't wait to put them to use.

Big thanks to SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA and all of my friends and followers for a great support!

Peace & SlackOn!
Janek

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Faith Dickey - take on free soloing

Last but not least I have a fist female in my blog-series about free-soloing. It will be hard to introduce Faith Dickey because she did so much, doesn't stop to continue pushing the limits and pretty much is an icon in the sport. She is holding the female records for longest waterline, highline, highline free-solo and longline since few years already. Faith is also really experienced highliner and one of the most persistent highline free-soloist on the world. There is also no other girl which is nearly experienced as she is in walking highlines leashless (or just highlining in general). The great thing is that she shares that experience and tries to push and motivate female slackliners for example by organizing first "Girls Only Highline Meetings" (taking place in beautiful Ostrov in Czech Republic). She is a strong character and badass chick. I am proud I could help her a bit on her slackline-path. Well, I feel like there is not enough words to introduce her, I had a pleasure to get to know here quite well and she's always been a great friend to me. Now enjoy some words of wisdom about 'no-safety art of walking' from Faith her self.

Faith Dickey (25 years old)


"I thought free soloing was stupid when I began highlining. It was so beyond my understanding, and I gleaned so much transformation and fear confrontation with a harness on, I could not imagine why anyone would take the leash off. It seemed reckless, attention grabbing and irresponsible. At that time I had barely skimmed the surface of climbing, and while I was vaguely aware that free solo climbing existed and was traditionally rooted in the sport, I did not make the connection. Somehow scaling a rock wall without a rope seemed more logical than traversing a thin piece of webbing between cliff edges without a leash. The old saying 'Never say never' has proved true, as I have become one of the few soloists in the sport of highlining.

Faith bouldering in Joshua Tree in 2009 (photo by Jordan Tybon)

My highline beginnings were slightly more condensed than the average slackliner-turned-highliner. I was fortunate enough to take my slackline skills up high with Jan Galek, who was a great climber and knowledgeable highline rigger, not to mention an accomplished walker. Jordan Tybon, the other stooge in our trio was a great climber and therefore understood the concepts of rigging far more than I. Knots, gear, equalization, redundancy and heights were all knew to this Texan. I experienced longlining, highlining and climbing all for the first time in the middle of a German summer 4 years ago, while my face was still round and my body a bit plump from four months of drinking in London. My decent slackline skills were put to the test on my first highlines and I threw myself at them full force. Finally my stubborn nature was paying off; I ignored the map of the world imprinted upon my thighs in bruises, the utter exhaustion of learning to climb up the leash after many falls, and the uncertainty of my knot tying abilities, all in order to take some steps on a highline. It's doubtful that any witnesses to my highline beginnings would have thought I would make it this far.

After 4 or 5 highlines I finally managed to cross one; and all of a sudden the world was a much different place. I was officially a highliner. The following months were jam packed with walking. I learned that to save energy, time and prolong the life of the equipment, I should grab the highline when I fell rather than whipping into the leash and dangling six feet below. Climbing up a six-foot rope repeatedly did give me some nice guns but it wasn't worth the extra power I lost in doing so. Soon, I was catching the line almost every fall. A highline expedition to the US solidified my abilities; not only did I break my own personal records in distance highlining but I established a new female world record in the sport as well. This was a surprise for me since I had never intended to do so; however within three months I had broken my own records twice more. By the end of our trip, I was a proficient highliner and was starting to understand rigging.

The idea to walk without a leash was not premeditated. I had watched my teammate, Jan Galek, walk free solo a few times and if anything it caused me to realize that solo could be safe. His stability and mental strength was a testament to this. I had recently graduated from a climbing harness to a swami belt; which is virtually a harness with no leg loops. A fall would be life preserving but painful as the thick band would constrict around my waist. Catching is ever more important when a highliner dons a swami, and it serves as a great mental training tool. Thanks to the swami-belt, I was very sure of my ability to catch the line and have to this day never fallen off a highline in anything less than a climbing harness. At this point, catching the line is second nature and I have taken no more than two unintentional whipper's in the last four years.

My first solo was hardly spectacular. A favorite of beginners, the 25ft long highline in Joshua Tree, California lacks any exposure (sense of height), you might even survive if you fell and hit the ground. I had cruised it in a swami easily, and suddenly I desired to push my comfort zone a little more. I untied the leash and walked both directions, and was overcome by a very similar feeling to walking my very first highline. This wonderful euphoria left me beaming. My teammate Janek had very solid advice for me then, to control that happiness and excitement like I control my fear; in other words, not to get trigger happy with soloing because that’s when it can get dangerous. I still follow this advice.

Faith free-soloing her first highline - "Chongo Gap" in Joshua Tree back in 2009 (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Explaining why I free solo (a common question) is very similar to explaining why I highline at all. The general public often considers obscure or unusual activities that involve adrenaline “daredevil, adrenaline junkie” sports. These labels have the same effect most labels do; they put highliners in a box, one that is often synonymous with "crazy." When given the opportunity, I enjoy giving some insight as to why I highline including soloing, and why some people find value in walking thin pieces of webbing high off the ground. We can all agree that facing our fears is a healthy exercise, combine this with an incredible community, traveling, and adrenaline, and you have an exceptionally self-transformative sport. The first highlines I walked taught me more about myself than anything I had encountered prior. I was able to compartmentalize my mind and see just how complex it really is. There are a number of chemical processes in our brains when we walk highlines, however the mental and spiritual side of the sport is often overlooked.

I believe we all have different comfort zones and while pushing them is how we expand our consciousness, not everyone will push those limits at the same pace or in the same way. This is exactly why I would never encourage someone to solo. Though I swore I would never walk without safety, eventually I came to a point where I felt I needed to push my limits to that point in order to see myself more clearly. I've realized that fear is very multi-faceted, and it is not always an obstacle even if it is ever present when I am high off the ground. On a highline, I almost have tinges of schizophrenia where my mind splits into these different dialogues, often battling each other to be the strongest. What I've come to understand as ego are those voices that tell me I will fail, that I am no good; that I am too tired to succeed. By the same token, ego tells me I am great, that I am the best in the world, that everyone watching me is thinking about how good I am. Then there is the voice telling all the others to shut up, the one that reminds me why I highline, it tells me to focus on the beauty and the moment. All of this dialogue goes on for minutes at a time, sometimes the duration of the walk. Being naked to myself signifies seeing all that is inside of me, good and bad. A meditative mindset is one I constantly strive for; no thought stream, just pure focus. Moments like these remind me that the dialogue in my head does not necessarily represent who I am, and that I don't need mental words streaming in order to experience something amazing, achieve what I set out to do and be fully aware during the experience. Those moments where I achieve that clarity, be it solo or with a harness and leash, are ultimately what pushes me to keep highlining. Fear and intuition are difficult to decipher, but soloing brings me closer to understanding the difference.


Faith perfectly balanced on the line above Ostrov (CZ)

Highlining is a sport, an art, a lifestyle and a spiritual experience all wrapped in one bundle. I found that walking highlines without safety took me to my outermost limits and forced me to stare my fear, my flaws and the clutter of my mind right in the face. There might be a scientific, chemical process that explains what and why it feels the way it does; however the benefit of the experience is far beyond any brain patterns. Highlining is how I collect myself; center my ego, my intuition and my body. Walking solo is the concentrated form of what I seek.

Ego can be like a friend that grabs your hand and takes you on a fun but destructive adventure. Though I truly feel I started soloing for the right reasons, I am not immune to cameras or praise. Since I entered the world of professional slacklining, I have to be ever more in tune with my mind, body and intuition in order to make choices based on my own reasons and not for attention or fame. Free solo seems so crazy and ethereal to the general population that it easily becomes a focal point of highline media coverage. It is entwined with what I am passionate about and I will not hide it from the public, but I aim to express it truthfully and not to mislead people as to why I do it. I jump at the chance to explain the diligent mental and physical training that goes into being a soloist, as well as the ethics I believe in, rather than accepting media's false labeling. I am no daredevil.



Free solo has it's own energy. When I've been raging in a group of people who were all soloing, I almost lost myself in the power of it and was unable to adequately estimate my own ability. I pushed my limits at a faster pace than I might have normally. Being in a group like that can be far more dangerous than publicity, in my opinion. While I do believe it is mostly all in my head, soloing is dicey and the risk is not broken bones, it is death. The risk is part of the motivation, and accepting that is part of pushing my limits.

To write about soloing I feel lost in a sea of words and thoughts and it is difficult not to end up on novel-length tangents. How funny to describe an experience high in the air as something so very grounding. I am no junkie, but highlining is a healing medicine and to spend a few minutes in that magical dimension of focus has addictive qualities. It has to be in moderation, like anything else. There are no free solo competitions and for good reason; it is a very personal endeavor, not something to be done for anyone else.



Learning who I am, who I want to be and how to improve myself is quite an endeavor. I could work on it on the ground, but frankly it is way more fun a few thousand feet in the air. I often say "One man's sane is another man's crazy," and to some (like my mother) I might never be able to truly explain the why of soloing. As I continue trying to peel the layers of the onion down till I can see my soul, I hope to also keep a pace at which I can live a long and happy life."

Well, I'm hoping you enjoyed that read as well as I did. There will be couple or few more in that series and if you liked that article you might be interested in other insides from (click on the name to go to the article):

- Andy Lewis,
- Jordan Tybon,
- Spencer Seabrooke,

... and myself.

Peace & SlackOn!
Janek

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Negative to Positive

Three days ago I was celebrating three-month anniversary of my climbing accident in which I broke my lover right leg. At first it was quite shocking and brutally painful. Then by the time I was in a hospital dominating feelings were fear and uncertainty. After two surgeries and almost two weeks spent in a hospital I was noticeably weaker, my stomach was wrecked by four different types of painkillers but slowly I was becoming myself, feeling happy. I think I avoided the stage of resignation and indifference. Instead I started planning, dreaming about what I can achieve, trying to distance a bit to myself and laugh about some things in a hospital which at first seems a bit depressing. I think I am quite lucky. It could be way worse (for example if the force would crush me knee or ankle) and I can not thank enough all of my friends for being there for me. Literally, everyday I had at least one visitors. I totally didn't expect that and I am really thankful for all the support. Now I think about that whole accident situation as a blessing. I am not saying it was enjoyable and I have some financial problems but in a way that was a lesson I needed. Let's start from the beginning though ...

After amazing long weekend in Ostrov with friends spent on highlining and climbing I came back to Berlin. On Monday I worked a bit doing rope access stuff and because I still had a lot of time I decide to do my standard training routine. I was extra motivated after climbing in Ostrov on a natural rock.

Route setting at Ostbloc together with Wölf

I got on my bike and charged my casual route to Ostbloc. I love pretty much everything about that place. I started with route setting with friends and put up new grays I couldn't do right away. That was a good sign and I was quite happy to project that thing later. Soon, my good friend Helmar arrived. I decided to warm up and then try my project again. I did few easier problems and decided to work a bit on the other gray problem put up by my buddy Werner. He's quite taller then me so it is always fun to climb with him and try to figure out beta for myself.

Training at Ostbloc
Home gym ...

It was a fun problem but on the last move from the triangle volume I was missing 2cm to even touch the top hold. I was too short but I love dynamics moves so I made my mind and tried it dynamically. To do the move you had to jump more to the side then up to quite a good top hold. On the last try I thought I got it, gripped as hard as I could but my hands slipped just when my body was swinging away from the wall. I fell out of control, under weird angle, spinning around and I couldn't stop it. Right when I hit the crashpad I heard really loud noise. I thought to myself that I broke the mattress outside material. My next thought was; "damn it, Jacob and Lutz will be pissed!" (Jacob and Lutz are the owners of Ostbloc). Then I saw all the girls screaming and running away. Pretty much everyone around twitched as something really bad happened. That was when I realized something is wrong. I wanted to stand up but I couldn't. I looked down. My right leg was totally fucked. Both tibia and fibula were completely broken. It wasn't straight anymore either. The bones poked through my skin on the inner side of my leg and were sticking out of my leg. The rest of the limb and a broken piece formed together 90 degrees angle with the toes pointing up in direction of my head. Seeing that triggered the pain instantly. I lied down on a crashpad and focused on staying calm and breathing. Mark, Helmar, Wölf and one more guy I don't know (he is apparently a doctor, I am really thankful for his professional help) took car of me. The pain was overwhelming but I was able to talk a bit. It was hard to focus. The cold compress on my forehead helped a lot and I didn't feel any nausea. The guys were joking around: "just think about something nice, what about some nice tits?!" I had no idea but the 'doctor guy' straightened my leg during first 2 minutes. The pain was so constant I didn't feel any difference. Fifteen minutes later the ambulance arrived. I got an iv and morphine injection before I was even moved onto a stretcher. I don't remember the way to the hospital so well, I was high on drugs, relieved from pain. Drifting away all I could think about was "I fucked up ... shit, what now?!" ...

I arrived in a hospital, called my father and tried to reach Jordan before the surgery. Waiting was way longer then I expected - apparently there was a guy after some heavy car accident and naturally he had to be take care of first. I had to time to worry if my insurance will cover everything, what's about work, slackline, climbing, my future ... At 2 a.m. I didn't have to worry anymore, after signing surgery papers the anesthesia shot was injected to my bloodstream and I fell into a dreamless land.

Iron Man 1.0

I woke up discovering weird structure sticking out of my leg. It had to stay there for next few days before next surgery. It was surprisingly heavy and awfully unpractical. I used to forget it is on banging against the toilet door frame. Now it is quite hilarious to think about it.

X-rays after injury, first and second surgery

Another surgery was noticeably longer but I was relieved to have my leg without metal sticking out of it. Although that time the metal was inside. I had an intramedullary rod pounded inside my tibia and fixed with three small screws at the top and bottom of my leg. I left the hospital knowing I will have to remove the small screws in a few months + I will have fourth surgery during which the inner rod will be removed completely. The bad news was I will have to wait for it another year and the good news I can be active with the rod inside my body.

The first two weeks after leaving the hospital were the worse. I never felt so week and challenged by the smallest things. I couldn't sleep and digest well. Carrying a cup of hot tea from the kitchen to my room was my personal mission impossible. Right after getting out of the hospital I stopped taking all the painkillers because of big problems with my stomach and it slowly got better but I also started to feel more mostly painful signals from my body.

I don't want to describe the rest of my injury and recovery details because it might be quite boring. All I have to say about it it learned me a lot of good things and I am amazed and overwhelmed by amount of love I experienced from my friends, family and people who support me.

I spent hours on my computer working on the articles, planning my goal, talking with friends, watching slackling and climbing videos and dreaming about running.

My first month activity ...

I have to say - I was going crazy without any physical activity. It definitely made me appreciate more the days I had and hopefully will have soon. I will cherish every moment on the line, taking next step on the mountain path, taking a walk with a friend ... man, I miss that so much.

After one month I was able to slowly start training and rehabilitating my body. I was so exited to do pull-ups, push-ups which normally seem kind of boring to me. I felt like a small kid which was allowed for some crazy trip on a bike. I got my second chance. I feel really motivated and I think that state was triggered by this accident. I never felt so motivated to get on with my life ... In a way I am thankful I broke my leg. It let me understand better myself, others, put amazing people on my path and showed me my friends in a new light.

Nowadays I can already walk a bit, yesterday I did my first 7a lead at the climbing gym at the end of my second week during second training cycle. I feel stronger and healthier everyday. The entry wound is almost healed and my broken leg feels stronger too. I think in time I will be able to realize climbing and slackline goals I put for myself.



I focused on a lot of different things too. I have time to learn German, read books. I studied a lot about training, nutrition with a great help from my personal trainer and nutritionist from SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA. I made some important decisions of what I want to do after I'm back on two feet and what might sound funny I miss my work. I did re-think some other aspects of my life and I am surprised I didn't take care of it before. It seems like I was just lazy avoiding some issues. I also decided to stop eating meat again but now I am going to do it responsible way. I think it will allow me to feel better physically and definitely will reduce the guilt.

After first training cycle - HUGE thanks to SZTUKA ŻYWIENIA, Dominika Zapotoczna as well as Zerwa climbing gym for letting me train!

I can't wait to get back home to Berlin, to be back on the line, but I am more patient and organized right now so I know I can wait the time needed. I am hoping that will be enough to evolve and my goal is definitely not to be as I good I was before - I want to be better person.

Peace & SlackOn!
Janek

Friday, January 17, 2014

Spencer Seabrooke - take on free soloing

A while ago I started a series on my blog dedicated to the topic of free-solo highlining. I already featured athletes like Jordan Tybon, Andy Lewis and also presented my view on that topic. All three of these posts got published in large article inside GÓRY climbing magazine (of course in Polish though). Picture of Faith Dickey sending "Erotic Narcotic" Highline in a swami-belt with a beautiful background of Fisher Towers was chosen for a cover. That's the second slackline cover in a history of this great magazine.

Faith on the cover (photo by Jordan Tybon)

This time I am adding next profile to the free-solo series and there will be more to come. For today I have an athlete which caused a bit of controversy with his bold full-on free-solos. And I am talking HIGH, BIG and EXPOSED. The person I'm describing is Canadian representative Spencer Seabrooke. His leashless sends on the North Gully at the Stawamus Chief left me speechless. Spencer is quite a special case in the highline free-solo world. Even though he doesn't have that many years of experience as other highliners he's doing amazing projects and is presents mature style of free-soloing. Here is a piece by this amazing slackliner which will give you a bit more insides on 'what, how and why':

"My name is Spencer Seabrooke, and I have been slacklining since May 2012. This is the story of my journey to walking free-solo.


After watching "Sketchy Andy" video on the Reel Rock tour, without having ever even walked a slackline I dreamed of walking a highline. As soon as I had the money, I went to the local climbing shop and picked up a gibbon classic. I immediately started slacking. The weather is sometimes an issue in the spring in Vancouver so we would setup the line in parking garages or under any other covered area with two solid anchors.

As soon as was able to walk the line I had already set my eye on my first highline - The Camel. I was obsessed. With my climbing experience and some research on safe rigging, I hiked up to the location twice, both times with plans to drill and prepare for the highline, but the weather and mountain conditions made it unsafe.

Me drilling my first bolt on the 'Camel' Highline

After 3 months of slacklining, having walked the slackline high in the trees, we set out one weekend to rig my first true highline. The weather did not go as planned, but with a clear break on Sunday, we managed to drill and bolt the new line. After a few shaky steps, I was able to do the first FA of the Camel.

 
My first highline

Walking the highline sparked something in me. The feeling euphoria I got form walking in the clouds. I was hooked. On the hike down, we started talking and thinking about locations that we could highline. We started setting up new lines over the canyons on the north shores where for many days I trained with the exposure and thoughts of going bigger, higher and longer.


Having walked my longest highline at 50', 90' in the air, I decided I was ready to try the 100', 900' high line across the north gully of the chief.

In Dec 2012, I went out and bough a 60m piece of climbing spec tubular webbing the day before we found ourselves rigging a 100' primitive setup. We knew it was a little bit sketchy, but still completely safe using bomber climbing rope back up. I knew I was safe. Doing this like this has truly helped me feel comfortable with my rigging and learning to trust our rigging and the systems, which we have in place. It’s the key to getting beyond what you are doing and just focus on walking the line.

Taking countless whippers, almost decking out, loosing my shoes to the gully and only making it 20 feet, I felt defeated. I knew I had to start training on longer lines on the ground before I could just rig one and start walking high in the air.

Checkout the VIDEO

The next day in the pouring rain I rigged a line approximately the same length between two trees and walked it back and forth. I couldn't understand what held me back the day before.

At this point I needed gear. Gathering all the money I had, I started my slack rack with the few climbing pulleys I already had and some static rope, I managed to tension up to a 200' line. After walking 200' I knew I was ready to go back to the North Gully and get a real taste of exposure.

In January 2013, with some friends to help rig, I returned to the North Gully. Shoveled 4' of snow to find the anchors, we managed to get the line setup on some much improved rigging - no more primitive setup. Still backed up with a climbing rope, I crossed the line taping it and I knew I was ready but the line was still very lose. Giving the line a few more pulls - BAM. The 1" tubular webbing snapped. I was choked. The wind had caused the line to rub on the snow and wear a weak point where it eventually snapped.


The next weekend with my new weblock and new flat nylon webbing I picked up from a local rescue store. I hiked up with the one friend who was available. After a long battle, I was able to send the line half man. The thought of walking something like this free-solo was so far out of my mind. Even the thought of walking with a lease was still crazy



Over the winter, the slack rack continued to grow with the addition of some Slackline Brothers pulleys and a ton of steel. Starting to work with Absolute Slacklines, a local slackline company, I now had enough gear to rig multiple highlines.

In march 2013, we started setting up new highlines at Cypress Falls canyon in West Vancouver. I began to experiment with swami, shackles and ball and chain. I felt I started to understand the thought of walking free-solo. After walking back and forth on a the "Back Seat Driver" (70' long, 60' high) with swami belt, I dropped the harness and stepped on to my first free-solo of a 50', 45' high "Fourst Timer". It felt so good, and I knew I could take it a lot further. Read more HERE.

Continuing to rig new lines I started to feel more comfortable on the line. Having walked and attempted many highlines, some outside my ability, I never once took any leash falls. Being able to walk the line with less and less protection is as much about being confident in knowing you will catch as it is important to know you walk the line.

After soloing a few of the lines I had rigged in the canyons in the spring of 2013, I decided I needed to solo something that was truly exposed. I set the goal of returning to my first highline "The Camel", with 1000' exposure. Walking several times with harness then swami, dropped the harness and walked it free-solo full man. At that point I truly felt in control of my fears and emotions.



Arrival of the Swiss crew, with some new longer pieces of webbing, I returned to the North Gully and without any trouble, walked the line back and forth. The thought of soloing the North gully started be something in the back of my mind. At this point my friend Brent Plumely and I started a group SlackLife BC. Through our social media, we were able to get out 7 highliners and rigged 2 100' lines across the North Gully. Walking both lines back and forth for a whole day, experimenting with swami and thoughts of soloing - Still scared the shit out of me.


Waking up Sunday morning, I felt bored of walking back and forth tied in safely. I knew I was walking these lines solid enough to solo them I just needed to get past my fears. I tied in with on shackles and truly felt free on the line. I knew I was ready, I have never felt more in the zone. I stepped over to the highline and waited for Joseph to step off. The anticipation killed me. The energy I was getting from the people around me was amazing, they knew what I was about to do. The line was free, I tied the leash back, I stepped on free-solo.

The first 10' there is a small ledge underneath and feel relatively secure. The second I felt the exposure, and dropped to my butt. I slid back to the begging of the line. I let out a scream - my built up nerves, and stepped back on the line. I was completely in the zone and every step felt solid. This is where all my training and mental preparation had led me to. I cruised across the line, and exploded on the other side. It took weeks for the high of walking the line to go down. To truly overcome your fears and being in complete control is the most amazing feeling someone could feel.



I went back and soloed all the lines less than 100' that I had previously rigged. Setting up long lines and constantly training I had to return to the North Gully for the free-solo of "Dean's Line". It is relatively the same as the line I had soloed previously, but its much more exposed and you walk onto a spire. I was always inspired to free-solo this line because it was Dean's video that first sparked my interest in the North Gully.

I went up, walked the line many times with swami and shackles not taking a fall all day. Having just finished walking the line full man with shackles, I knew I was ready to solo the line. There was a slight hesitation on my mind so I stood on the end of the line still above the ledge and thought about the solo. After taking two steps forward, I felt a slight shake and felt it was not the right moment and jumped off safely to the ledge still below. After a few grunts and shaking out my nerves, I immediately stepped back on the line. I felt solid step after step until suddenly I found myself in the middle 900' in the air with my legs shaking. After one sketchy step, and seeing the line shake in front of me I knew I had to catch and grab the line. Still in control I dropped and caught the line. On the way back the ledge I was thinking about how much easier it would have been to walk to the other side than shimmy back and start again. Having fallen and caught in the middle free solo, I had faced my biggest fear. Now it was all about walking to the other side. I stepped back on the line and felt like I was only a few feet off the ground walking in the park. I no longer felt the exposure.


People always ask me why I free-solo. It’s fun. It’s the ultimate test of my skills. It’s being able to over come my fears and execute on something I know I can do and have practiced 100 time before. It’s about being in control. I don't want to die, or have a death wish. I want to continue to slackline and highline for a long time to come. If I ever thought I was not completely safe and in control, I would never step on the line. It’s that simple. I am going to continue to train, push myself and the sport with longer and higher free-solos.

Check out SlacklifeBC.com to follow me on all my adventures.

SlackLife!!!"

I am hoping you enjoyed that read as much as I did. Next time I will be presenting thoughts of the amazing and versatile athlete, amazing woman and a great friend Faith Dickey. Stay tuned!

Peace & SlackOn!
Janek

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Highline Free Solo (free soloist mindset, that is to say about motivation, preparation and the way)

Lately I posted two full interviews about free soloing featuring Andy Lewis (click HERE) and Jordan Tybon (click HERE). Together with my my part it was going to be featured in a new "Slackline Corner" section in "GÓRY climbing magazine". The main editor after reading the material gave me a call. It was a good news. The full interviews together with the pics will be published on 4 to 6 pages and probably the picture on a cover will promote the article. I am pretty psyched about it and keep my fingers crossed that everything works out. Down below you can find my take on free soloing and the story how I got into it. Sometimes in the nearest future I will also publish interviews with Faith Dickey, Michael Kemeter, Petr Kučera and Spencer Seabrooke.

"I took my first steps on a highline back in 2006. I walked my first line during first slackline competition 'Slackline Masters' organized in Sokoliki Mountains. I remember on the way to this event my imagination was kindled by the thought of trying first highline in Poland ever. I was trying to convince myself that I am capable. I calmed myself down; 'Yet, in the end I am a climber so the high is nothing new', 'I am pretty skilled slackliner and every piece of equipment on a highline is doubled'. But as soon as I tied in and set on that short line strung between two peaks, all of these rational arguments were erased and instantly replaced by incapacitating irrational fear and the will to escape.

Sending my first highline in Sokoliki back in 2006

I was lucky enough to send this line first try. I named it 'Little Boy'. I remember exactly how I felt after sending it and this memory is still quite vivid. In general I am not a type of a guy, which looses it every time after sending a highline. That day though, I screamed so loud I am pretty sure people heard me in a village down below in the valley. My body kept shivering for the next half an hour powered by adrenaline, complete euphoria and pure happiness. I could not calm myself down. In retrospect I know that achieving my goal, defeating myself and most importantly feeling of relief induced that state of mind. I felt safe again and the fear was washed away when I got to the other side. Though at that time I was free soloing some easy climbs already, the thought of walking a highline leashless was just surreal. I promised myself I would never do it. The feeling of being suspended in space, the impossibility to grab and hold on to something like in case of climbing, lack of self-confidence and control over my body and mind excluded that option.

Full circle, after 6 years of constant adventure free-soloing my first highline (photo by Dominik Kapusta/'Little Boy' 2012)
Free soloing five pitch "Regular Route" up the Upper Cathedral Spire (photo by Jordan Tybon/ Yosemite, 2013)

Next three years passed and slackline managed to take over my life entirely. I gained some experience, walked hundreds of highlines around the world and eventually together with Somewhereelseland made it to Joshua Tree National Park in California. During that trip I realized few important things. I was way more aware of my body and mind reactions. I was also much better highliner then three years ago. The other things changed too. The moment of stepping off the line didn’t bring me the feeling of relief anymore, quite opposite actually. Sending highline from beginning to the other side wasn’t that important to me anymore. What matter was the process of walking the line and being in a space was bringing me most joy now. If only it was possible I would like to stretch this moment indefinitely.

Enjoying the exposure (photo by Lidia/ Ostrov, 2013)
Free-soloing at Mt. Lemmon (photo by Jordan Tybon)

I knew I was missing something and it was a bit hard to admit to myself that something was free solo. Still, during these last three years I was constantly looking for new challenges, moving my boundary of fear. I was sending more exposed highlines, the lines which were on my limit soon became doable in a “swami-belt” and the in an “ankle-leash”. After some thought I knew all these challenges were just the search of that moment I felt after sending my first highline.

Free solo is an ultimate test of you skills. The choice you have to make is identical to the one you had to make before sending your first highline. You can face your fears or escape. That doesn’t change although the intensity of the experience is always the same. There is no trying, no “maybe” or time for uncertainty. Once you step on the line you have to leave that behind you. For potential mistake you will have to pay highest price - with your life.

Swaming "The Shenis" on the Lighthouse Tower (photo by Jordan Tybon/Moab, UT)
"Ankle leash" send on the "In Had to be Snakes", just before soloing (photo by Jordan Tybon/Moab, Fisher Towers, UT)

Naturally I had to answer the question if this is something really worth the risk and contemplate possible repercussions of my own death. I continue to think about it everyday. It cannot be denied, free solo is pretty egoistic activity but so is any extreme sport and to some extend every human being. Believe me when I say I don’t want to hurt my friends and my family by my death. I appreciate every one of them, but if I don’t do it I wouldn’t be truly happy. I think they do understand me at least partially and I try to do the same. It is hard to understand it if you don’t do it yourself. I watch my friends, people I love free soloing and I am scared for them too but I also feel what they feel and I get it.

In terms of height and length, my first free solo was almost identical copy of the line in Sokoliki. As it turned out after sending it was also really similar emotionally. Feeling of pure happiness and euphoria came back. Though this time the form was manifestation of perfection, composure and mastery. I was fully in control of the situation and myself.

My first free-solo "Chongo Gap" Highline (photo by Jordan Tybon/Joshua Tree, CA)
Another freesoloco in J. Tree. Here on the "Hall of Horrors" Highline (photo by Faith Dickey)

Even if tried really hard it is impossible for me to fully describe the free solo state of mind. It is equally difficult to answer to the question “why” in a logical to a normal person way or explain rationally what really drives me.

Free soloing is something special to me. It is almost magical. When I am leashless on the line I feel truly free. I can escape from myself and met my true self, experience primary fear. After every free solo I can’t stop smiling and enjoy every moment of it as a baby.

Nowadays everyone tries to hide under security cover, elongate their lives, don’t do risky and rash moves and invest well in their selves. Personally, for me the moment, when I stand up on the highline completely free, I leave that scheme. For the moment I live fully, I live in a moment. My mind is clear and only present counts. There is no past and no future. I am levitating in the air on the one inch piece of webbing and my fear and meditative calmness melts into one. This feeling and this moment are liberating.



That doesn’t mean I play Russian roulette with death. I also don’t seek the worse, but I am trying to enjoy my life. Free soloing can teach you a lot. I try to apply these lessons in everyday life.

The preparation process as well as free soloing itself is way more complicated then it seems. I’m always trying to choose the best decision and I believe I am aware of the risks around me more then, lets say, a person commuting to work be car every day.

Freesoloco on the industrial line in Hamburg (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Free solo double knee drop (photo Jordan Tybon/Ostrov, CZ)

In decision making process I take into account things like my physical and mental preparation, frame of mind, mood, weather, technical difficulty of the line (to which also consists of many elements). And if I have any doubts I just back off. I can come back any day but I have only one life.

Physical preparation covers training, which is focused on proper technique, endurance and automation of motor skills. It is essential to master catching technique and to sustain 100% effectiveness. For example I didn’t take unexpected leashfall in more then three years now. I like to keep it that way just to build my self-confidence.

Free soloing "Hole Rock" Highline just before dark (photo by Jordan Tybon)
First freesoloco ascent on the "Mongol Invaders" Highline (photo by Jordan Tybon/Castle Crags, CA, USA)

For the mental training you can use any limited protection methods, as well as free soloing it self. As far as creating good training methods focusing on the physical aspects is relatively easy, that is not a case with mental training. Even though I learned quite a lot on my own, I did not understand everything completely and a lot of situations, my own reactions and feelings were complete mystery to myself.

That is why I decided to start cooperation with a sport psychologist Dominika Zapotoczna. I will not reveal detailed exercises or exactly how our cooperation looks like. It would be no use for others because it is highly personalized. What I can say is that it helped me a lot already to better control my emotions, concentration level, use my body in a proper way and introduce appropriate actions long before achieving my goal. Everyday I learn something new about myself.

Mostly it is bunch of work (photo by Jordan Tybon/Castle Crags, CA, USA)
With Dominika Zapotoczna, most positive person I know (photo by Wojtek Kozakiewicz)

I am hoping, by sharing my story and thoughts with you, I made the topic of free soloing a bit more understandable. I wanted to show it is not something irresponsible, reckless or just completely inexplicable. Though I cannot recommend it to anyone because of the high risk. If you want to know if it is something for you or not, you have to find the answer like anybody else, that is in your self."

Peace & SlackOn!
Janek