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Posts from the ‘Ropeswing’ Category

Stepping into the Abyss

Back in 2010, while highlining above the expansive red rock desert of Utah, a new and innovative rope swing concept was born and put into practice. At this time in my life I had been traveling across the country for several months with an international group of talented highliners/climbers, establishing new highlines in space and breaking world records along the way. We had made a few stops to Yosemite National Park, Joshua Tree, San Francisco, among many other destinations, eventually showing up to the majestic desert of Moab, Utah in late November. Along our traveling marathon of crossing lines we were attending the second annual GGBY (Gobble Gobble Bitches Yeah) international highline gathering, where some of the best slackliners from around the world were attending for a week long desert celebration. Dozens of lines were rigged and walked, more world records were broken (including the longest free-solo walk of its time at 100′) and people were sharing rigging knowledge openly. Between the creative minds of Jan Galek, Faith Dickey, Jordan Tybon and myself, it seemed a natural evolution of ideas to eventually use one of our highlines for the application of a new rope swing system. We had been collectively playing with this concept at the festival using a similar concept to what legendary rock climber/stunt-man Dan Osman had pioneered many years before us. While honing our walking balance atop these one-inch wide pieces of fabric we were inspired to construct a 70 foot long pendulum rope swing above a sandstone cave. The jumps were successful and the rigging was solid. Everyone felt the sudden rush of excitement in creating something new while experiencing the unforgettable beauty of falling with gravity. We laughed and rejoiced as a group about the accomplishment and then swiftly moved onto our next highlining destination.

 

This new desert location presented a much greater potential for longer free fall through a narrow slot canyon about 400′ deep and 130′ wide at it’s largest point. Aniticipating the project ahead our hearts began to race with excitement and the our nerves became instantly activated. After finishing the rigging process over many hours and double checking our thorough work, we anxiously stared into the abyss below and imagined ourselves hurdling through the air in the biggest pendulum swing we had ever seen or considered possible… Since it was my birthday that day, I was offered the first human test jump on the system (note that we first used a weighted haul bag as our initial test swing before human trials). To say the least, I was both anxious and excited for the opportunity ahead. I strapped on my climbing harness, tied into the rope swing, pulled myself out into the middle of the canyon (on a tyrollean traverse we had made) and dropped into the slot canyon with a giant grin on my face. After the adrenaline subsided and nervous faces of onlooking friends transitioned into relieved expressions. The proof of concept had been solved and suddenly everyone couldn’t wait for their terrifying turn on the new vertical ride we had devised.

 

Flash forward to 2013, after hundreds of highlines had been rigged/walked all over the world and my experience pioneering rope swings developed even more, I was approached by Scott Rogers to supervise the first commercial film project of our enormous canyon rope swing. The video montage I had published from the first rope swing experience surprisingly caught the attention of over 400,000 YouTube viewers in a short time and was featured on several international television shows and CNN news. Read more

“Global Gladiators” New Reality TV Show, African Adventures and a Space Net-Rope Swing Challenge

The e-mails volleyed back and forth for a couple of weeks. Digital communication across separate continents discussing the details of a new German television series in the making. Think American Ninja Warrior meets Survivor. The premise being that two teams of German celebrities will explore the vast wilderness of Southern Africa, competing in a series of outdoor obstacle courses over water, land and air. The competitors will travel over 2,500 miles distance through rugged environments in a windowless freight container, stopping only to compete against one another in a succession of impressive outdoor challenges across some of Namibia’s most breathtaking sceneries. They’ll jump from helicopters into water, rope swing out of one of our patented space nets and free fall hundreds of feet above the ground, among many other exciting physical and mental tests.

SPIDERNET-BOULE VIDEO LINK (chapter 4, part 2)

Global Gladiators Space Net

The new rigging assignment was to build a space net that would be suspended somewhere in the desert of Namibia, as part of a new adventure reality television show called Global Gladiators. Our objective was to prepare a new net that would have a rope swing component out of it, something we’ve only prepared in the home comforts of Moab. The game plot was designed so that the contestants would cross a long horizontal rope (tyrollean-traverse) hung in the middle of a canyon to access our suspended net, scramble around on the large hammock surface to find a hidden hand-held bocci ball, free fall out of the net into a large pendulum rope swing and attempt to throw their ball at a fixed target below. Basically a very extreme game show version of bocci ball. Easy enough, right? Well, from a rigging stand point Scott Rogers, Tiffany Junge and I knew this was going be an extremely technical rigging task in a very harsh desert environment. We naturally smiled at the new challenge and began devising a plan. With no time to waste we started brainstorming innovative ideas together, drawing up design diagrams and making important calculations.

Space Net Build

Before knowing all the details of the job ahead we needed to first do a reconnaissance trip to Southern Africa. Global Gladiators sent Scott Rogers out to Fish River Canyon, which happens to be the largest canyon system on the continent of Africa, located in southern Namibia, to find the perfect space for our proposed rigging challenge. Upon returning to Moab, he reported that the most promising gap he could find was 400 feet across, at its smallest span, and the rock quality ranged from very bad to pretty solid. A geological mixture of optimism with a hint of spiciness. We knew this big budget project was going to be full of new obstacles and the scouting trip confirmed this to be true. Amenities, available gear and human support, we were told ahead of time, were going to be scarce so our pre-expedition logistical planning would have to be extremely precise for everything to be executed flawlessly. In addition to our homework, we were given a second assignment to create another challenge for the show that would take place at a totally different location in Swakopmund, immediately following our de-rig schedule. The expedition was shaping up to be jam packed with lots of excitement and hundreds of miles to be traveled across vast parts of the African desert, in the midst of their hot summer season. This was a job that would require military precision, effective team communication and impressive rigging expertise. With next to no shade available in the canyons, temperatures were forecasted to be hovering around 115 degrees fahrenheit and we would only have access to a very small rigging team at our side. Considering all the facts on the table, we smiled once again, realizing that our decades of accumulative rigging experience, desert acclimatization in Moab and unique climbing/rigging skills made us the most qualified and only professional team in the world capable of completing such a task, with crew safety always at the forefront of our minds.

Space Net Build

Fast forwarding a month, after a mirage of logistical planning and flying half way around the world to a new desert environment, we all found ourselves gathered in a small studio apartment in Windhoek, Namibia with extreme jet lag. We unloaded our massive coils of ropes, metal bolts, steel carabiners and remaining gear on the floor to begin prepping. The following days would consist of meeting parts of the Global Gladiator’s production team, sourcing more ropes and materials in town and then eventually heading out across the desert expanse to confront a multitude of rigging tests ahead.

Space Net Rigging

The design of the space net to rope swing challenge (titled “Spidernet-Boule”) was that each contestant would manually pull themselves across 400 foot long horizontal ropes (tyrollean-traverse) to the center of the canyon, while hanging 120 feet above the rocky ground from a climbing harness. Once positioned above the suspended space net we would lower them into our colorful net, attach them to a new leash system and they would begin scrambling about the perimeter of the webbing, searching through a series of dangling black bags to find a specific colored hand-held bocci ball. Once found, I would attach them to a separate 100 foot long rope swing, already secured to the edge of the net, so that they would plummet toward the ground at high speeds and attempt to toss their bocci ball at a tree target below at the apex of their swing. To conclude the game, we would lower them carefully to the ground from the swing ropes and they would be judged based on their ball accuracy to the target and time taken during the challenge. Depending on how close the ball landed to this target determined how many points they would accumulate as a team and as individual competitors. At the end of the game, the losing team would be forced to pick a team member to leave the television program and thus no longer be in the running for winning money or being crowned the Global Gladiators champion.

Working 16-20 hour days to prepare this stunt, 5 consecutive days in a row with no more than 4 hours of rest per night, we accomplished our rigging goal and provided an extremely adventurous experience for the German contestants. Despite the long hours of work in very harsh desert conditions, temperatures hovering around 114 degrees most of the day, we kept each other safe and focused as a team. Our effective ability to take care of one another in the high stress environment, while maintaining safety as our primary objective throughout the experience, was noted by the production crew and they left with a tremendous amount of respect for our professional rigging abilities. What we created and coordinated as a cohesive team unit was nothing short of world-class rigging with an awe inspiring outcome for the Global Gladiators television program.

After wrapping up production with the 8 German celebrities and spending the following morning de-rigging the net, we barely had enough time to breath or celebrate before setting off on a 14 hour drive to our next set location of Swakopmund. Read more

Behind the Lens

Life as a nomadic adventurer has no defined path or “how to” book on finding success. A lot of my personal experience in trying to “make a living” with this traveling lifestyle is built on the foundation of following my own intuition, committing to the adventure and trusting that it all works out in the end. There are occasional moments of doubt and disorientation in my direction, but the flip side of this experience is a constantly evolving path filled with unexpected moments of joy and learning. Throughout the many years of living a simple life out of my vehicle, I’ve stumbled across many groups of interesting and gifted commumities who often think, act and live outside the box

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I introduce you to a modern tribe of rebels and desert dwellers who define their own set of rules and guidelines to life, far from the concrete jungles and confined cubicles of urbanized society. Most of these so called “dirt bags” happen to be outstandingly creative and world-class athletes, while others are inspiring artists and free spirits living by a similar code of passion in everything they do. Whether their obsession is growing a garden or walking a slackline high above the ground, it seems whenever anyone dedicates their life’s energy toward following intrinsic bliss, a positive path unfolds. Decisions, experiences and communities of magical people amass over time and the the zest for life is shared forever.

The above short videos are samples of Kyle Berkompas’s work with the Moab Monkeys and other desert nomads who seasonally call this dry paradise home. I was fortunate enough to be the camera assistantant/behind the scenes documenter for these projects, during which time I learned a lot about the adventure film industry and what it takes to capture these experiences from unique perspectives. Utilizing state of the art camera equipment and progressive drone technologies, we teamed up with the amazing aerial filming experts at SkySight, based out of Boulder, CO, to capture these incredible shots using a RED Epic camera. This was the first time in history that these two technologies had been paired together! It was an absolute honor to have them capture the evolving adventures of the Moab Monkeys and Mason Earle’s newest/hardest crack project in Moab.

To check out more work from SkySight click HERE

What’s going on in and outside the office of Chuck Fryberger Films click HERE

Stranger Than Fiction EpicTV Short Film Festival

~Brian Mosbaugh