Some like books. Others do yoga. Running is for some, but for Sean Englund, it’s standing 295 feet in the air between Twin Buttes southeast of Durango that relaxes him.
Everything slows down, he said. His surroundings start to morph in his vision, and all his worries fade away.
“When I walk over the line, my main goal is to think about nothing and get into a trance in a way,” Englund said after walking a 558 foot, 1-inch wide piece of webbing almost 300 feet above the ground between Twin Buttes. He is the first person to have completed such a feat, evident by the fact that he and his friends, who call themselves the San Juan Riggers, were the first to install bolts on top of the Buttes for slacklining.
Englund, a 22-year-old Fort Lewis College senior, said he and his friends, including Marshall Thompson, Cliff Mosser, Eli Rogers, Weston Brock and Chris Mendoza, have been dreaming of the day they would cross the space between the Buttes for three years.
It was spring 2016, Thompson said, when he installed the expansion bolts that lock into the rock, which the high-line would be rigged to. The next three years were spent dreaming of the line, he said. He’s had it as his background on his phone: “I’ve looked at this line every day since I put it in,” he said.
For Englund, crossing this line was the culmination of a lot of hard work he and his friends did to ensure they could walk between the buttes safely. The 1-inch wide line across Twin Buttes is actually two long pieces of nylon webbing. Each of those pieces of webbing is secured to the rock by two more pieces of amsteel, a high-strength, high-tech fiber. The person walking across the high-line has a redundant tethering system attached to a waist harness. Englund even has a tether for his hat. The whole system could withstand the weight of an elephant, Englund said.
To get the webbing across Twin Buttes, the San Juan Riggers threw a paracord off one of the rock formations to someone on the ground, who then climbed the other butte, and the crew used that paracord to get a static line across. They used that static line as a guide to bring the webbing across.
As for any legal concerns, Twin Buttes is classified as open space, just like X-Rock north of Durango where people climb legally all the time, Englund said.
About a dozen of Englund’s friends cheered as he stepped out on the high-line Saturday afternoon. Although he fell a few times, he made it to the other side in about 25 minutes. For Englund, that time could not last long enough.
“I really believe that what this activity does for me is what pushes me,” he said. “Being able to go out there and have that same feeling I’ve had in the past, but in a different area or on a different line.”
High-lining has a weird duality to it, Englund said. It takes a village to set up the lines and make sure everything is secure. But when he is up on the line, it is him alone. “It’s just me out there,” he said.
“It’s a communal and tribal activity getting it up, but when you’re out there, it’s just you. Just you and your thoughts,” Englund said. “It’s empowering to cross things that have never been crossed before. It’s an individual feat while being a communal feat.”