I know that you think that by “Grand Canyon Walk” that I mean that it’s going to be one of those travel documentaries where a travel journalist walks across a vast landscape and describes the scenery, which you lap up from the comfort of your armchair. Not so.
This Sunday at 8PM ET in the US (in Ireland and the UK, Skywire will be broadcast live on Discovery at 1am on the morning of Monday 24th June), 34- year- old daredevil and wire artist Nik Wallenda, a 7th generation member of the legendary Flying Wallendas family, will attempt something that most of us dare not even dream about: he will wire- walk over Hell Hole Bend, one of the most dangerous parts of The Grand Canyon, which has never been attempted before and which, at an estimated distance of 5,000 ft., will be the longest crossing ever attempted by Wallenda.
This time last year, Wallenda’s wire walked- in the dark- between the Horseshoe Falls and American Falls at Niagara Falls, New York, of the most dangerous crossings on record.
Here are 5 reasons why you, too, should tune in this weekend:
1. Man On Wire
James Marsh’s excellent documentary on “the artistic crime of the century” is one of the most beautifully produced documentary films ever made. Documenting an event, which, until that Marsh’s movie had been largely forgotten, Marsh reminds us that while The World Trade Centre is forever etched in our minds with the horrific and tragic events of 9/11, those buildings were also the setting of a beautiful, artistic performance. Philippe Petit’s masterpiece, a wire- walk between both towers of New York’s World Trade Centre can never be replicated. The now 63- year- old Frenchman, who originally attempted to stage The Grand Canyon Walk in 1988, but abandoned the walk after the venture ran into financial difficulties, is said to be furious about Wallenda’s upcoming event.
2. Wallenda’s Niagara Falls Wire Walk
Braving a walk that had previously been attempted by many before him, Wallenda crossed one of the world’s most deadly and dangerous natural wonders to walk across the Niagara Falls. The sheer beauty and majesty of the Falls was made all the more special by watching Wallenda cross in what can only be described as one of the most stunning displays of mind- over- body, in recent years.
3. Karl Wallenda’s Fall
The history of the Wallenda family is full of pictures of members tightrope walking along natural wonders, baseball stadiums and performing the type of daredevil routines that would make your stomach turn. It is, however, also tinged with tradgedy. In 1978, 73- year- old Karl Wallenda, founder of The Flying Wallendas, plunged to his death in a fatal attempt to cross between the two towers of the ten-story Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on a wire stretched 121 ft (37 metres), but fell to his death when winds exceeded 30 mph (48 kilometres per hour). As confident and sure as Wallenda must be in crossing anywhere in the world, that tragic event in Puerto Rico must be there, somewhere, in the back of his mind.
Some of the videos of Wallenda training for the Canyon walk have been intriguing, purely because it shows Wallenda falling off the wire under the pressure of winds and of his family members pushing and pulling the wires, replicating the high winds that Wallenda, of course, cannot control, making the walk all that more unpredictable.
5. Discovery are pulling out all the stops
No doubt inspired by Red Bull’s Stratos project, where Felix Baumgartner memorably jumped from a space capsule and broke the sound barrier on his descent, Discovery have similarly backed Wallenda’s jump all the way, promoting it heavily across broadcast and online media as the event of the year. The big winner, of course, is us: The range of camera angles- cameras in the air, on the ground and on Wallenda, himself- is nothing less than impressive.