While others picnicked in Oak Creek Canyon, 23-year-old Wilson Cutbirth tightened the rigging on the a narrow, springy rope he had strung between two trees and settled into the grass with his laptop computer. We had just missed “the show,” when he traversed the line, but my curiosity was piqued. At my inquiry, he shared photos of himself, high above beautiful canyons, balanced on a line that spanned the width of each photo. I soon discovered that, driven like Ilchi Lee to experience some of the highest points of Sedona’s landscape, this young man has seen Sedona from a holistically different view. Here is the story of his exciting sport and how Wilson heard his own Call of Sedona.

Wilson Cutbirth Slacklining in Sedona

LT: Wilson, the photos you have shared are amazing! It’s difficult to imagine the breathtaking feeling of walking on a line over a canyon. Please tell us more about this fairly new extreme sport.

WC: Yes, it takes you to quite an unreal mental state! When I have the line lower to the ground it’s called Slacklining. So, Slacklining would be at ground level, like what you saw me doing at the park that day . . . . Highlining would refer more to rigging it, like the Slackline, but high off the ground.

LT: You do some outrageous climbing in addition to the Highlining. How did you get started?

WC: Highlining ties into a way to exhibit that adventurous lifestyle at a different level than climbing. I lived in Maui for 3 years after I graduated high school. I got into it there—just starting by rigging a little 50 foot long slackline [between native trees] on the beach in Hawaii, and then that grew bigger to rigging them high off the ground between valleys, enjoying the aesthetic features of the land. I was also doing it high&mash;like above waterfalls.

LT: What called you to Sedona?

WC: Since I grew up in Cornville, I knew the kind of aesthetics that are here in Sedona. Areas such as the Spires, and there are some different mountains and wild rock formations that exist around here that have perfect gaps between them to put a slackline between. They are uniquely different than anywhere else in the world. After doing it in Hawaii for a while I came back, moving into Oak Creek Canyon, to start Highlining in Sedona.

LT: When you are on the line, crossing a canyon, there’s no safety net, correct?

WC: No safety net. There’s a safety leash that attaches to you . . . a normal climbing harness with a 10 foot long leash. So if you fall, you fall 10 feet and then dangle on the line.

LT: Wow! So if you fall, you climb back up, work your way back up onto the line?

WC: Yes, stand back up on the line.

LT: Is this a really popular sport? How many people would you estimate are doing this?

WC: At this point, the population of actual Slackliners is very small compared to other extreme sports. It’s certainly growing, but it’s fairly new. It hasn’t been around for very long at all.

LT: Do you have a group that you go out with—where all of you are into doing this?

WC: Yes, I have friends, although not many local people, that I go out with. Since there is such a small community of Slackliners around the country, most of the people I do it with are from other states. We all meet in a specific location.

LT: What other locations, besides Sedona are popular for Highlining?

WC: Yosemite National Park is a popular one. Others are Moab, Utah and Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.

LT: So, what rock formations are your favorites for Highlining here in Sedona?

WC: Spires Canyon, but others too. You’re kind of looking for something that appeals to you—like two points you can go between that you’d just enjoy to be “in that space” with it.

Wilson Cutbirth highlining in Sedona AZ

LT: As if words could ever describe what it feels like to be poised high on a line, between two towering red rock formations overlooking Sedona’s magnificence, would you please tell us what it’s like?

WC: People generally assume that it’s an adrenaline based sport, but really it’s kind of the opposite. If you’re on [the] line and you get to the point where your adrenaline has kicked in, that’s the point where you lose concentration and then you fall.

It’s more of a meditative, very focused, very calm mind state. All the euphoria and adrenaline and all that, that all kicks in the moment you step off line on the other side of the gap you’re walking.

LT: Thank you, Wilson!

by Lynn A. Trombetta