Challenges abound for Niagara Falls tightrope walker
Nik Wallenda poses for photos after a news conference in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Wednesday, May 2, 2012. (AP / David Duprey)
Published Wednesday, June 13, 2012 11:52AM EDT
Nik Wallenda makes his living by walking.
He has been walking on tightropes for years, in some of the most majestic locations in North America and under some of the most treacherous conditions the human mind can envision.
Come this Friday, Wallenda will be walking again.
The seventh-generation member of the Flying Wallendas circus family will climb 60 metres above the Niagara Falls and cross the 550-metre gorge on a 6,000 kilogram cable high wire.
He will do it at night, beginning his estimated 45-minute crossing at about 10 p.m., amid uncertain weather conditions as tens of thousands of spectators watch on in morbid fascination.
"It is Niagara Falls, one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world. Somewhere that everybody has to see in person," Wallenda told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday.
"To see it in person is amazing and breathtaking, but to think about conquering those Falls on a tightrope is beyond most (people)."
Along with darkness and heavy winds, Wallenda will face a wet mist coming off the Falls that can be so thick that it cuts vision to only a few feet.
"With all of those distractions walking a wire is all that more of a challenge," he said.
If he is successful, Wallenda will become the first person to ever cross the brink of the falls. Other crossings have been down further downstream, but not for more than a century.
Wallenda had to fight for two years to change laws in the State of New York and the Province of Ontario in order to be allowed to perform the stunt on Friday.
Even then, Ontario's law changed only enough to allow the performance as a one-off event. Niagara Falls will not consider hosting another stunt performance for another 20 years.
To call the 33-year-old Wallenda a daredevil is accurate. To call him a performance artist is also on the nose.
The much-anticipated show is expected to draw as many as 120,000 visitors to the edge of the Niagara Falls gorge – in Canada alone.
Niagara Parks Police say they are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of the unprecedented crowd – including erecting security fencing and closing some nearby highways.
The walk is being broadcast in Canada on CTV with live special event coverage beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday.
In the U.S., ABC has paid for the broadcast rights and has requested that Wallenda wear a tether while crossing the gorge to ensure his safety while on the air.
"I've agreed to do that for their security and peace of mind," he said, noting it is the first time he will have ever used the safety harness.
The entire history-making endeavour will cost between $1.2 and $1.3 million, which includes the cost of the wire, securing permits and paying for security.
Wallenda's U.S. TV deal will cover some, but not all, of the expenses and Wallenda has been too busy to secure much sponsorship. He is asking the public to make donations to cover the remaining costs.
More than $17,000 has been raised through the fundraising website Indiegogo toward his goal of $50,000.