The Line of the Week
Highlining the Buttes
One thing I’ve noticed lately is that not everyone has the same opinion as to what to do when they get to the top of a mountain. The opportunities are endless. I was looking for something to do on a beautiful and warm autumn day with my girl and decided to check out the Sierra Buttes. We drove up most of the mountain, packed a lunch and joined a small exodus of tourists testing out their leg strength on a short hike to the top. We walked about 50 yards when I thought to myself, “I should grab my camera from the car”.
We arrived at the fire lookout to fantastic views of the surrounding landscape. What a perfect place for a picnic with my beautiful girlfriend. A couple tourists from the Sacramento area greeted us as we sat above a sheer drop off. While I was taking a delicious bite of my turkey, humus, pepper-jack and veggie sandwich I looked across to the next butte and noticed a tall guy with a huge haul bag. My interest was immediately peaked as I watched him open up the bag and proceed to unload various webbing and hardware. At first I thought he was about to rappel down and climb back up as some of the rock looked climbable, but it wasn’t adding up. He had to be setting up a highline.
As it turns out I had been shooting a lot of highlining lately and was stoked to see someone putting up a line in such a phenomenal spot. I introduced myself to James Wyland and offered to help him out in anyway I could. While he began to set the bolts he needed for his attempt the crowds began to grow exponentially. What had been a quiet afternoon was beginning to look like a spectacle. People began to whisper, old woman exchanged sayings like, “Oh my god!!?”, “Is he crazy?!”, “What would his mother think about this?!” I just kept my month shut and giggled as this scene unfolded. Just when you thought we were at full capacity a group of boy scouts rolled up on their annual trip to the fire lookout and started in with their round of questioning. “What if you fall?”, “There’s no way you’re gonna make it.”, “Are you crazy?” It’s always funny to listen to people talk about people like they aren’t there. James did his best to stick to the task at hand.
After a couple hours the line was set. The sun had moved into the perfect shooting spot, the view was spectacular and James was about to step out onto the line when he realized he needed his Ipod to get into the zone. I thought to myself, “That’s a great idea especially with the peanut gallery talking about him falling to his death at full volume.” The one problem was that the Ipod was no where to be found. If there was ever a time for inner peace and zen this was it. As he stepped out onto the line a heard a group of people approaching at full audible overload. They were yapping like they were the only people on the planet. I knew that James could use all the silence he could get so I approached this crew and asked if they could keep it down for a second while James attempted to walk a highline across the Sierra Buttes. The response...”Fuck off dude, you don’t own the mountain. He’s crazy.”
“Oh the great outdoors”, I thought to myself.
It didn’t phase James. It took a few attempts and a couple hours but James walked the line. My romantic picnic turned into a photo shoot. I quickly realized once again that the mountains are truly the perfect playground for any activity.
“The excitement, I find, comes from going to dramatic locations and putting up new lines that define their area. The rigging is where the true art lies. I usually go out alone so I’m always trying to maximize efficiency and develop the cleanest systems possible. The rigging is the hard part, the walking is just the terrifying end result. The challenge is to pull it all off in a day: that way you’re forced to deal with whatever elements are thrown at you. Plus, I like drinking my beer back at the truck.” – James Wyland
The Line of the Week is a weekly photo piece by Ryan Salm featuring some of Tahoe’s finest athletes doing whatever we deem rad. We will be using the term “Line” loosely to describe anything resembling chutes, big airs, pointers or any general madness. All images are the property and copyright of Ryan Salm Photography. All images are only to be used in conjunction with the Line of the Week. Any other usage must be cleared in writing by Ryan Salm.