Friedi Kühne Free Solos 110 Meter Highline
The year 2017 has been quite an year for free soloing. On September 19th, just a few months after Alex Honnold completed the first free solo climb of El Capitan, the German slack liner Friedi Kühne set a new record for the longest free solo highline ever recorded by walking a 110-meter long line suspended roughly 200 meters above the ground in the Verdon Gorge, he beat all records in the South of France. To set the new benchmark, Kühne had to best the previous world record of a 72 meter highline over Hunlen Falls, in British Columbia, Canada—of which he was also the holder.
While walking without leashes on a 100 plus meter highline has been on his mind for a while, Kühne says, “Free solo highlining is still something that is kind of spontaneous and in the moment sort of thing for me. I don’t usually travel somewhere to specially do it, it’s just something that happens when the line is perfect and you’re in a good spot. The line we were at, in Verdon and the people I was with was just perfect. It kind of led up to the moment.”
That being said, he prepared meticulously in his own way. “I basically told myself if I can walk the line back and forth ten times without falling or losing control, then I will be ready. So I did that on the several days before the walk.”
When I stepped onto the line without a leash, any trace of fear that remained, disappeared entirely.“The mindset is like a trust fall,” he explains. “Except you play it with yourself, you’re the other person catching you. The better you know yourself, your own limits and your own skills, the more ready you are for free soloing.” In a video of his prior world 72-meter free solo over Hunlen Falls, his calmness and mastery are on full display.
For the ten minutes that Kühne was on the line to set his new 110 meter record, it was magic. He could see at least 700 meters of exposure to the valley on one side, with a sheer wall of rock out of the corner of his eye on the other. “It felt very good as I was in control, but I had to give it more [than the other free solos I’ve done in the past],” Kühne says.
That Kühne broke his own free solo record speaks to how few individuals there are pushing this most
dangerous of games. “There are millions of other things you can do on a highline with a leash that are lots of fun,” he says. “But some people, like me, want to free solo. I do it because I enjoy it. But, I’m not encouraging anyone to do the same thing unless you find out for yourself what’s right.”
Inspite of enjoying free solo highlining, he knows that continuing to push the envelope is a risky business. It’s not something he plans to do all the time: “100 meters is a very magical mark in slacklining. With this free solo record, I honestly think this one will stand for quite a while. I’m not actively intending to push it anytime soon. I’m not saying I definitely won’t, but for now I feel quite satisfied and don’t think I’ll do a big solo anytime soon.”