Slackin’ the Gap

Oct 262003
Authors: John Teten

Kids, do not try this at home.

Adorned with climbing harnesses, an inch-thick, nylon-webbing

leash and a surplus of moxie, two CSU students slacklined across

the gap at Horsetooth rock. With a deep breath, a stomach in knots

and bare feet Nick Hamilton and Matt DiFelice walked a

mind-altering 40 feet over a 70-foot precipice.

Slackline is an emerging pastime for many rock climbers and

outdoor enthusiasts.

It entails walking back and forth across a strip of tubular

webbing stretched between two anchor points, usually trees. The

sport is much like tightrope walking, only the line sways and

ripples, adding a sometimes-painful degree of difficulty.

According to “slackline is a sport of balance,

strength and concentration. To some, slackline is a spiritual

quest, to others a total body workout and to kids, a lot of


Stroll through City Park or visit a residence hall courtyard and

chances are good you may come across a group of slackers. However,

Oct. 5 the sport expanded from three feet off the ground, to rocks

high above Fort Collins.

Hamilton and DiFelice each took their turn strutting over the

wobbly inch-thick line-some 1,200 feet above the city.

“More than anything, it was a good way to pass a Sunday

afternoon,” Hamilton, a senior English major, said. “It was fun to

challenge myself mentally and in my faith.”

Faith in the few friends, especially Colin Coulson, who helped

set up the line and plan the stunt, and faith in God, helped

Hamilton believe that through Him he could do all things.

DiFelice echoed the encouragement his beliefs provided.

“Psalm 91 was a huge encouragement,” he said. “It got me ready

to cross the gap.”

Once the line was secured over the chasm and a safety line was

in place they took turns clipping their leash around the line and

taking a few practice steps. The leash hooked onto the back of

their harness, a tether that would allow a possible fall to be


The line was ready, but their minds were not. Friends read

passages from the Bible and gave shouts of encouragement and

eventually Hamilton stepped on the line and let it all hang


“It mentally shatters you,” Hamilton said. “It’s the most

exposure you can get. When you’re climbing, you’re against the rock

face, but slackin’ a gap-there’s nothing anywhere near you.”

Both traversed the line on their first attempt. As Hamilton

passed the midway point he belted out a few lyrics to “Desperado.”

DiFelice approached the center and his legs quivered slightly. He

swayed above the 70-foot drop momentarily, but eventually regained

his composure and finished his steps. His stability comforted the

gasping crowd of anxious friends and on-looking hikers.

“I knew I was going to make it,” DiFelice said. “There was no

way I was going to fall. I just took one step after another.”

Both agreed that it took focus and perseverance to complete the

goal. Well, that and a lack of peripheral vision.

“It was the most focused I have ever been,” Hamilton said.

“Everything blurred except the carabineer at the end.”

The gap has been walked before, most recently in 1990, but never

has it been completed so error free. Neither slacker fell; however,

three other people, including Coulson, stood on the line-unable to

mentally step away from the edge.

Pioneers of slackline have crossed gaps for years, each trying

to see who can be the most death defying. Mountain men at Yosemite

National Park set the standard crossing “Lost Arrow Spider,” 2,800

feet above ground. Are Hamilton and DiFelice ready for the


“Not yet. I’d like to walk Horsetooth again, so I could sit in

the middle and screw around a little,” Hamilton said.

If you’re hiking Horsetooth or passing through the city keep

your eyes peeled for these adrenaline-junkies, just leave the

gut-wrenching stunts to the professionals.




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