Natural Games Millau 2010 [english]

 Someone could ask: Why Millau? It is almost a 20 hours drive from Graz where I live.
There are many arguments: The atmosphere (concerts alternating with mountainbike shows), the Highlines (I have never seen so many steep pillars of rock), the competition (in which i was second last year) and of course the exquisite guestlist.

The first name on this list was Scott Balcom. You all know the guy: He was the one to walk the first highlines, most importantly the Lost Arrow Spire (in 1985). He also wrote the first book about our sport. I was looking forward to having my personal copy signed. (After that, I signed a copy of my own slackline book for him in return. That was a special moment!) Other guests were Andy Lewis, Mike Payton, Jan Galek and Faith Dickey.

The long drive was still hard. First I went from Graz to Freising (with Flo), where I met Lukas Irmler and Freddy Zimmermann. From there we went to Bern to pick up Bernhard Witz. There we had the special opportunity to relax from hours of driving, by trying his home highline (from the balcony in the third floor to a tree). It was two o'clock in the morning.

When we arrived in Millau the next morning there were even more highlines. This time we went to another spot than last year. That was a pity – I would have loved to try last years highlines again. I didn't know what was about to come …
At least the hike was easier this time. After less than a fifteen minutes walk we arrived at the edge of the plateau. Several colored lines were fluttering in the wind. The lines were 12m, 25m, 26m and 42m long, all next to each other. The boys and girls from were still busy with the rigging but it didn't take long until we could try the lines. They were as cool as we had expected.

That's also where we spent most of the time, when we were not setting up a waterline over the river Tarn. (It was 60m long and above shallow water with rocks in it. I was not feeling very comfortable about that.)
There was still one highline missing: 86m long. They called it a „monster“, which was quite accurate. When it was finally rigged they all found their limits on the thing. All except one: Mich Kemeter from Styria, who is no stranger to me, showed them how it's done. He grabbed the first ascent of this impressive line. Respect, Mich!

At that time my mind was already occupied with jumplines. After the success of last year wanted to enter a competition once again. I wanted to see whether I would find ease under pressure.
The qualifying was cool: I landed the backflip, a 360 and some cool combos.
For the finals they chose a single elimination system. I was facing Jan Galek and we had four minutes to compete. Jan showed an impressive improvement to the qualifying and landed some really cool combos. I did my static tricks but could not land the flip. I noticed too late that I was running out of time. They called „last trick“ and then it was over – I knew I was out. That's okay, because Jan was just better. I landed the backflip on the first attempt after the comp, which was a satisfaction for me.
The competition went on: Jan was facing Mike Payton who was too strong to beat and advanced. Lukas Irmler was in a session with Andy Lewis, last year's winner, and surprised all: He landed most of his tricks, including the backflip while Andy tried the backflip 360 and was very close to landing but failed. So Andy was out – the finals were Mike versus Lukas. Mike impressed us all: Solid frontflips and huge buttbounce combos made him the winner. The result was: 1. Mike, 2. Lukas, 3. Andy, 4. Jan.
I send my congratulations, especially to Lukas, who takes the medal for the second place from me. All in all it was a lot of fun.

This was the official end of the Natural Games. We were exhausted and somehow satisfied. But we had still one day left. Bernhard and Lukas were interested in checking out last year's highline spot. So we joined Grischa Rulle and Helmar Fasold from Bayreuth and hit the road to set up the King Line, a 64m Highline to an impressive and famous rock needle, which is on many postcards in the region. In 2009 this line was state of the art, walked only by Andy Lewis and Damian Cooksey (who did it onsight). In the meantime it had seen another onsight ascent, by Anatolij Maltsev.

We hiked up in the evening and started the rigging. Soon we noticed a couple of girls from Paris watching us. They were there for hiking and wanted to sleep on the plateau. We spent the rest of the evening with them. It was a lot of fun and we had a hard time going to bed in time to be fit for our project on the next day. Why can't highlining always be like this? I could get used to it …
When I woke up in the morning Bernhard was already on the line.

The first attempts failed but it was obvious that the line would see some sending that day. After some re-rigging Lukas was the first to cross the gap. He also made it back, grabbing a Fullman send of this line.
The next one who came close was Bernhard. Some may know that he likes very long leashes. This time it was 6m long. (There were some discussions about that lately. My opinion is that a highline setup must have safety margins that are big enough to hold very long leashfalls anyway. Otherwise I wouldn't step on such a line, not even with a short leash.) After some catches he made it to the other side. Not exactly from the start, but, as he said, „with a little bit of goodwill this can be counted as halfman“. It doesn't matter: For him, fullman is the goal. It turned out that the way back was hard for him. It ended with a giant leashfall where he lost his watch. „You can't win every time“, he grinned. It was impressive to see him climb up to the line on his leash.

How was I doing? Not so well. I felt the height, although this line is not that high at all – only about 30m from the ground. On the left side however, the plateau ends at a rockface of about 200m height. Several times I imagined what would happen if I fell down. I knew I would hit the ground only once – the second time would be at the bottom of the wall.
Apart from that my first attempt worked out quite well. I walked almost one third of the line – before the re-rigging. I knew then that the line was doable. It was all a matter of fighting the fear and keeping up the concentration long enough. It took me hours to try again. It was incredibly hard for me – everyone who tries his first highline knows what I'm talking about. Still I managed to do a clean sitstart. Suddenly I was walking and something changed in my mind. I feld the pressure of the line under my feet and gained some comfort. In the middle my leash was badly stuck behind me, but I ignored the problem and as I pulled hard enough I could release it. I was surprised how fast I approached the rock. On the last steps my faliure on the 231m line at the Days of Distance near Graz (after 200m) came to my mind. I kept walking and when I stepped on the pillar I could hardly believe that I had made it. So I did it on my second attempt this year, but it must have been a thousand attempts in my head before I felt ready to do what I knew I could do. This is definitely my longest and most beautiful highline and one of my best slackline experiences ever.

What was nice about the whole thing: Grischa could also send the line, then Hannes from Munich, who was also with us. (He had some very good attempts but somehow lost motivation. Grischa and Helmar were not willing to accept that and convinced him to try one more time. He walked it, making a Korean Buttbounce at the end. Nice one!) Mich Kemeter was also joining us. After sending the 84m, this line could not be a problem for him. We were right: Halfman onsight, fullman on the second attempt. When we left in the afternoon (Helmar and Grischa stayed), we heard a scream from behind us. We concluded that Helmar must have made it. For conformation we will have to wait for their own report (on

So the Natural Games 2010 came to a delayed end. Thanks to all the people involved, especially to for the competition and the cool highlines. Thanks also to Helmar and Grischa für rigging the Kingline. Special thanks go to Michi Aschaber who had the vision to rig this line. Finally, I want to thank AustriAlpin for supporting me and for good collaboration, and also Chillas and This enables me to spend so much time for the sport that I love.

All in all it appears that slackline has done a huge step of evolution. I'm curious what the rest of the season will bring.

Reini Kleindl

(Thanks to Holger Welsch for the pics)