Assignment Field Journal: Joshua Tree Highlining

Excerpt from Ultralite Film's director Scott Hardesty.

It was an unexpected surprise to kick off the new year with an impromptu trip to Joshua Tree National Park in California. I needed to test out some new gear from Mountainsmith and Voltaic while filming a rag-tag group of highliners/climbers who wanted to go play in the desert. Their goal was simple: climb as much as possible and rig J-tree’s longest highline.

Car problems turned the day on the road from 16 hours into 24. We arrived late and grabbed a couple hours of sleep on BLM territory. The next morning, we were up with the sun and looking at the park's mounds of granite like blank art canvases. 

It didn’t take long to spot what looked like gold in the eye’s of Dakota Collins and Davis Dailey. A huge gap, plenty of exposure, and easy access for hauling gear.

After rigging both anchors and getting the tag line across, it was time to pull the 600ft of webbing across the gap and over a field of cacti and sharp rock. 

This requires precise communication and focus from every member of the team. They are handling a one-inch-wide line of fabric in which they will trust their lives. 

Every component of highline systems are built on redundancy for extra safety. Time and time again Davis and Dakota are admired within the highline community for their all-natural yet durable rigs. Unlike many other highliners, they believe in using natural anchors rather than installing bolts which damage the rock. With combinations of trad climbing gear and large boulder slings, they rig their lines with both of these concerns in mind.

It’s about consistently rigging safe lines, hanging with friends at the anchors (which always grants you epic views), experiencing new landscapes and making new friends all the while.

The next day we pulled the rig down and packed up the vans. Our week of playing in the desert had come to an end. Satisfaction could be seen in all of our eyes as we left the park that day. 

- Scott