LITTLE COLORADO RIVER GORGE, Ariz. (CBS Las Vegas/AP) — Daredevil Nik Wallenda does it again.
In an unofficial time of 22 minutes, 54 seconds, Wallenda crossed a quarter-mile tightrope 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon.
Wallenda paused and knelt twice to get “the rhythm out of the rope” and murmured prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way. He stepped slow and steady, but jogged and hopped the last few steps.
“Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God,” he said about 13 minutes into the walk.
The stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record. He used the same 2-inch-thick cable he used to cross the falls, only this time he didn’t wear a safety harness.
The Discovery Channel broadcast Wallenda’s walk on live television after 8 p.m. EDT on Sunday with a 10-second delay. Wallenda wore two cameras, one looking down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one facing straight ahead. His leather shoes with an elk-skin sole helped him keep a grip on the steel cable as he moved across.
Winds blowing across the gorge were expected to be around 30 mph. Wallenda told Discovery after the walk that the winds were at times “unpredictable” and that dust had accumulated on and around his contact lenses.
“It was way more windy and it took every bit of me to stay focused the entire time,” he said.
Wallenda is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family — a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats and great tragedy.
His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.
Nik Wallenda, who was born a year after his great-grandfather died, began wire walking at the age of 2, on a 2-foot high stretched rope. He grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager.
French high-wire walker Philippe Petit had that same desire and set up a cable above the Little Colorado River, but Navajo officials said he never went through with the stunt and left his equipment there only to be taken down recently by Wallenda’s crew.
“I don’t understand why he didn’t,” Wallenda said. “It’s a site that works, makes sense. He clearly failed at it, so I want to do it successfully.”
Petit didn’t return messages left by The Associated Press.
Before the walk, a group of Navajos, Hopis and other Native Americans stood along a nearby highway with signs protesting the event.
The stunt was touted as a walk across the Grand Canyon, an area held sacred by many American Indian tribes. Some local residents believe Wallenda hasn’t accurately pinpointed the location and also said that the Navajo Nation shouldn’t be promoting the gambling of one man’s life for the benefit of tourism.
“Mr. Wallenda needs to buy a GPS or somebody give this guy a map,” said Milton Tso, president of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation. “He’s not walking across the Grand Canyon. He’s walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It’s misleading and false advertising.”
Discovery’s 2-hour broadcast showcased the Navajo landscape that includes Monument Valley, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly and the tribal capital of Window Rock.
“When people watch this, our main thing is we want the world to know who Navajo people are, our culture, traditions and language are still very much alive,” Geri Hongeva, spokeswoman for the tribe’s Division of Natural Resources, said before the walk.
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