Aerialist Nik Wallenda: Skywire Tightrope Gorge Crossings

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The Grand Canyon Presented Unique Micro-Climate Challenges. Image by Wonderful Tourism

The Grand Canyon presented unique micro-climate challenges to arialist Nik Wallenda. Image by Wonderful Tourism

Nik Wallenda: Challenges to the Aerialist

Niagra Crossing: Nik Wallenda crossed the Niagara River gorge at night on June 15, 2012 on a path that took him 1,800 feet (550 m) across the widest part of the 160 foot (51 m) high falls.

Although the weather was good, the winds were ever-changing and mist swirled around him in some areas during his 25 minute walk along the wire.

In summer, daytime temperatures at the falls range from 25° to 21° degrees C (75º to  81° degrees F ) while nightly temperatures range from 14° to 17° degrees C (57° to 63° degrees F).

Grand Canyon Crossing: The 1 400 feet (425 m) Grand Canyon daytime crossing of June 23, 2013 presented different challenges than the Niagara gorge. First and foremost were the differential weather conditions from the top to the base of the canyon, a distance of 1,500 feet (455 m).

Air moves from high to low pressures as a vacuum is created by the rising warm air. Generally speaking, temperatures drop 10° F for every 2,000 feet. A distance of 1500 feet would mean a temperature drop of 7+° F. Daily high temperatures at the canyon increase from 80°F (24°C) to 90°F (29°C) over the course of the month of June at the rim. The probable bottom temperatures at the site of Nik Wallenda’s walk were potentially as high as 97°F (36°C) on average.

The temperature changes also affected the cable length, therefore the tension. This created some problems for Nik Wallenda. A positive, however, was that the winds crossing the cable cooled it several degrees during the canyon walk while the cooling from the mist at Niagara Falls probably tightened it.

Gorge Crossing vs. Sailing

My conclusion to all of this… ? It’s good geography.  Go for it Mr. Wallenda! But I’ll stick to sailing. At least if I fall off a boat  I can swim.

Resources

Fox News. Daredevil Nik Wallenda completes tightrope walk near Grand Canyon. (2013). Accessed June 25, 2013.

Niagara Frontier. Origins of Niagara Falls. Accessed June 25, 2013.

Paleorivers. Origins of Grand CanyonAccessed June 25, 2013.

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