Corona Arch in Bootlegger Canyon — Photo courtesy of Ken Lund
When it comes to extreme sports, nearly everyone has heard about whitewater kayaking and skiing. The good folks living and vacationing in Moab, Utah are quite familiar with mountain biking, trail running and rock climbing. But because of its unique landscape, Moab also affords adventurous types the opportunity to partake in a little swinglining.
What is Swinglining?
But what is it? Swinglining is a peculiar and exhilarating pastime that involves a good dose of adrenaline, a fair amount of equipment, and even more knowhow. If set up properly, a swingline enables people to attach themselves to the end of a rope, jump from a cliff (or other highpoint) and, like a massive pendulum, swing smoothly and safely through the air.
A swingline consists of two primary components. The first major piece is the actual “swingline” or pendulum rope itself. The second component is the one to which the pendulum rope is attached. In the Moab area - and outside of national and state parks - it is possible to use large, natural arches for this purpose. Alternatively, many swing-liners stretch a long piece of webbing (called a slackline) across a gap between two cliffs, and attach the swing-line to its midpoint.
Swing-liners Waiting for the Wind to Settle — Photo courtesy of Ken Lund
What You Need for the Sport
The hardest part of creating a swing-line is finding a large natural arch, or setting up a slackline. A slackline typically consists of a piece of webbing, strong anchor points at each end of the webbing, and a pulley system to stretch the webbing taught.
Because a slackline’s webbing is under extreme tension, it is imperative that all components of the system are in immaculate condition, that its anchor points are profoundly sturdy. Since the webbing will stand a lethal height above the ground in any swing-line system, it is a good idea to incorporate at least one “backup” climbing rope in the system by running it parallel to (and under much less tension than) the webbing.
You’ll also need a climbing rope to use as the pendulum rope, a harness and the ability to tie appropriate knots whenever necessary. Don’t forget to bring ascenders to climb the rope once you’ve come to rest; otherwise, you’ll be stuck dangling in the air after your swing!
Why Moab's Great for Swing-Lining
In Moab, there are many natural arches located on public lands, and outside of state and national parks. A good place to look for these is in the side canyons of the Colorado River. Many swing-liners use Corona Arch for this purpose. This arch, whose opening stands 140 feet tall, is accessed via a 1.5-mile hiking trail departing from a signed trailhead on UT 289 (10.1 miles west of US 191).
If you have difficulties finding a suitable arch, don’t worry; a swingline can be created nearly anywhere a high slackline can be erected. The ideal location for a slackline-style swing-line is at the top of a level, U-shaped cliffband. The slackline itself should be oriented perpendicular to the walls of the U, and the swing-liner will jump from the base of the U, with the pendulum rope oriented perpendicular to the slackline.
When to Go
You can swingline anytime the weather is good. Because ropes and webbing are made of nylon, and nylon loses strength when wet, you should never swing-line in rainy or snowy conditions. Never use an old or unfamiliar swingline, or leave yours out in the elements between uses. Famous rock climber and daredevil, Dan Osman made this mistake in Yosemite, and paid for it with his life.