Nik Wallenda Successfully Walks Chicago Tightrope Blindfolded on Live TV

The stunt aired on Discovery Channel and around the world Sunday night
Associated Press

Nik Wallenda has done it again.

The tightrope artist walked across a portion of Chicago on Sunday night in what was billed as his "most challenging tightrope walk yet."

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The event, which aired live on Discovery Channel and around the world, featured a two-part walk — without a net or harness — in one of the windiest sections of Chicago. In the first part, he walked uphill at a 19-degree angle at its maximum from the Marina City west tower (588 feet tall) to the top of the Leo Burnett building (671 feet tall) on the other side of the river, making it his steepest walk ever. At 50 stories above the Chicago River, it also was the highest skyscraper crossing in the history of the Wallenda family. 

Wallenda walked the second part of the tightrope crossing — a 100-foot walk between the two Marina City towers — blindfolded, a feat he'd not previously tried.

Asked afterward how hard performing the walk blindfolded was, Wallenda replied: "I think you probably saw me shaking like a leaf. The wire was shaking underneath me, and I just wanted to make it to the other side. I wasn't going to think twice; I was just getting on the wire and I'm going."

He added that he felt very confident and "overtrained," which he knew was gong to be important going in.

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A 10-second delay was used for the broadcast, which allowed for a cutaway in the event that Wallenda fell. Journalists covering Sunday's event signed waivers relinquishing their right to claim emotional distress if they witness a catastrophe.

"I'm always pushing myself both physically and emotionally. I hope to inspire people around the world and show that the impossible is not so impossible if you set your mind to it," Wallenda said last month in announcing that the second part of his walk would be performed blindfolded. "This has been a dream of mine and something that I've been practicing for a while."

Wallenda practiced the walk in Florida. Two of his previous televised tightrope walks — over the brink of Niagara Falls in 2012 and across the Little Colorado River Gorge over the Grand Canyon last year— drew about 13 million viewers each.

Wallenda, 35, is the great-grandson of Karl Wallenda of the famous The Flying Wallendas circus troupe. A year before Nik Wallenda was born, his great-grandfather fell to his death during a tightrope stunt in Puerto Rico. He was 73.

The high-wire artist told The Hollywood Reporter last year that he doesn't get scared when attempting such a risky stunt.

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"I think you have a choice," he said. "You can decide whether you want to get scared by something or not. You can go into a haunted house with the mindset of, 'This is going to freak me out,' or go into the haunted house with the mindset of, 'Who cares? This is all set up. It's all gimmicks, and it's not going to scare me at all.' "

Wallenda says after Chicago he wants to re-create a 1,200-foot-long high-wire walk made famous by his great-grandfather. Karl Wallenda's stunt at Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia included two headstands on the high wire.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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