Daredevil breaks records in skyscraper stunt

Nik Wallenda walks the tightrope suspended between two skyscrapers 500 feet (152.4m) above the...
Nik Wallenda walks the tightrope suspended between two skyscrapers 500 feet (152.4m) above the Chicago River in Chicago. Photos Reuters
Spectators watch as Wallenda undertakes the walk.
Spectators watch as Wallenda undertakes the walk.
It was the highest blindfolded walk ever recorded.
It was the highest blindfolded walk ever recorded.

Nik Wallenda has completed his controversial skywalk, breaking two world records and defying critics who claimed that his stunt was too dangerous to perform without a harness.

Wallenda, 35, walked more than two city blocks across the Chicago River from the Marina City west tower to the Leo Burnett Building.

The stunt - which took 6 minutes, 51 seconds and was done at a 19-degree slant - set the world record for steepest incline for tightrope walking between two buildings.

After reaching the Burnett Building, he took an elevator down to the street and returned to the west tower, where he wore a blindfold as he crossed to the east tower. The feat was completed at more than 500 feet, making it the highest blindfolded walk ever recorded.

"You guys watching think I'm crazy, but this is what I'm made for," Wallenda said after his first few steps on the first wire.

Police estimated that more than 50,000 spectators turned out to watch the stunt, which Wallenda undertook without a harness or safety net.

During the first walk, Wallenda repeatedly acknowledged the cheering crowds below.

"Listen to that roar," he said. "I love Chicago and Chicago definitely loves me."

Wallenda's average height over the Chicago River was about 630 feet, roughly the same height as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Wallenda walked into the wind as he crossed the river, though he downplayed the wind's impact.

"It's not bad, but it (the cable) is definitely moving," he said.

The Discovery Channel had planned to cut away from the broadcast if Wallenda fell, producers said. The program was shown on a 10-second delay.

Wallenda had planned to grab onto the wire and stay there if he lost his balance or slipped. He frequently practices slipping and then clutching the cable at his training grounds in Sarasota, Fla.

The 35-year-old married father of three said he has the strength to hang there for up to 20 minutes while waiting to be rescued. His crew can reach him in about 90 seconds anywhere on the cable.

Wallenda changed his game plan somewhat after weather-related delays during the high-wire's installation.

The cable between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building was at a 19-degree incline to address some unexpected wire-tension issues that arose over the weekend, Wallenda said. He had planned - and practiced - to walk at a 15-degree incline.

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