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Blog Post

Alpine Highlining Comes to Whitewater

Written by adventure journalist Jayme Moye Photos by Douglas Noblet

For two weeks in late January and early February, Whitewater was the site of a first-of-its-kind alpine highlining project. Mia Noblet, who grew up in Nelson and holds the highlining world record, rigged and walked four lines in the backcountry around the resort. Highlining is walking across a 2.5-centimeter wide piece of nylon—known as a slackline—that’s been strung at significant elevation, either above the ground or a body of water. Noblet’s lines at Whitewater ranged from 30 meters long, across a gully on the Summit side, to 190 meters stretched between Half Dome and the Ymir Peak ridgeline.

Photo: Nelson resident Alex Landry walks the 90-meter line he and Noblet strung across Hummingbird Pass​

In alpine highlining, the adventure of rigging the line is often just as challenging as walking it. “What I like about rigging in remote locations is that it has never been done before,” says Noblet. “And you don’t know if it can be done.”

Noblet was well-prepared to rise to the occasion at Whitewater. In July, she’d rigged and walked the first alpine highline in the Selkirk Mountains, strung from 2,806-meter Gimli Peak. In September, in Quebec, she set a new world record, walking a 1.9-kilometer-long line above water. In December, she traveled to Alaska for cold-weather highlining beneath the Northern Lights (which never made an appearance, although it was plenty cold at -20 degrees). In January, Men’s Journal named Noblet one of the “World’s Most Adventurous Women.”

Photo: Mia Noblet walks a 30-meter line she dubbed “White Lightening,” crossing a gully over Catch Basin, while Chandrima Lavoie skis below. 

To rig the Whitewater lines, Noblet enlisted her brother Douglas, a member of Whitewater Ski Patrol and Nelson Search and Rescue. The two poured over Google Earth to analyze the best locations, as well as put boots (err, skis) on the ground to scout the feasibility of stringing lines across chutes like Prospector. Of all the possibilities, they deemed Half Dome the most iconic place for a highline—for the high elevation, the line length, and the challenge. “With the other lines, we could anchor off trees,” says Noblet. “With Half Dome, we’d have to drill and bolt into rock. On the ridgeline side, we didn’t even know how we were going to access it, or how difficult it would be to climb up there.”

Photo: Guillaume Chanut, from France, does a Buddha pose on the 90-meter Prospector line.

Members of the community rallied around the Noblets, including Nelson’s resident highliner Alex Landry, who lent his gear and expertise, and Summit Mountain Guides owner-operator David Lussier, who lent some of Summit’s equipment for drilling. Except for the bolts used for the Half Dome line, all equipment and gear was removed after use. Some of Noblet’s Whitewater lines, including Half Dome, went up during the cold snap in early February, when temperatures maxed at -16 degrees, but that didn’t stop Noblet or her crew. “I had no idea how motivated people would be to help,” says Noblet. “I wasn’t even sure Whitewater would let us do it, but they were super stoked. I couldn’t be happier.”

To keep up with more of Mia's adventures, you can follow her on Instagram

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