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Wallenda walks fine line high, high above river gorge

By Miguel Marquez and Steve Almasy, CNN
June 24, 2013 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nik Wallenda walked across a wire 1,500 feet above a river in Arizona
  • He said the wind was worse than he expected
  • Without safety rigging, he made the quarter-mile journey with just a balancing pole
  • When asked how he planned to celebrate, he mentioned eating a nice steak

Cameron, Arizona (CNN) -- His high-wire walk didn't start well.

Perched on a 2-inch-thick metal cable, 1,500 feet in the air, daredevil Nik Wallenda spat on his hands and wiped the soles of his moccasins.

"These shoes feel slippery. There's dust on this cable," the lifelong tightrope walker said Sunday as he was just beginning his quarter-mile trek across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon without the aid of a safety tether.

But an agonizing and an anxiety-filled 22 minutes and 54 seconds later, Wallenda had crossed to the other side, running the final steps to become the first person to traverse the gorge near Grand Canyon Park in Arizona.

Nik Wallenda walks on a tightrope 1,500 feet above a river near the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Sunday, June 23. The quarter-mile trek over the Little Colorado River Gorge took 22 minutes and 54 seconds. Nik Wallenda walks on a tightrope 1,500 feet above a river near the Grand Canyon in Arizona on Sunday, June 23. The quarter-mile trek over the Little Colorado River Gorge took 22 minutes and 54 seconds.
Nik Wallenda on the high wire
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Photos: Nik Wallenda on the high wire Photos: Nik Wallenda on the high wire
Nik Wallenda, 34, nears the completion of his quarter-mile walk near the Grand Canyon on Sunday, June 23, in Arizona. He crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge without the aid of a safety tether. He is a member of the famous Flying Wallendas, founded by his great-grandfather Karl in the 1920s, and also walked across Niagara Falls last year. Nik Wallenda, 34, nears the completion of his quarter-mile walk near the Grand Canyon on Sunday, June 23, in Arizona. He crossed the Little Colorado River Gorge without the aid of a safety tether. He is a member of the famous Flying Wallendas, founded by his great-grandfather Karl in the 1920s, and also walked across Niagara Falls last year.
Wallenda family through the years
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Photos: Wallenda family through the years Photos: Wallenda family through the years
New challenge for high-wire walker

The wind was worse than he anticipated, he said at one point. And twice he stopped, knelt and regained his composure.

"I was fatigued until I was three-quarters of the way across, and then it was all adrenaline," he said.

The feat was watched by a worldwide audience, according to the Discovery Channel, which televised the event in the United States.

At the end, the seventh-generation aerialist threw down his balancing pole, kissed the ground and hugged his wife and three children.

"I can finally breathe again," Erendira Wallenda said.

When asked how he planned to celebrate his successful walk, Wallenda mentioned eating a rib-eye steak.

He is a member of the famous Flying Wallendas, founded by his grandfather Karl in the 1920s. But the family's circus roots go back further than that, Nik said.

"My family has done this for seven generations and 200 years, and I'm carrying on a legacy. This is something I've done since I was 2 years old, and it truly is my passion."

Daredevil completes walk across Niagara Falls

Wallenda skywalks over Florida highway

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