Stunt artist Nik Wallenda has tightrope walked his way across the Grand Canyon, in a dare devil stunt broadcast live to the nation.
Wallenda, 34, crossed the quarter of a mile long gorge by walking across two-inch thick steel cable sitting 1,500 feet above the river, without wearing a harness.
A tense audience watched on as the event was screened live on the Discovery Channel.
Winds blowing across the gorge were expected to be around 30 mph, and Wallenda told Discovery after the walk that the winds were at times “unpredictable” and that dust had accumulated on and around his contact lenses. “Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God,” he was heard saying about 13 minutes into the walk.
Wallenda wore a microphone and two cameras, one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that faced straight ahead. His leather shoes with an elk-skin sole helped him keep a grip on the steel cable as he moved across.
Speaking to reporters after the event, he said: “It was way more windy and it took every bit of me to stay focused the entire time.” He could be heard murmuring prayers to Jesus almost constantly along the way before reaching the final few steps, where he jogged and hopped his way to the finish.
Nik Wallenda grew up performing with his family and has dreamed of crossing the Grand Canyon since he was a teenager. The 34-year-old is a seventh-generation high-wire artist and is part of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family — a clan that is no stranger to death-defying feats.
His great-grandfather, Karl Wallenda, fell during a performance in Puerto Rico and died at the age of 73. Several other family members, including a cousin and an uncle, have perished while performing wire walking stunts.
After the walk Wallenda was already thinking about what his next gravity defying feat would be, and said he hoped a future stunt would be a tightrope walk between the Empire State building and the Chrysler building in New York.
He did however come into criticism from a group of Navajos, Hopis and other Native Americans stood along a nearby highway with signs protesting the event. The Grand Canyon is an area held sacred by many American Indian tribes and some local residents believe the he had not accurately pinpointed the location.
“Mr. Wallenda needs to buy a GPS or somebody give this guy a map,” said Milton Tso, President of the Cameron community on the Navajo Nation. “He's not walking across the Grand Canyon. He's walking across the Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Nation. It's misleading and false advertising.”
Some local residents argued the Navajo Nation shouldn't be promoting the gambling of one man's life for the benefit of tourism.
Discovery's two hour broadcast showcased the Navajo landscape, showcasing views of Monument Valley, Four Corners, Canyon de Chelly and the tribal capital of Window Rock.
“When people watch this, our main thing is we want the world to know who Navajo people are, our culture, traditions and language are still very much alive,” Geri Hongeva, spokeswoman for the tribe's Division of Natural Resources, said before the walk.
Sunday's stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls, earning the stunt highwire walker a seventh Guinness world record.
Video: Nik Wallenda's tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon