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Nik Wallenda’s Tightrope Walk By the Numbers

The tightrope walker plans to traverse a rope 50 stories above the Chicago River this Sunday. Here’s what he faces.

Illustration: istockphoto

On November 2, Nik Wallenda will attempt to walk a tightrope from the 50th floor of the Marina City west tower to the roof of the Leo Burnett Building—if he can get the state to give the OK. The Aerial Exhibitors Safety Act (yes, that exists) forbids public high-wire performances above 20 feet without a net or other safety device. Wallenda has said that conflict will be resolved one way or another, according to the Chicago Tribune. If he gets approval (or, horrors, must use a tether), this is what he faces up there.

¾ inch

The diameter of the rope he’ll be traversing is about that of a quarter. “One challenge will be weather,” Wallenda says. If a heavy storm moves in and wets the rope—or worse, lightning
occurs—Wallenda will cancel the walk.

15 degrees

The uphill incline of the rope between the buildings is steeper than Wallenda has ever walked. “That’s just an added challenge,” he says. “[Tightrope walking] is really about pushing and challenging myself more than anything.”

45 pounds

That’s the weight of his 24-foot balancing pole.

20 mph

This wind speed is typical at 50 stories in downtown Chicago, according to Kari Strenfel, a meteorologist at Weather Underground. No problem for Wallenda, who regularly trains in winds up to 90 miles per hour.


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