Nik Wallenda Prepares to Cross Ravine Near Grand Canyon (+Videos)

June 22, 2013 Updated: June 24, 2013

UPDATE 10:12 p.m. EDT: Wallenda has successfully crossed the ravine! Read about it and see photos here

Nik Wallenda Grand Canyon: Wallenda, who began walking on tightropes at age 4, is planning to do something no one has done yet.

“I’ve had a dream of being the first person in the world to walk a tightrope directly over the Grand Canyon,” he says in a video on the Discovery Channel website. “I understand why somebody would think I was crazy.”

Wallenda’s attempt–made without a tether–will take place at 8 p.m. Eastern Time on the channel, with a 10 second delay.

Wallenda is known as showing little fear while walking across tightropes placed in dangerous places. 

He certainly had no fear of walking across Niagara Falls on a tightrope, riding a bike on a high wire 260 feet above the ground or hanging from a hovering helicopter by his teeth.

“Below that cable is nothing but 1,500 feet down,” said Wallenda, referring to his planned tether-free Grand Canyon walk.

“My entire life has been spent training for this,” he added. “The truth is it’s a life or death walk.” 

The bid to walk on a tightrope stretched across the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon. The event will take place on the Navajo reservation near Cameron, outside the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park.

Wallenda will walk a third of a mile across a wire suspended 1,500 feet above the river. (In comparison, the Empire State Building in New York City is 1,454 feet high).

“I respect deeply what I do and realize there’s a lot of danger in it,” he acknowledged on a recent day in his Florida hometown of Sarasota.

Wallenda, who is married and has three children, always says a prayer with his family prior to stepping onto the wire.

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 and great tragedy.

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.

Nik Wallenda, who was born a year after his great-grandfather died, began wire walking at the age of 2, on a 2-foot high stretched rope. He grew up performing with his family and as a teen, had an epiphany.

“It’s an honor to be carrying on a tradition that my family started over 200 years ago,” Wallenda said during a news conference on a recent day in Florida. “When I turned 19, I told my family I was going to set out to make sure everyone in the world knew who the Wallendas were again.”

Over the years, Wallenda has performed some dangerous stunts, but his walk across Niagara Falls in June of 2012 placed him firmly in celebrity territory.

Wallenda became the first person to walk on a tightrope 1,800 feet across the mist-fogged brink of the roaring falls separating the U.S. and Canada.

Other daredevils had wire-walked over the Niagara River but farther downstream and not since 1896.

Niagara Falls, Wallenda said, was a dream of his. So is the Grand Canyon.

But here’s the difference between the two stunts: ABC televised the walk and insisted Wallenda use a tether to keep him from falling in the river. Wallenda said he agreed because he wasn’t willing to lose the chance to perform the walk.

On Sunday, the Discovery Channel will televise the walk, but Wallenda won’t wear a tether. There won’t be a safety net, either.

He anticipates it will take him about 30 minutes to cross the chasm. He will have two cameras rigged to his body. 

There is no figure put forth yet regarding financial gain for Wallenda, but he is listed by the Discovery Channel as one of the executive producers of the live broadcast, according to Reuters, which couldn’t reach a channel spokesperson. 

Link to the Discovery Channel website

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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