‘Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda’ – He can stand the heat
Nik Wallenda regards himself as an artist who makes himself the centerpiece of a much larger canvas. And in his latest performance, it’s one that contains all the elements that nature can throw at him.
In “Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda,” airing Wednesday, March 4, on ABC, the 41-year-old aerialist will attempt his most daring tightrope walk yet, an 1,800-foot trek across Nicaragua’s active Masaya Volcano, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire that encompasses several craters and a lava lake.
It’s a stunt that captured his imagination.
“As I approached the rim of this caldera,” Wallenda recalls of his first visit to Masaya, “I could tell before I even got up to it that it was the one. (It had all the elements I was) looking for and one of them had to do with the distance from one end of the rim to the other. And the height is pretty impressive. You know, the tallest building in New York City, One World Trade Center, would fit underneath the walk between the lava and my wire. So there’s just a bunch of factors that kind of came into play as I was seeking the right one and this one was just extremely attractive for that purpose.”
Crossing 1,800 feet above superheated magma, Wallenda will face unpredictable wind gusts, heat that can reach 150 degrees and volcanic sulfur gases that can make breathing nearly impossible, for which he will carry a gas mask. It sounds daunting but he explains that these conditions aren’t dissimilar to what he’s faced before. He’s just never had them all in one crossing.
“(It’s) not a constant heat,” he says of Masaya. “It comes in waves … but the concern is more the wire itself and how the heat will affect the tension of the wire. That’s kind of the main concern as far as the heat-related part. And then layer upon layer, of course then we’re dealing with winds – everything I’ve dealt with over the Grand Canyon (in 2013) … .
“Over Niagara Falls (in 2012),” he continues. “I had issues with vision because the mist was so thick. Well, I have that with gases now and then they’ll burn my eyes. And then in addition to that … the fact that I trained blindfolded, of course, for my Chicago walk (in 2014), this is kind of combining all of them into one and making it that much more of a challenge for me.”