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Tightrope Walker Wallenda Crosses Niagara Falls

Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Learn more about Nik Wallenda

THE GIST

- U.S. tightrope walker Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls late Friday.

- The hair-raising walk took 25 minutes.

- Wallenda plans to cross the Grand Canyon next.

Cheered on by thousands of spectators, U.S. tightrope walker Nik Wallenda late Friday fulfilled his childhood dream of walking on a tightrope across Niagara Falls and into the history books.

Crowds packed the US and Canadian sides of the border to watch the 33-year-old brave strong winds and heavy spray to walk on a cable suspended around 200 feet (60 meters) up over the biggest waterfall in North America.

After a brief prayer Wallenda climbed on the cable and headed from New York to Canada. With the aid of a long balancing pole, Wallenda carefully found his footing along the lengthy cable and maintained a laser-like focus on his task throughout.

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The hair-raising walk took 25 minutes, less than the expected 35 to 40 minutes. He jumped down from the high wire on the Canadian side at 10:40 pm (0220 GMT).

The event was televised by the US network ABC with a five second delay.

Wallenda wore a waterproof outfit and suede-soled slippers especially designed by his mother. Powerful TV lights focused on him the whole way, as millions of people around the world followed the event on television.

The acrobat had a two-way radio and and a small earpiece, and was able to communicate with his father, identified by ABC as Terry Troffer.

"My God, it's incredible, it's breathtaking," Wallenda said soon after starting his quest.

He later reported being "very wet."

"This is so physical, not only mental but physical," Wallenda said. "Fighting the wind isn't easy. I feel my hands are going numb."

Wallenda's father gave him words of encouragement throughout the walk.

"You're doing good. Take your time," said Troffer, whom ABC described as the event safety coordinator.

The crowd went wild when Wallenda reached the Canadian side of the Falls.

Still on the high wire, Wallenda kneeled briefly on the cable and waved to the roaring crowd.

At ABC's insistence, Wallenda was attached to a harness that would have allowed him to climb back onto the high wire if he slipped and fell.

Soon after arriving in Canada, Wallenda called his grandmother on a mobile phone. "Hey Oma, I love you," he told her. Wallenda said he had promised to call as soon as he completed the feat because she couldn't be there.

The 33-year-old tightrope walker braved strong winds and heavy spray to walk on a cable suspended about 200 feet above the biggest waterfall in North America. | Zou Zheng/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Any attempt to cross the falls is usually forbidden, but an exception was made for Wallenda, who comes from a long line of acrobats and circus performers.

Fourteen daredevils attempted the stunt and occasionally succeeded in the 19th century before further attempts were banned. However, they were in a much calmer section of the waterfall. Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls at a never-before-traversed rim.

At a press conference a smiling but fatigued Wallenda said he was especially challenged by the mist and the wind. "The mist was worst than I have thought," he said. "The winds were pretty wild out there."

And yet "it's been worth every minute and every penny," Wallenda said. "I loved every minute of it."

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Wallenda also said that he plans to cross the Grand Canyon -- a distance three times longer than Niagara Falls -- for his next high-wire act. He said he already has a permit, and that it will take place "within three to five years if not sooner."

Throughout the walk Wallenda's children, aged nine, 11 and 14, were watching.

The acrobat's achievement adds to the lore and legend of the renowned Wallenda family, famous for astonishing audiences around the world with their jaw-dropping stunts executed from dizzying heights.

Their fame really took off in 1978, when they were made the subject of popular made-for-TV movie, "The Great Wallendas."

The Niagara Falls are the most powerful in North America. They were formed by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age, with an average four million cubic feet of water from the Great Lakes flowing over the crest each minute and carving a path to the Atlantic Ocean.

The 33-year-old tightrope walker braved strong winds and heavy spray to walk on a cable suspended about 200 feet above the biggest waterfall in North America.

Secluded, idyllic and majestic, the Na Pali Coast State Park is best known for serving as the dramatic backdrop for the opening scene of all three "Jurassic Park" movies. But getting here is no easy feat. You can kayak in 17 miles with the current (easy), charter a helicopter (easier) or take on a grueling physical challenge by hiking 11 miles along some of America's most challenging terrain.

Just how tough is this hike? The Kalalau Trail provides the only land access to the state park and traverses through about a mile of elevation gain. The trail is notoriously narrow, with parts measuring mere inches thanks to land giving way. Throughout large swaths of it, you have mountain on one side and sheer drop off to the ocean on the other side. Compound that with the incredibly rocky terrain -- which bring stress to your toes, ankles, knees and thighs -- with stretches of slippery mud, running streams and crumbling cliffs, and it becomes clear this hike isn't for the uninitiated.

The hike begins from Ke'e Beach, located at the end of the Kuhio Highway/Route 56 on the Hawaiian Island Kauai. Be sure to arrive early at this popular beach, since the journey will take you six to 10 hours (possibly more) one way.

If you're hiking the entire way, be sure to get a camping permit. It is assumed that anyone proceeding past the Hanakoa Valley, six miles in from the trailhead, is camping. The fees are $15 per person per night for Hawaii residents and $20 per person per night for everyone else. People can stay a maximum of five days along the Kalalau Trail, though some bend the rules (don't blame us if you get slapped with a hefty fine). Permits go by quick, so reserve them as soon as you can, up to one year in advance. Find out more about permits at the Hawaii State Parks website.

Kayaks can land at Kalalau Beach from May to September.

After you complete the journey along the rugged coastline, you are greeted with the majestic bluffs overlooking the Kalalau Valley.

With no reef to protect the shore, be sure to exercise extreme caution when swimming.

In the summertime, Kalalau Beach can be postcard perfect.

Remnants of a makeshift volleyball net.

A wet cave on Kalalau Beach.

There's a rainbow at the end of the Kalalau Trail.

Rainbow over Kalalau Valley.

Camping on the beach provides a front-row seat to the ocean, stars and ridges.

The view from our tent.

On our trip, a number of visitors to Kalalau Beach performed fire dances on the beach.

Close up of a fire dancer.

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