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Wirerope has key ‘supporting’ role in Wallenda’s crossing of Grand Canyon

The focus understandably was on Nik Wallenda during his June 24 crossing of the Grand Canyon, following up on his prior successful crossing last June of Niagara Falls, but the folks at Wirerope Works, Inc., also deserve some recognition as it was their company's 2,200-ft-long, eight-ton wire rope that was used for both daredevil challenges.

"The rope had to have been rusty after the Niagara walk, but Wallenda's engineers told us previously that rust would not be a factor and would probably aid in rope grip," Wirerope Works Engineer Kim Konyar said. He was one of many company employees who watched Wallenda make the death-defying trek across the Little Colorado River Gorge. He observed that the weight of the wire rope was sufficient enough to prevent it from swaying in a breeze, but anything could happen and this time there was no tether to save Wallenda if he fell. "We just sat back, white-knuckled the walk and cheered him on," he said.

Wallenda, who wears contact lenses, was subjected to dust spun about by sporadic gusts of wind up to 30 mph as he made his way across the rope. In 22 minutes, he crossed the gorge, stopping twice but remaining the epitome of confidence, as if it was not a 1,500 foot drop to certain death if he fell. The performance of the bigger-than-life member of the legendary Wallenda family was witnessed by an international audience in the millions. One must attribute the success to the man, but having faith in the two-in. wide surface he had to trod on also had to be part of his confidence. Konyar said that he never doubted either the man or the rope.

The rope breaking strength was about 400,000 lb and Nik had the rope tension set at 62,000 lb, Konyar said. That was much higher than the Niagara walk, he said, as the rope catenary at the Grand Canyon was only 4 degrees maximum. The 2-in. diameter rope, the same one used for Niagara Falls, was made from a total of 343 wires. These included a 7 x 7 independent wire rope center (IWRC) and six outer strands, each made from 49 wires. The rope was closed in a right regular lay configuration." The wire is made of extra improved plow steel and made in a right regular lay. Similar designs, he noted, are commonly used for large slings and very large cranes, most notably off shore derrick barges. Wallenda has discussed a third crossing, this time in New York City between the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building, but NYC officials reportedly are not thrilled about that offer. However, if such a walk is staged, it may well be on the same tried-and-tested wire rope. And if that happens, Wirerope staffers will continue to be rooting for both the man and for their product.

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