Slackliner Wins Carnegie
Slackliner Wins Carnegie: In 2017, on the ski slopes of Colorado, a man became suspended from a chairlift by the strap of his backpack wrapped around his neck. Mickey Wilson, a professional slackliner and ski instructor, was nearby and knew he was the best-trained individual to execute a rescue.
For those unfamiliar with slacklining, it is a fun activity similar to tightrope walking where people practice balance, nerve, and coordination by walking and performing tricks on a single line of nylon strapping that has a lot of bounce. Professional slackliners typically set up their straps between trees with soft grass or sand below or over bodies of water or canyons with space below them.
The cables on which the chairlifts were mounted were not nylon slacklines, but for Wilson, they might as well have been a sidewalk. Despite having a broken hand, Wilson climbed up one of the lift towers, shimmied 30 feet along the cable, and reached the adjacent chairlift where Richard Rattenbury was stuck.
Unfortunately, Wilson couldn’t find a way to unlatch the backpack that had already choked Rattenbury unconscious. Hans Meuller and another friend tried to reach Rattenbury by standing on each other’s shoulders below them but were unsuccessful. Meuller recounted the experience as “the scariest thing I’ve ever seen – the most helpless I’ve ever felt – being two feet away from one of my best friends – my best man – [and] watching him lose consciousness.”
Wilson calculated his approach to saving Rattenbury and confidently said, “I can climb up that tower.” He had won the Carnegie Hero Medal for his efforts. However, the backpack was so far extended under the chairlift that Wilson couldn’t reach it. A ski patrol threw him a knife, which he caught wearing ski gloves, and he cut Rattenbury free. Rattenbury was rushed to the hospital and made a full recovery.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded to civilians who put their lives at risk to save another. Wilson recently won the award, among other heroes, even though his rescue took place six years ago.