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deliciously vertiginous and grand
March 20, 2007 10:39 PM   Subscribe

The Grand Canyon Skywalk, supposedly the highest man made structure in the world, opens this week. While the official website has been up and down, the skywalk has already made it into Snopes and drummed up its share of controversy. Former astronauts John Herrington and Buzz Aldrin joined members of the Hualapai tribe today in the first walk across the structure designed by Mark Johnson of MRJ Architects (slideshow, youtube). For more about all things Grand Canyonesque, you might like Polishing the Jewel: An Administrative History of Grand Canyon National Park. [previously]
posted by jessamyn (80 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can't wait for the casino next door.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:56 PM on March 20, 2007


The Golden Gate Bridge, Hoover Dam, and now this. Will we never lose our fascination with building things someone will eventually get around to jumping from?

Seriously... the walls on that thing look to be around shoulder level. Someone's going off there within a year.
posted by logicpunk at 11:04 PM on March 20, 2007


thi$ will end well.
posted by phaedon at 11:05 PM on March 20, 2007


Someone is about to have the worst window washing gig ever!

This is totally terrifying and totally badass.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:06 PM on March 20, 2007


Calling all BASE jumpers!
posted by homunculus at 11:10 PM on March 20, 2007


No way. Not doing it.

And someone is going to BASE jump from there within a month. There will be a suicide within 6.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:15 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't bother me in the least. I've already stood on the side of a sheer canyon wall looking pretty much straight down. I got plenty of phobias -- but height ain't one of'em. Sign me up.
posted by RavinDave at 11:16 PM on March 20, 2007


Oh hell no. I like how the guy on the right seems to be fleeing in terror.
posted by lemuria at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2007


The Snopes article suggests that walkers will be 'surrounded by Plexiglass', so perhaps suicides and base jumps won't be possible. Also, the floor is glass. Jeepers.
posted by MrMustard at 12:12 AM on March 21, 2007


Couldn't help but think about the awful Cave Creek disaster.

The Cave Creek disaster was an event in which 14 people died when a scenic viewing platform collapsed.

Cave Creek is a small stream in Paparoa National Park. The viewing platform was erected by the Department of Conservation in April 1994, and looked out over a 40-metre chasm. The platform was constructed to allow visitors a view of Cave Creek emerging from a cave system below. However, the designers and builders of the platform did not have appropriate qualifications for the job, and at least ten major problems or oversights occurred during the platform's construction. The platform was highly unsafe, especially with large numbers of people on it.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:29 AM on March 21, 2007


From the Washington Post:
But environmentalists and others have criticized the skywalk project since its inception, saying that the overhang will tarnish the pristine canyon and that a less intrusive tourist attraction could have been developed.

"I think it's a real travesty," said Robert Arnberger, who was superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park from 1994 to 2000.
From the LA Times:
"It's the equivalent of an upscale carnival ride," said Robert Arnberger, a former superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park who was born near the canyon's South Rim. "Why would they desecrate this place with this?"
Something tells me Mr. Arnberger really doesn't like this project. Also, having been to the canyon several times, something tells me he doesn't remember it very well. It's awesome and beautiful, but pristine it is not (at least not where the Park Service has it's presence).
posted by moonbiter at 12:36 AM on March 21, 2007


I can't wait to skateboard on it.
posted by loquacious at 12:42 AM on March 21, 2007


babybluebbw? eeeeew?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:03 AM on March 21, 2007


I`m visiting the US in September, and I`m sure as hell going to try that sucker out.

:)
posted by happybunny at 1:04 AM on March 21, 2007


Another famous skywalk collapse.

111 dead.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:09 AM on March 21, 2007


... supposedly the highest man made structure ...

How soon you forget, Mr. Bigshot Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. So what's this, chopped livah in a tube?
posted by rob511 at 1:16 AM on March 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Within 12 months someone will have an argument with his father, a hand will be cut off, and the rebellion will continue.

The Cree's Death Star will pwn this.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:24 AM on March 21, 2007 [4 favorites]


So what's this, chopped livah in a tube?

Pretty much, yep.


(to be fair, it could be argued that this isn't a structure, but it IS the "highest" manmade object.)
posted by Malor at 1:26 AM on March 21, 2007


happybunny, do as you will, but hiking down into the canyon is still the hippie-approved method of communing with the big gash. And huffing and puffing as you commune with the sparce oxygen.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:39 AM on March 21, 2007


Is it just me, or is that sucker pretty darn ugly?
posted by maxwelton at 1:42 AM on March 21, 2007


Nippon News Network has fairly decent footage *requires windows media player.
posted by nataaniinez at 1:58 AM on March 21, 2007


Hi Ambrosia Voyeur at 60yrs of age, I like to take it easy from now on.

:)
posted by happybunny at 2:13 AM on March 21, 2007


Once again the white man, driven by greed and disregard for the natural harmony of the earth, is violating the sacred ground of...

what? Oh it's, uh... not...? It's the...?

Oh.

Nevermind.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:23 AM on March 21, 2007 [7 favorites]


Basically, the Grand Canyon is just a really big hole.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:45 AM on March 21, 2007


happybunny, I will have you know that when I did it, it was with my SO's 60something folks, yet I was the resident hufferpuffer, but fair enough! The IMAX movie nearby is gold also. The pizza place across the way is the place to eat!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:00 AM on March 21, 2007


Ok if I feel up to it I`ll try the hike, I just hope there are some very pretty nurses on hand.

;)
posted by happybunny at 3:09 AM on March 21, 2007


I'm an environmental activist and an anthropology graduate, so I flipped a coin. I'm backing the tribe.
posted by imperium at 3:09 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


The architect's logo is kind of scary.
*
posted by strawberryviagra at 3:40 AM on March 21, 2007


I wouldn't go up there if you paid me. I get vertigo just looking at pictures of that thing.
posted by psmealey at 3:41 AM on March 21, 2007


MetaFilter: the hippie-approved method of communing with the big gash.
posted by eriko at 3:49 AM on March 21, 2007


they did a story about this on BBC last night, they interviewed a barely coherent Buzz Aldrin (who also looked like he had had a lot plastic surgery -- there was something wrong with his face) and he said something like "I saw... beautiful... American... huh... history".

and then I thought, jesus christ, maybe they really didn't go to the moon, it really was another Nixon dirty trick and they lobotomized the astronauts before sending them back to their families
posted by matteo at 4:02 AM on March 21, 2007


What moonbiter said. The rims of the Canyon, especially the South Rim, are highly developed, and haven't been 'pristine' for a hundred years. You want pristine, you have to hike away from the tourist areas, or down into the inner canyon. There's lots and lots of wonderful, raw, natural canyon, but you have to work a little to get there.

I do think the skywalk is silly, though. You can get a perfectly stunning view of the Canyon by just walking up to one of the many, many established overlooks on its rims.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 4:02 AM on March 21, 2007


Basically, the Grand Canyon is just a really big hole.

Jesus, it's only the biggest God-damn hole in the world.
posted by three blind mice at 4:07 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Any argument about harming 'pristine' natural beauty is bullshit. This is to help people see and appreciate the natural beauty, while getting a bit of a thrill. If I ever find myself in those parts again, I'll go have a look.
posted by Goofyy at 4:18 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


When the Golden Gate Bridge was first put up, most people said it was ugly, distracting, and spoiled the views of San Franciscol And now?

Ignored in all this: you can take a mule ride down into the Grand Canyon and immerse yourself in this great place rather than staring out a window-like overhang. Perhaps that way you can be more nearly interactive.
posted by Postroad at 4:27 AM on March 21, 2007


Perhaps that way you can be more nearly interactive.

You say that as if most people want to be interactive. I'd say most people want something more like an amusement park ride, or something like a CG scene from a Hollywood movie or something. Communing with nature (s it used to be called) is not on these people's agenda, necessarily.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:33 AM on March 21, 2007


This reminds me of those pictures of the side of that "most dangerous hiking trail" in a previous metafilter post.

Looking at how that thing sticks out totally made me feel ill.

I really want to go on it, but looking at it brings the fear into me.

Blackpool Tower has a glass floor bit at the top, which is fairly easy to walk on and not be scared, despite the 115 m height (ok so that is what, a tenth the height of the drop down this canyon?). Surely above a certain height you'd loose the sensation of being high up?

I cant stop looking at the pictures yet feel really ill.
posted by 13twelve at 4:43 AM on March 21, 2007


If you ever find me out on that thing it will be with a shotgun to my back and my face stained wet with little bitch tears.
posted by The Straightener at 5:12 AM on March 21, 2007 [9 favorites]


Jesus, it's only the biggest God-damn hole in the world.

That sort-of depends on how you define "hole". If you're taking into account areas underwater, the Mariana Trench would win the title. If you're talking about distance between high and low above sea-level (the "deepest canyon"), the Tsangpo Gorge would win.

Still, it is a pretty big hole.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:30 AM on March 21, 2007


I wonder how long before there is a "making of" special on TV?

Also, this looks like the next best thing to skydiving for confronting fear of heights.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:38 AM on March 21, 2007


"I went to the Grand Canyon. It's fuckin' amazing. That's what they should have called it... the Fuckin' Amazing Canyon. I come from Ireland, so the word "grand" doesn't really have the same impact for me. If you're ill, you're sick as a dog, dyin' with the flu or something, and someone asks you how you are, you'll tell them "Ahhh sure, I'm grand", so for me, you know, it's a bit shit.

The other thing I don't like about it is how proud all the Americans are of it - "bet you don't have anything like that back in Ireland!" - like God loves them more because he put it in their country, or worse, like they all got together with a bunch of shovels and dug it them-fucking-selves. Sure if they'd wanted to do that they would just have got the Irish to do it for them anyway."
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 5:43 AM on March 21, 2007 [5 favorites]


Communing with nature (s it used to be called) is not on these people's agenda, necessarily.

The communist agenda is dead?
posted by srboisvert at 5:57 AM on March 21, 2007


But environmentalists and others have criticized the skywalk project since its inception, saying that the overhang will tarnish the pristine canyon and that a less intrusive tourist attraction could have been developed.

"I think it's a real travesty," said Robert Arnberger, who was superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park from 1994 to 2000.


Those damned Indians. It's like they think they own the fucking land or something.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:02 AM on March 21, 2007


That sort-of depends on how you define "hole". If you're taking into account areas underwater, the Mariana Trench would win the title.

It's not a hole if it's got water in it, it's a pond.
posted by biffa at 6:09 AM on March 21, 2007


Pssh. When they put a little glass-bottomed horseshoe over Valles Marineris, then I'll show some interest.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:12 AM on March 21, 2007


I wonder if they have a vending machine in the bathroom that sells man-diapers.
posted by The Straightener at 6:22 AM on March 21, 2007


: I can't wait for the casino next door.

According to NPR this morning, the tribe attempted a casino but it failed. This is plan B.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:38 AM on March 21, 2007


They're paying 8 natives to stand 24/7 at the bottom holding a blanket just in case anyone tries to end it.
posted by dobbs at 6:41 AM on March 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Wow! Whatta hole!"

--- Marv, Home Alone 2
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:43 AM on March 21, 2007


This is kinda cool but walking down & around is far more fun.

Action movie criptwriters start your typing....
posted by i_cola at 6:44 AM on March 21, 2007


Maybe it works without the 's' but one was supposed to be there...
posted by i_cola at 6:45 AM on March 21, 2007


What an incredibly flamboyant way to kill oneself.

Seriously, they have to have clear walls or something, right? Right???

If you ever find me out on that thing it will be with a shotgun to my back and my face stained wet with little bitch tears.
posted by The Straightener at 7:12 AM on March 21


You and me both brother. Those photos of the "most dangerous trail" or whatever above literally make my butt clench my seat, what in the motorcycle world we call "the pucker factor".

Also, vertiginous is the best word ever.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2007


Wowee, this is one of those things that I would only ever visit by slinking out on my belly like a snake in case a freak Shamal comes and picks me up and deposits me on the non-safe side of the rinky-dink structure where I would rapidly commence a vertiginous plummet to my doom; a plummet that would last long enough to allow bitter reflection on the foolishness of my recent actions.
posted by Mister_A at 7:39 AM on March 21, 2007


Meh. I wish they'd built it over a plaster and chicken wire version of the Grand Canyon in Las Vegas. I like my tacky tourist traps in concentrated form.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:43 AM on March 21, 2007


Basically, the Grand Canyon is just a really big hole.

More of a groove, really.
posted by weston at 7:49 AM on March 21, 2007


*squints*. Shots that are barely 300px on a side aren't really a very optimal size for things like this.
posted by Freaky at 7:59 AM on March 21, 2007


UGH./
"Skywalk is the 'wow' that will draw people," said Steve Beattie, the chief financial officer for Grand Canyon Resort Corp., the tribe's business arm.
Oh brother. Not the canyon itself, right¿

Toronto's CN Tower has a glass floor. ]Wait till photo of kids on glass floor slides by.[
It also has a Skywalk too. Should they sue now¿
"It's not really in the skies at all"

What a travesty of nature. I say what a shame the tribe had to resort to Disneyesque marketing for money. To think what is to follow, restaurants...piping water from the canyon uphill, etc. Ack.

Maybe they should have held an NFL Xtreme football game there or something for money. Too bad in '79 the highway bypassed the town and closed many a business.

Canadian Ice roads —more danger./ Wheeee./
posted by alicesshoe at 8:25 AM on March 21, 2007


*shriek*
posted by taosbat at 8:29 AM on March 21, 2007


It also has a Skywalk too.

There is...another...Skywalk...er.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:00 AM on March 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


What's the date today?
posted by sluglicker at 9:07 AM on March 21, 2007


hehehe...she said vertiginous.
posted by sluglicker at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2007


I'm not really afraid of heights, but the photos of this thing make me want to throw up.

:::lies down under desk until nausea passes:::
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on March 21, 2007


hope they don't have an earthquake
posted by baker dave at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2007


With its wooden deck a mere 1,053 feet above the Arkansas River, the Royal Gorge Bridge near Cañon City, Colorado remains the world's highest suspension bridge. Unabashedly catering to touristas — with bridge, aerial tram, inclined railway, Skycoaster ride , and impressive geology — it's still a big drop to the Arkansas River.

WRT to notoriety, Australian BASE jumper Dwaine Weston was killed when he struck the bridge in 2003 during an exhibition plane jump (for the annual Go Fast! Games).
posted by cenoxo at 9:38 AM on March 21, 2007


The artist's conception might have glass walls, but in the actual pictures in the LA Times article all I see is a waist-high railing.
posted by howling fantods at 9:59 AM on March 21, 2007


This thing is lame. Who really needs to see the Canyon through thick, green tinted glass, covered in dusty dirty sandy footprints. Maybe down the line McDonalds will want to build an identical walk right next to the current POS.
posted by JBennett at 10:08 AM on March 21, 2007


Oh, and on a news segment about this structure they showed some local artist hammering "authentic" native markings into stones around the planned resort. Double-lame!
posted by JBennett at 10:11 AM on March 21, 2007


To provide a bit of context for those who haven't seen the canyon, let me preface my observation with the fact that I really don't care about nature. When I saw it with some friends, I didn't even expect to like it -- I was preoccupied with Vegas and this damn hole stood in my way. When we arrived I was knocked to my knees by a beauty that simply can't be recorded. At one point, it was like stepping into a rainbow; colors shimmered from the rock formation when the sun hit it just right. We used up several rolls of film snapping pictures, drove on -- and discovered that we had been taking pictures of what was essentially a drainage ditch 5 miles from the canyon. itself.
posted by RavinDave at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cenoxo, I grew up in Colorado, but we never went to the Royal Gorge until a visit from a southern aunt made it no longer avoidable. In those days there were inch plus gaps in the planks of the bridge, and they let cars drive across. Being out in the middle of that bridge on foot as a car after car drove by, making the planks under your feet flex, groan, vibrate and gape, laid down a memory that still pops up in certain kinds of dreams from time to time.
posted by jamjam at 10:40 AM on March 21, 2007


I was at the CN Tower last year, and I went to the section where they had the glass floor. And, intellectually, I knew it was perfectly safe to walk on the glass, with the signs touting how it was strong enough to hold a hundred elephants or whatever, and several people there walking on it and taking pictures, etc., etc. And standing on the non-glass floor at the edge of the glass, and looking down, there was something very visceral in me, defying all rationality (ooh, maybe it was my undercore!), telling me not to walk on the glass. I finally did, but it took me several minutes to quiet that visceral part of me enough that I could do it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2007


DevilsAdvocate: Reading your account makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and I've never even been to the CN Tower.

I have been atop the Sears Tower, and it took all the courage I could muster to stand on the little platform and lean foreward to make your forehead touch the glass to look straight down.

What's funny is I would not be at all bothered by the height if it were, say, a blimp. But for some reason, the fact that it is affixed to the earth, makes it seem much higher and much more dangerous.

In other words, being at 5,000 feet in a Cessna does not make me worried of the height. Being at 35,000 feet in a jet doesn't even really register. Being at 1,000 feet in a big tower makes me quake at the knees.

I don't understand it either.
posted by Ynoxas at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2007


Same here, Ynoxas. Though I have no trouble with ski lifts for some reason, looking out the windows of tall buildings causes my knees to go weak as well. I have had it my whole life.

I even went skydiving in college in an effort to "cure" myself of it, as someone mentioned above. Wasn't a bad experience all in all, but it didn't work.
posted by psmealey at 3:27 PM on March 21, 2007


And I was just at the Grand Canyon two weeks ago! I'll definitely want to check this out. But...why pink? I suppose it matches the surrounding rock, but jesus what a horrible color.
posted by zardoz at 6:09 PM on March 21, 2007


I don't understand it either.
posted by
Ynoxas

For me, it was no problem when I was younger but 'fixed' heights have gotten more scary as I get on.
posted by taosbat at 6:41 PM on March 21, 2007


I went to the CN Tower in Toronto. It was fantastic. I loved it.

I dont really approve of building this skywalk where it is, on the rim of the canyon like that, any more than I approve of building any structures that close to the rim.

But the real reason I wont be going to have a look at the Grand Canyon Skywalk is because it is no less than $75 fucking dollars to take a walk around that goddamn thing. Man, they have to be kidding!
posted by perilous at 7:43 PM on March 21, 2007



These things go down!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:17 AM on March 22, 2007


Man, I don't know why you folks keep talking about people jumping off this thing. You ever been to the Grand Canyon? There's plenty of places on the edge of it that have no railing at all, and the ones that are there are only about shoulder-length.

Visiting it as a kid, I was terrified the whole time that some perverse sadist was going to run me over the cliff.

People who want to jump don't need to get on this contraption.
posted by Target Practice at 5:59 AM on March 22, 2007


from the architect's website:

We live in an area that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. The Southwest area of the United States is both unique and exciting, in an architectural aspect.

We design and build from the materials around us and consider the affect the structure will have on the environment.


Not the sharpest tool in the shed, apparently. Not sure if I like the affect this is having on its environment.
posted by signal at 7:31 AM on March 22, 2007


Target Practice: You're right, but there apparently is something to committing suicide at noteworthy locations. I mean, there have to be other tall places in San Francisco besides the Golden Gate. When I visited the Canyon, I wouldn't even let anyone else stand next to me. First, I didn't want anyone to, even jokingly, bump or push me, and second, if I did happen to slip or start to fall, I didn't want to instinctively grab onto someone else and take them with me.

Seriously, for people who have never been there, there truly is no way to describe the sheer scope and magnitude of what you are seeing. Saying it is a "big hole" is paramount to saying the Atlantic Ocean is a "big pond".

Being able to stand at the edge of an almost sheer drop into a canyon a mile deep and 5 miles across, and being able to SEE it all in one "drink", is for practical purposes indescribable.

After spending a day there, I came away thinking that it is simply a miracle that more people are not killed there every year, given the sometimes complete lack of safety barriers.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2007


Take a Flying Leap off Colorado's Skywalk?
posted by taosbat at 1:42 PM on March 30, 2007


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