In 2012 and 2013, the Iran Slackline team began posting stunning highline photos on social media. Caught by the imagery and a long standing dream to travel to Iran, Sonya reached out to Mohammad online with an abrupt question:
“Can Americans come to Iran to highline?”
“yes even us citizens can get in 🙂 no problem,” he responded immediately.
Of course, neither knew how hard it might, but a plan was blooming.
He mentioned how he wished to travel to the United States, to Moab especially, “but it’s just a dream for me,” he wrote.
“It’s not impossible,” Sonya answered.
Over the next year, the idea grew into Crossing Lines: US & Iran Slackline Exchange. A small group of Americans would travel to Iran to highline and adventure with the Iran Slackline team, then work to bring the Iranian guys to the U.S. to highline in the iconic homes of highlining, Yosemite and Moab.
Part 1: US to Iran
In October 2014, traveled to Iran to meet with Mohammad Reza Abaee, Kiavash Sharifi and other members of Iran Slackline and spend a month establishing new highlines, climbing, camping, and filming.
The trip began Tehran where we meet with the Iranian half of the team to embark on our adventure. We then traveled to the Bisotun International Rock Climbing Festival where Mohammad and Kiavash organized the highlining component of the event. After the festival, our highlining expedition traveled to Arak, Esfahan and Shiraz, to rig and walk lines previously established by Iran Slackline and to establish new lines.
Highlining in Iran began in 2012 during the Bisotun International Rock Climbing Festival when three French climbers/highliners Theo Sanson, Robin Exertier, and Jean-Charles Fayard (Slack.fr) gave Mohammad his first taste of exposure with three lines rigged at the festival. Shortly after, Iran Slackline began establishing new lines around Arak, Iran. In December 2013, a line was established overlooking Tehran and after a hiatus that winter due to gear loss, two new lines were established in March 2014.
In October, 2014, the three American members of Crossing Lines (Sonya Iverson, Jade Tabony, and Bradley Duling) landed in Tehran at 3 AM and began 2 1/2 weeks of highlining and shenanigans. We hosted the first Iranian International Highline Festival in collaboration with the Iranian Mountaineering Federation. We hung out with some base jumpers and helped document the first Iranian-American two-way wingsuit jump. We established new lines at two different sites, including opening an entirely new area near Shiraz. Jade sent her first highline ever in Iran. So did Sharif, the Iranian’s teams photographer.
Of course, not everything went quite according to plan. The car broke down on the first day of the trip. One of us showed up with the flu and passed it on. And then there was that other time the car broke down. And at the end, our car was broken into in Shiraz and we lost most of the photos and footage we’d taken when Mohammad’s camera was stolen. With most of our best media gone, plans to produce a Crossing Lines documentary stalled.
However, in 2016, Crossing Lines was revived in large part due to support from Mountain Hardwear, a new sponsor for the project.
We planned a trip back for October 2017, intending to complete the documentary project. However, the executive order that barred Iranians from traveling to the US resulted in reciprocal treatment of Americans seeking visas for Iran. We were unable to return. We still hope to complete this project in the coming years.
Part 2: Iran to US
Obtaining visas for our Iranian teammates to visit the US is not feasible at this time. We hold out hope that future policy changes will enable us to make this part of the project a reality.