Nerves of Steel
For daredevil Hayley Ashburn, nothing is off limits.
While some of us are stuck in a cubicle or commuting to San Francisco, Walnut Creek native Hayley Ashburn is making a living jumping out of airplanes, free diving in exotic waters, and balancing on lines strung between cliffs. The former Las Lomas cheerleader is the author of two books and holds championship titles in extreme sports. Diablo caught up with her while she was home visiting.
Q: How did you get into all this?
A: I was a rock climber at [University of Colorado] Boulder, and I started slacking to train for climbing. Gibbon Slacklines opened up a branch in the United States in 2009, and they hired me to travel the nation by car. Then, I moved to Moab [Utah] after college—the Mecca of highlining.
Q: You take some serious risks. How do you keep your head in check?
A: I have a litany against fear. People assume that I’m not afraid: I’m not not afraid, it’s that I don’t let the fear paralyze me.
Q: You spend a lot of time hanging with the boys. What message do you have for other women?
A: My life really changed after I learned how to climb; I suddenly felt free, and the self-consciousness was gone. I want to be a role model for girls. I want to encourage them to go out there and use their bodies.
Q: Where are the best local slacklines?
A: There is a highline on Mount Diablo: It’s bolted and anchored near Rock City. There’s also one in my parents’ backyard, right here in Walnut Creek.
Q: You’ve traveled all over the world. What’s next for you?
A: I want to do a baseline jump off the middle of a highline. I’m also learning how to use a tracking [free-flying] suit.