Nik Wallenda is walking on the wild side again — this time, the wild side exists on a tightrope 1,800 feet above an active volcano in the Pacific Ring of Fire.
ABC’s “Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda,” the latest death-defying event from a Wallenda, comes with its own unique set of challenges. You know, beyond the fact that Nik could get wiped out by a lava blast live on broadcast television. (The Masaya Volcano in Masaya, Nicaragua is “an active freakin’ volcano that could erupt at any moment,” as Wallenda put it for TheWrap. It last erupted in 2008.)
For starters, the gases in the air there are so thick there that Wallenda says he will have to wear goggles and a gas mask. He’s never done that before.
“There’s a substance that comes out of the volcano from that lava that almost appears to be oily or greasy that could cause the wire to be slippery,” Wallenda told us ahead of Wednesday’s event. “The gases that come out actually eat wire, eat metal. We left a piece of cable in the canyon for six months and it literally dissolved because of those gases.”
Even the training has been a pain.
“Having to train with an oxygen deprivation mask, training with an oxygen tank, extra weight on your back, that throws your equilibrium off,” Wallenda, who is also an executive producer on the Dick Clark Productions special, said. “It’s bulkier, so in the wind, you’re not as aerodynamic.”
He’ll being mic’d up again for the walk. That offers a little something extra for the ABC viewer, but another challenge for Nik.
“I will tell you with lack of oxygen, I’ve been training with a deprivation mask and trying to talk the whole time just for training purposes, and it’s really hard. So the best thing you do is not talk so you can have your breath. You reserve your oxygen, basically.”
The actual walk should take Wallenda “25 to 30 minutes…depending on the elements.”
The whole way, Wallenda will be wearing a safety harness (“by my network partner’s choice, not by mine”) similar to the one he wore high above Times Square last summer. That’s not optional. What Wallenda is unsure about is if he’ll strap on an oxygen tank for the trek across the cable.
That will be “a last-minute decision,” he said. “Do I need it or not? And if I do, do I run out of oxygen cause it’s the smallest tank we could find that will potentially last 35 minutes? So if there’s need for– let’s say, God forbid something happened, then how long is my oxygen in the tank gonna last? Even if I’m holding on for help, I could run out of oxygen.”
“I mean it’s real,” Wallenda summed up the potential peril. “I mean they’re all real, but this one is more real than anything I’ve ever done as far as the layers, again, of risk and danger.”
The two-hour “Volcano Live! With Nik Wallenda” airs live Wednesday beginning at 8/7c on ABC. The primetime special will be tape-delayed for the mountain and pacific time zones.