There was incredibly sad news in the climbing world this past weekend as the story broke that climbing legend Dean Potter died in a BASE jumping accident in Yosemite National Park. The 43-year old Potter was known as much for his free spirit and sense of adventure, as he was his incredible climbing and athletic skills.
The details of what exactly happened still aren’t clear, but on Saturday evening Potter was making a BASE jump with with Graham Hunt from Taft Point in Yosemite. Hunt was killed int he accident as well, and when neither of the two men showed up at a rendezvous point following the jump, their ground support crew didn’t panic. It was thought that they might have made their way out along a different route, or may have been arrested. BASE jumping is illegal in Yosemite, but the two men had made hundreds of jumps in the past, and were very experienced in the sport.
By Sunday, friends and family began to worry about the Potter and Hunt’s whereabouts, and a search and rescue operation was mounted in the national park. Their two bodies were discovered later in the day. Both men had fallen to their deaths without opening their parachutes, which only deepens the mystery.
Potter was a well known figure in the climbing and BASE jumping community. Back in 2006 he made a controversial climb up Delicate Arch in Arches National Park which drew the ire of many. He also raised eyebrows when he made a video of a wingsuit flight with his dog – Whisper – last year. But he was incredibly well respected for his fantastic climbing ability that allowed him to free solo some of the toughest routes in the world, and his athletic prowess was displayed only recently when he set a new speed record on Half Dome.
It is impossible to overstate just how much of a luminary Dean was in the adventure sports community. He has been a fixture in the Yosemite climbing scene for decades, and was known for pushing the boundaries of the activities that he loved, which included slacklining as well. To say that he will be missed will be an understatement, and my condolences go out to his friends and family. Dean’s ability to follow his own path, pursue his own dreams, and accomplish great things along the way was unmatched. We may never see the likes of Dean Potter again, and the climbing community has lost one of its brightest stars.