I first discovered Dean Potter when watching the film Masters of Stone V; I was instantly in awe of his climbing ability. There was something about Dean that made him stick out from all the other climbers in the film, I think it was his calm persona and his togetherness with nature.
For those who aren’t familiar with Dean, he was a free solo climber, line walker, BASE jumper, and Freebaser, who for the past 30 years pushed the limits of adventure sports like know one had before.
Dean completed a variety of extreme slackline crossings without the aid of any safety equipment such as, harness, BASE-jumping parachute, or a safety lanyard. Some of the crossings in the Yosemite National Park California the lines were suspended over 900meters above the ground!
When it came to free solo climbing (this is ascending the face of a rock wall with no harness) Dean was in a class of his own. He climbed many new routes that had never been done before such as a part of El Capitan in Yosemite which had never been free soloed; where he pioneered a route he called “Easy Rider”, this section had moves graded at 5.10a, which is rated as one of the hardest climbs in the world (one of the hardest climb’s in the world with a harness on, Dean did it without a harness).
Dean played a big part in the rise of the sport of BASE jumping, which is a sport that grew out of Skydiving. BASE stands for building, antenna, span (architecture), and Earth (cliff) to be recognised as a BASE jumper, the person must have jumped from all four of these objects.
Through his free solo and BASE jumping Dean had created his own sport he called Freebase, this is where he would free solo a cliff face or object with a parachute on his back and then jump and release the parachute.
On the 16th of May 2015 Dean and his friend Graham Hunt were attempting a wingsuit BASE jump from Taft Point above the Yosemite Valley. As they were flying and manoeuvring through the cliffs they collided with the rocks. In a search for the two men a helicopter discovered their bodies. Neither of them had deployed their parachute.
In an interview with Dean he said “When I was a little boy, my first memory was a flying dream, in my dream, I flew — and I also fell. I always wondered as I got older if it was some premonition of me falling to my death.”
Dean’s memory will live on in the climbing and BASE jumping community, his spirit will live on in the Yosemite Valley forever. Dean died doing what he loved most, flying.
RIP Dean Potter (1972-2015)