Dean Potter

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Dean Potter
Dean Potter
Dean Potter
Born (1972-04-14)April 14, 1972
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
Died May 16, 2015(2015-05-16) (aged 43)
Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Wingsuit flying accident
Nationality United States
Occupation Rock climber
Known for Rock climbing, alpinism, BASE jumping, highlining
Height 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Spouse(s) Steph Davis (m. 2002–10) (divorced)

Dean S. Potter (April 14, 1972 – May 16, 2015) was an American free climber, alpinist, BASE jumper, BASEliner, and highliner.[1] He was noted for hard first ascents, free solo ascents, speed ascents, and enchainments in Yosemite National Park and Patagonia. Potter died in a wingsuit flying accident in Yosemite National Park.[2]

Early life[edit]

Dean Potter was born in 1972[3][4] to an Army officer in a military hospital at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas[5] and grew up in New Hampshire. He taught himself to climb when he was in high school in southern New Hampshire. He attended the University of New Hampshire, where he rowed varsity crew and the coach urged the team not just to beat the competition, but to "own" them. Potter decided that he didn't want to "own" anyone and he quit college and pursued his passion for climbing.[6]

Free climbing[edit]

Potter climbed many new routes and completed many solo ascents in Yosemite and Patagonia. He free-solo climbed a small part of El Capitan in Yosemite, where he pioneered a route he called "Easy Rider" by climbing down the slabby upper pitches of the route Lurking Fear (hardest moves rated grade 5.10a) and then traversed Thanksgiving Ledge to complete the last six pitches and six hundred feet of the route Free Rider (hardest pitch 5.11d, two pitches of 5.10d, 5.10b, 5.10a and 5.7). This was the first major section of El Capitan to be free soloed, but his path avoided the significantly more challenging climbing on what is the easiest way up El Capitan below (several 5.12 pitches, with difficulty up to 5.12d on Free Rider).[7][8]

Speed climbing[edit]

In July 2006, Potter climbed '"The Reticent Wall", one of the hardest routes on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, in 34 hours and 57 minutes with Ammon McNeely and Ivo Ninov, shaving five days off the existing time.[9] Potter and Sean Leary set a new speed record for climbing up The Nose of El Capitan in November 2010. They ran up the 31-pitch route in 2 hours, 36 minutes, 45 seconds. This was only twenty seconds quicker than the existing record, set the previous October by Yuji Hirayama and Hans Florine.[10]

Highlining and BASE jumping[edit]

Potter was known for his exploits in highlining and BASE jumping. He was introduced to slacklining by Charles Victor Tucker III, known as "Chongo",[11] one of the first three people to highline across Lost Arrow Spire. Potter completed a variety of highline crossings without benefit of a safety lanyard, backup line or BASE-jumping parachute. Some of these crossings included lines suspended as much as 3,000 feet (910 m) above the ground in Yosemite National Park.

In 2014 he released a 22-minute long film, When Dogs Fly, that chronicled the extreme adventures of his dog Whisper. The film became a viral phenomenon, but also attracted criticism from animal rights activists.[12]

Delicate Arch climb[edit]

Controversy surrounded Potter after his 2006 climb of Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, for which he lost his sponsorship from the Patagonia clothing company. "There wasn't any legal reason for me not to climb it," Potter said of Delicate Arch, despite well-established tradition forbidding climbing named features in the park. This incident resulted in a blanket ban on the activity within Arches National Park. Potter had previously created conflict with Park authorities by slacklining between the Three Gossips.[13][not in citation given]

"I didn't see any moral reason not to climb it. I didn't hurt it,"[14] he said, though rope grooves in the soft sandstone were later found, possibly created or enhanced by the professional photographers Potter brought along to publicize the climb.[13]

Potter said he would not climb Totem Pole, the spire in Monument Valley that Navajo imbue with religious significance. Delicate Arch, despite its prominence on Utah license plates, did not have the stature of the sacred Arizona tower, he said: "I didn't see a reason why it's wrong, why we shouldn’t mesh with nature."[14] An account said: "At first Potter's handler in Patagonia spread the word of his climb by calling [sic] a press release to the Salt Lake Tribune. Public outrage was immediate, though, especially in Utah, where many see Delicate Arch as a symbol for the state's wild beauty."[13]

Potter's Delicate Arch climb became the topic of the song "Not All Roses" by rapper Odub (Kris Hampton), released on the web on April 2, 2007. On April 11, 2007, Potter's lawyer sent Hampton a cease and desist letter advising him to halt all distribution of the song. Hampton subsequently released a follow-up song called "Cease and Desist".[15]

Death[edit]

On May 16, 2015, Potter and Graham Hunt were killed[16] while attempting an illegal[2] proximity wingsuit flight from Taft Point above Yosemite Valley. They had made this flight before, but it still required precision to make it through a small notch. Hunt hit a side wall. Potter had cleared the notch and then crashed. They both died on impact.[17] Neither of their parachutes had deployed.[18][19][20] This was the fifth base jumping death in U.S. National parks since January 2014.[21]

Notable ascents[edit]

  • 2002 Supercanaleta, Cerro Fitz Roy, Patagonia. First solo of route.[22]
  • 2003 Concepcion 5.13+ (67m), Day Canyon, Moab, Utah. First ascent.[23]
  • 2006 Heaven (5.12d/13a) Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley. First solo ascent.[24]
  • 2006 Southern Belle (V 5.12d R/X), Half Dome, Yosemite Valley. Second ascent with Leo Houlding.[25]
  • 2008 Deep Blue Sea (5.12+), Eiger, Bernese Alps, Switzerland. First FreeBASE ascent of the Eiger.[26]
  • 2010 The Nose, El Capitan, Yosemite. Fastest ascent (2:36:45)[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Real Water Productions: Moonwalk". Vimeo. July 12, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Kaplan, Sarah (May 18, 2015). "Dean Potter, extreme climber, dies in Yosemite base jumping accident". Washington Post. Retrieved May 20, 2015. 
  3. ^ Dean Potter on outdoorsportsteam.com
  4. ^ Dean Potter killed in base jump on climbing.com
  5. ^ "Dean Potter: What I've Learned". rockandice.com. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ Arnold, Katie (2007). "The Man Who Thinks He Can Fly". ESPN. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  7. ^ Roy, Adam. "The First (almost) Free Solo of El Cap". Outside Magazine Blog. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  8. ^ Bisharat, Andrew (May 18, 2015). "How Dean Potter Reinvented Climbing, Jumping, Flying". National Geographic News. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  9. ^ McDonald, Dougald. "Reticent Wall in a Single Push". Climbing Magazine. Skram Media LLC. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  10. ^ a b "The Nose, new record on El Capitan by Leary and Potter". Planet Mountain. November 8, 2010. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  11. ^ Janice Ahn, Brian Murphy, Ritesh Batra, Daniel Patterson, Keith Davis (December 18, 2008). Chongo (Short film). Cisco. Archived from the original on February 15, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  12. ^ "US daredevil Dean Potter dies during flying stunt". BBC News. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c Neville, Tim. "How Delicate Was Dean?". Outside Online. Mariah Media Inc. Retrieved February 15, 2011. [dead link]
  14. ^ a b Thuermer, Angus M. "Climber Potter, Patagonia agree to split the synchilla". Jackson Hole News & Guide. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  15. ^ Levine, Whitney. "Not All Roses: Climbing Rapper in Hot Water over Delicate Arch Parody". Climbing Magazine. Skram Media LLC. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  16. ^ Friends Remember Graham Hunt and Dean Potter on alpinist.com
  17. ^ Lucas, James (May 19, 2015). "Dean Potter and I Recovered Dead BASE Jumpers". thedailybeast.com. The Daily Beast Company LLC. Retrieved May 19, 2015. 
  18. ^ Branch, John (May 17, 2015). "Dean Potter, Extreme Climber, Dies in BASE-Jumping Accident at Yosemite". The New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2015. 
  19. ^ Schaffer, Grayson. "Dean Potter Killed in BASE Jumping Accident". Outside Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2015. 
  20. ^ Bisharat, Andrew (May 17, 2015). "Pioneering Climber Dean Potter Killed in BASE Jumping Accident". National Geographic. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Helmet camera captured Dean Potter's deadly Yosemite cliff jump". The Sacramento Bee. May 20, 2015. Retrieved May 21, 2015. 
  22. ^ MacDonald, Dougald (January 8, 2009). "Haley Solos Fitz Roy's Supercanaleta". Climbing Magazine News. Skram Media. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  23. ^ Pegg, Dave (June 24, 2003). "Immaculate Concepcion". Climbing Magazine News. Skram Media. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  24. ^ Hansen, Holly (September 11, 2006). "Potter in Free Solo Heaven". Climbing Magazine News. Skram Media. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  25. ^ MacDonald, Dougald (November 10, 2006). "Scary Half Dome Route Gets Second Free Ascent". Climbing Magazine News. Skram Media. Retrieved May 27, 2009. 
  26. ^ Thomasma, Melissa (August 13, 2008). ""FreeBASE": Dean Potter on the Eiger Nordwand". Alpinist. Alpinist LLC. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 

External links[edit]