It is with great sadness that we heard about the death of Dean Potter and his climbing companion Graham Hunt on Saturday evening, 16th May 2015. Both men were highly experienced wingsuit flyers, but this is a sport so extreme that lists are kept of those who don’t survive.
A portrait of Dean Potter in Yosemite Valley which appeared in the July 2011 Outside issue. Photo: Dean Fidelman
Potter and Hunt leapt off Taft Point, a 7,500-foot promontory that overlooks Yosemite Valley and El Capitan. BASE jumping is illegal in Yosemite National Park. They were airbourne for about 15 seconds before hitting the rock. Their spotter heard two sounds that could have been impacts or could have been the noises made by parachutes snapping open. She followed standard protocols, first trying to reach the pair by radio and then moving to a predetermined meeting place. “They were optimistic, thinking that the men might have been arrested,” says Mike Gauthier, Yosemite Chief of Staff. They were aiming for a narrow gap in the ridge and would have been travelling at close to 100 mph. They knew the region well and had flown threw the same notch many times before, but this time they were doing a night jump.
We have written about Dean Potter many times over the past few years and we have certainly written about his famed North Face of the Eiger climb and base jump when he set a record for the longest BASE jump ever, staying in flight using a wingsuit for 2 minutes and 50 seconds earning him the Adventurer of the Year title by National Geographic magazine and the magazine have a documentary video called ‘Fly or Die’ where they profile Dean’s wingsuit jumps and where he says: “Everyone kinda fantasizes about it — flying. And it’s an amazing place in history right now, that man actually has the skills to pull it off.”
However, pushing the boundaries didn’t necessarily make him friends. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company and a sponsor of Dean Potter, withdrew their sponsorship after Potter free climbed Utah’s iconic Delicate Arch in May 2006, his actions “compromised access to wild places and generated an inordinate amount of negativity in the climbing community and beyond.” His climb also resulted in all climbing of the fragile (named) arches and natural bridges in the Arches National Park. Although he lost some sponsors, others continued to support him including Adidas. “Dean Potter was an inspiration for many of us. He was an innovator and pioneer, always seeking for new creative solutions, an exceptional athlete and artist, who loved what he was doing,” Adidas said. “We lost a friend. You will be deeply missed Dean.”
Indeed he will – he will be missed by many in the extreme sports’ community.
RIP Dean Potter and Graham Hunt.