This is Dean Potter, one of the world’s best climbers, walking between ledges of a U-shaped rim above Hell Roaring Canyon, a 400-foot sheer sandstone wall on his right, a 900-foot drop to a dry riverbed on his left. He is using no leash to tether him to safety but is relying on a parachute to save his life if he should fall, as he says “now instead of dying, I am flying!” Even then there is danger involved. If he has an ‘unplanned’ fall his ‘chute could snag against the rock sides or he himself could be blown into the cliff sides. It is better to jump when you realize that you are about to lose your balance so you have a controlled departure!’
At 35, Potter has long stirred wonder as a climber. Six years ago, in Yosemite National Park, he became the first person to free climb El Capitan and Half Dome together in less than 24 hours, meaning he used ropes only for protection in case he fell, climbing only with his hands and feet for a vertical mile. It was an effort requiring remarkable concentration and speed that would be unthinkable for an average weekend climber.
He is believed to be the first person to combine the adventure sports of highlining and BASE-jumping and renaming it Baselining.
Highlining is a high-wire version of slacklining which in itself is an extreme cousin of tightrope walking in which no pole was used for balance and the rope was elastic.
“When there’s a death consequence, when you are doing things that if you mess up you die, I like the way it causes my senses to peak,” Potter said. “I can see more clearly. You can think much faster. You hear at a different level. Your foot contact on the line is accentuated. Your sense of balance is heightened. I don’t seem to feel that very often meditating.”
Dean Potter is pioneering the new extreme sport of baselining!