This past week, the climbing community lost a true innovator, someone who pushed the limits of what was thought possible. Dean Potter was killed in a base jumping incident in Yosemite National Park. Sometimes Dean was a polarizing figure, inspiring to some, reckless to others, but always pushing himself and the activities he loved to the next level. So for this Weekend Warrior, we're taking a look back at Dean and some of his accomplishments, both in the world of climbing and base jumping.
Back in 2006, Dean Potter was the first to free solo Ron Kauk's iconic Yosemite climb, Heaven. At first glance, the steeply overhanging 5.12d/5.13a doesn't seem too big of a deal for a world-class climber. Unfortunately, the following video doesn't zoom out to show you the big picture - from the base of the route, the cliff slopes steeply away and as Alex Honnold says, "if you fell anywhere past the middle of the route, you'd bounce all the way down to the valley floor" which is about 3,000 ft below. Alex is the only other climber to solo the route.
Also in 2006, Dean was the third climber to solo Separate Reality, another Ron Kauk classic going originally at 5.12a, then later downgraded to 5.11d after a block fell off the end and exposed a better finish hold. The 6 meter long roof crack, awkward finish and amazing setting made this a big standout in the climbing world. It has since been climbed by other standout soloists like Honnold and Will Stanhope.
Also in 2006, Dean, Ammon McNeely, and Ivo Ninov set the speed record on the Reticent Wall, one of the hardest routes on El Capitan. As he mentions in the next video, Dean soured on the notion of speed climbing and climbing "competitions," but was eventually drawn back to the world of speed climbing. In 2010, Dean and Sean Leary broke the speed record of the Nose of El Capitan by shaving off 20 seconds from the previous record.
Beyond the world of climbing, Dean was also a major innovator in the world of slacklining and especially highlining.
Last year, Dean stirred up controversy when he based jumped with his dog in a specially designed backpack. Some thought it was cruel and selfish, but it Dean's mind it was more cruel to leave his faithful companion at home while he was out embracing life.
In the final video this weekend, Alex Honnold discusses with CNN how Dean not only pushed the sports he loved, but how he also pushed himself to overcome his fears.
Have a good weekend! - James