Tragedy struck in California’s Yosemite National Park this weekend, when two BASE jumpers, one of whom was the celebrated climber Dean Potter, were killed in a wingsuiting accident.
Potter who was 43 and his jumping partner Graham Hunt, 29, launched off Taft point, one of the park’s famous cliffs, just after 7.30pm. They were attempting a difficult route that required them to fly through a notch on a rocky ridgeline.
“He was a larger-than-life character”
Their spotter, Potter’s girlfriend Jen Rapp, reported hearing two disconcertingly loud noises shortly afterwards. Although she wasn’t sure at the time if the sounds were impacts or just the noises of their parachutes snapping open.
But when the pair failed to arrive at their designated meeting point, Rapp and Hunt’s girlfriend Rebecca Haynie alerted the park authorities. A search party found their bodies the following morning. They had apparently not managed to deploy their parachutes.
Potter in particular was a well-known figure in the California rock climbing scene. His rapid solo and free-solo ascents of various classic Yosemite routes earned him a reputation as a skilled and daring climber.
In the early 2000s he began slack-lining across jaw-dropping gaps in the park, often without a safety tether, helping raise the profile of the sport in the process.
In recent years his BASE jumping and wingsuiting antics continued to attract attention.
One video, showing him wingsuiting with his beloved dog Whisper, attracted millions of views across the web.
“He was a larger-than-life character,” Mike Gauthier, the chief of staff in Yosemite National Park, told National Geographic. “He’s just in the pantheon of great athletes that people idolize and look up to.”
Despite attracting some controversy, in particular for his ascent of the fragile rock of Utah’s Delicate Arch in 2006, Potter was highly respected in the climbing and outdoor communities, earning the accolade of ‘Adventurer of the Year’ from National Geographic in 2009.
Our thoughts are with his and Graham Hunts’ families and friends.