Dean Potter (1972–2015)
Cedar Wright on his fearless climbing buddy and wingsuit pioneer:
“Dean changed the face of Yosemite climbing in the ’90s and early 2000s with his gladiator approach to soloing big walls. In fact, it’s fair to say that when Dean broke the Half Dome speed record in 1998, it changed everyone’s idea of what was possible. Same for his free-BASE climbs, where he climbed without any rope at all, just a parachute for protection. Then he wound up making wingsuit flights off just about every major feature in Yosemite, despite the fact that it was illegal, and off big walls in the Swiss Alps.
Dean will also be remembered as an antihero — always flipping the bird to authority. But it was Dean’s disregard for convention that made him compelling. He was bold to the point of being a little crazy, but if you were lucky enough to climb with him, incredible stuff would happen.
Dean died in a wingsuit jump in Yosemite in 2015. I was really sad, but I wasn’t shocked. People die doing this stuff all the time. There’s a mentality in the U.S. that you shouldn’t risk anything — you should die old with a house and kids. But not everyone is meant to live that way, and we need people who live like Dean. His life was shorter because of the risks he took, but his life was epic.”
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