Climbing legend dies in BASE jumping accident

Dean Potter, 43, known for his daring free-solo climbing ascents, was found dead Sunday after an apparent BASE jumping accident in Yosemite National Park.

Climbing and extreme sports legend Dean Potter posted this picture of himself in a wingsuit to his Instagram page two weeks ago. Potter was found dead Sunday, May 17, 2015 after an apparent accident during a BASE jump attempt in Yosemite National Park in California. (Beat Kammerlander/Dean Potter/Instagram)
Climbing and extreme sports legend Dean Potter posted this picture of himself in a wingsuit to his Instagram page two weeks ago. Potter was found dead Sunday, May 17, 2015 after an apparent accident during a BASE jump attempt in Yosemite National Park in California. (Beat Kammerlander/Dean Potter/Instagram)

YOSEMITE VALLEY, Calif. (MEDIA GENERAL) – Climbing aficionado and extreme sports icon Dean Potter was found dead Sunday, May 17, 2015, after attempting a BASE jump in Yosemite National Park in California.

First reported by the magazine Outside, Potter, 43, along with Graham Hunt, 29, were reported missing by friends late Saturday after the two had attempted a BASE jump with wingsuits from Taft Point, a descent of approximately 3,500 feet.

According to Outside, their spotter first tried to reach the two men by radio after he heard sounds that “could have been impacts or could have been the noises made by parachutes snapping open.” After no radio communication, the spotter went to a predetermined meeting place. When the two jumpers failed to show up, the spotter called for help.

Climbing and extreme sports legend Dean Potter was found dead Sunday, May 17, 2015, after attempting a BASE jump from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park in California. The descent from Taft Point to the Yosemite Valley is approximately 3,500 feet. (Peter Dutton/Flickr Commons)
Climbing and extreme sports legend Dean Potter was found dead Sunday, May 17, 2015, after attempting a BASE jump from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park in California. The descent from Taft Point to the Yosemite Valley is approximately 3,500 feet. (Peter Dutton/Flickr Commons)

Yosemite chief of staff Mike Gauthier told Outside, “They were optimistic, thinking that the men might have been arrested.” BASE jumping is illegal almost everywhere, including in U.S. national parks.

Yosemite Search and Rescue initiated a search and rangers spotted the two bodies from the air Sunday. According to rangers, no parachutes were deployed.

Potter first gained notoriety in the nineties when he started making daring solo ascents of several notable climbing faces in Yosemite. He also took on free-solo ascents, where the climber does not use any ropes to protect themselves against a fall. Often, Potter would use a small parachute as his only safety device.

Potter’s death is another in a long line of fatalities among the fringe sport. Due to the sport’s nature, exact statistics of jumps and fatalities are unknown. BASE jumpers often have to keep jump plans and locations secretive to avoid prosecution. BASE jumping in a U.S. national park, for example, results in up to $2,000 in fines and the cost of any potential rescue operations. Park authorities also can confiscate all parachuting equipment, according to the National Park Service.

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