The climbing community around Yosemite National Park was reeling this weekend after the death of a well-known daredevil. Esteemed climber, base jumper and slack-liner Dean Potter, 43, was killed along with Graham Hunt, 29, during a base jump.
The pair had taken off on a winged base jump off 7,500-ft Taft Point overlooking Yosemite Valley and El Capitan, according to Outside Magazine. After not hearing from them, a spotter tried radioing with no reply, and a helicopter in the morning identified the bodies.
Potter has been a fixture in the climbing and base jumping community for decades, featured dozens of times in magazines and news stories around the country. Last year, he told Outside Magazine he had dreams about falling to his death.
“When I was a little boy, my first memory was a flying dream. In my dream, I flew — and I also fell,” he told the magazine. “I always wondered as I got older if it was some premonition of falling to my death.”
By his 20s, Potter made a name for himself by shattering free-climbing records. He scaled three-quarters of the way up Half Dome. He later climbed both Half Dome and El Capitan in 24 hours. In 2006, he stirred up controversy by free-climbing Utah’s famed Delicate Arches, causing him to lose professional sponsorships, after which he took on a defiant tone.
“We call the rangers ‘the tool,'” he told The Times in 2005. “They’re just kind of a tool of the government machine. They don’t use their own mind.”
A thrill-seeker who knew how to attract attention, Potter drew reporters to the story about him sky-diving with his dog Whisper, a miniature blue heeler who traveled with him everywhere.
His base jumping habits too were called into question as the sport is illegal in many places. He was kicked out of Yosemite numerous times. The jump that led to his and his partner’s death on Sunday too was illegal.
He also pulled off some phenomenal feats of balance and unbelievable daring that made him a legend in the climbing world. In 2012, at age 42, he slack-lined 130 feet across a 6,000-ft chasm in China.
To watch Dean Potter skydive with Whisper watch the video below: