"And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of
soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.” ― Maya Angelou
I met Dean Potter in South Tyrol and Salt Lake City. We had always a good time together: Dean was open, happy and shining of energy and creativity. We – the climbing community – have lost a key-figure of our best adventurers.
They come along once or twice a generation. They never bother reading the playbook, but simply make the game over in their own image. Their faults are often as outsized as their talents; they are worshiped and despised, photographed and crucified; the world is fickle and righteous, and many resent a Chosen One. Just as many chase after, trying to ride the slip stream. Starting in the early 1990s, Dean Potter was the Chosen One, perhaps the first person to ever achieve world-class proficiency in three adventure disciplines: climbing, slack-lining, and BASE jumping. Never a mere person, Dean Potter was an event. A force of Nature.
One time I was sitting with Dean Potter in the Yosemite Lodge Cafeteria and some kid from LA walked up to our table and asked Dean how he might get started speed climbing big walls. Go to a little crag and practice climbing safely and quickly, he said. Move on to bigger stuff carefully. The kid looked insulted. What the hell? You never bothered fiddling about on no small crag, said the kid. You just jumped up on the 2,000-foot high Half Dome and gassed it. That’s true, said Dean. But I never had to ask anyone how to do it.
Jona Marie Price:
I only met Dean one time, but of course I always knew of him. I found him particularly inspiring to me because he was one person who stood out to me as the guy who seemed to be on the forefront of everything extreme and had the where with all to withstand criticism so well. From my stand point, that seemed to be the environment he thrived in and I drew strength from that.
When asked to reflect on Dean I immediately thought of a story. Dean of course was an inspiration and we marveled and waited patiently for what he would do next. When my sons were young and learning to climb I would tell them stories of Dean's climbs and adventures. One day when while we were in Yosemite and I had pointed to a climb Dean had soloed they asked where he lived. I told them that he lived in Yosemite. Their faces exploded with excitement. "Here? Dean Potter lives here?" When I said yes, they couldn't believe that they were walking in a place Dean might have walked. I often feel the same way when I am in Yosemite.
I am walking the trails of giants, of people who inspire us to be better than we were the day before. When I told my sons of Dean's passing they were hurt and felt loss in the same way you do when you learn Santa Clause is not real. There is less magic in the world today. Thank you Dean for offering so much of yourself to those who only knew of you. You will not be forgotten and the stories of you will never need to be embellished, your remarkable life was enough and beyond description.
Dean lived his life on the edge of the knife, a modern Samurai. The feats of his existence are proof positive that a single supercharged human being, unconstrained by boundaries and conventions, can accomplish things the rest of us can barely conceive of as being possible. This world is a grayer place without him.
Whenever Dean Potter would pick a project to focus on, he made sure that it was impossible. Then slowly, step by step he would put all of his boundless energy into this project, be it a solo climb, a high line or a BASE jump. Some times it would take months or years of work, but in the end Dean did the impossible.
I didn't know Dean well, but every interaction I had with him left me with a feeling of insufficiency. It wasn't that I wasn't doing enough, but a desire to do more. I know the word 'inspirational' has been used a lot in reference to Dean, but that's who he was. As a person. When I think of the ways he inspired me, it wasn't with his legendary climbing accomplishments, or BASE jumping adventures, but the personal interactions we shared. He had this way of making me feel special, like our conversation was an intimate treasure. He was insightful, and thought provoking. To me, he was the epitome of living in the moment. He's the definition of a legend. He was a mentor, and a friend. His last email sign-off to me was, "Ciao, little sista." So, ciao, brother. You are already so missed.
So very sad. I would just say that Dean had an infectious love and respect for Yosemite. He inspired so many, myself included. And was someone that could push the boundaries in his own way. He moved our sport forward. He had a big heart and shared it well.
Dean Potter was invincible. He and Stanley we're some of the strongest monkeys I ever knew. That became ever so apparent the day I watched those silverbacks come racing up over The Nose and miss the record by seconds. They sat down at "the tree" in an awkward silence, so I asked Dean "Do you think Hans will be psyched to come back and try to break the record". The dark wizard was not having it... "I don't give a %^$# about Hans, you want me to break your camera dude!!!???" "Sorry." I mumbled and shuffled off. I knew he wasn't gonna break my camera and I knew I had just touched a nerve with the wizard, so I sheepishly left the scene. Dean came up later and we laughed about the whole thing. "I wasn't gonna break your camera dude, we're good". He was kind. He had passion. And most of all, he was a visionary. Weird or not, Dean pushed many different sports and will leave a legacy for years to come.
Just before Graham Hunt aka "Grambo" headed out to the valley this spring, we set up for a big mission outside Moab. Grambo and my buddy Brian would climb up Castleton, bumbling filmmaker in tow, and Grambo would open the very first wingsuit exit on this iconic tower. We all got an early start and I watched as Grambo quickly led all the pitches, fixed a rope for myself, hauled both his and Brian's "magic backpacks" up the mountain, and got us on top before the winds turned sour. "One magic backpack ah ah ah..." "Two magic backpack ah ah ah" Grambo sheepishly sang these words in the voice of "the count" from Sesame Street as he hauled both parachutes to the summit of the tower. The jump was flawless, he nailed it. It became apparent to me that Grambo was one of the best. He was calculated, smooth, confident, but most of all, calm. He knew what he was doing and he loved doing it.
Dean was an explorer of worlds. The physical world to be sure, but as his physical talents pressed the limits of insane; he also tapped into the other world - the seventh sense. He traveled outside of time and space, where most of us live out our lives, to another consciousness. In this way, Dean focused on the moment and suppressed human frailties like fear. As adventure athletes, we may approach the seventh sense once or twice in our lifetime, while Dean mastered it, used it daily, and I imagine grudgingly, but calmly died with. He's now in our consciousness.
There are of course many fine climbing areas on our planet but I believe one to be outstanding! Thus to be outstanding in such a place takes a truly exceptionally character. Dean took the Valley by storm and quite simply upped the benchmark. The world passes through Yosemite & aspires to step up to its test pieces: few of course do.
As per jumping my partner & mentor both passed away within a short time of each other, I took stock and side stepped aerial fun. But what a ride! The rush is second to none! Never tried heroin but bet it’s not dissimilar in the way you just want more, almost to the point you’d sprint to the nearest ‘exit’ point, knowing the risk but all perfectly justified by the sensation.
Many a climber has left their mark and “conquered” but to touch & inspire others while on one’s quest takes a broader person. Dean has drawn a fresh generation into his wake, he’s left thousands of us with a smile for his antics and a hole at his loss! A sad passage from friend to legend!
I had the blessing of knowing Dean since before he and I moved into the sponsorship realm. Dean was an amazing figure in our community. He represented freedom and a perhaps a bit of a rebel spirit to many. He was known for soaring with the ravens and I am sure he is now flying full time with them.
This is so sad! Dean has been a huge inspiration for me, but we never actually met. We crossed paths once at the pizzeria in Yosemite. I wish now I had summoned the courage to say hello...
Although I’ve never been much of a BASE jumper and I did my last free solo in 2010, I’ve always admired Dean Potter (to be honest Graham Hunt is almost unknown to me, may he rest in peace, too). I’ve only met Dean twice but those short meetings left a huge impression on me. I’ve always been inspired by Dean, not only because he is also from New Hampshire, not only because of his BASE jumping exploits, not because of his free soloing in Yosemite, not only because I think that his solo on the Supercanaleta on Cerro Fitz Roy in Patagonia is a remarkable climbing achievement. My main source of inspiration was Dean’s attitude towards life.
He was a person with presence, a real, big presence. He was a man who wanted to live fully and who always thought in depth about things in life. He wanted to explore his own self and this is something most of us never do. His climbs and jumps may seem reckless and crazy, but actually they require a great amount of calculation and planning. Potter’s art was a risky but noble one, and art of dreams come true. I don’t really regard his death as “tragedy”, he knew well that the sports he practiced involve substantial amounts of risk. As British mountaineer Joe Simpson once said: “You can climb at a sufficient level and have a fantastic time and never have an accident, never come anywhere near death, But if you look at those who tried to take climbing to a higher level – the death rate is huge”. Same is valid for BASE jumping, yet Dean took both activities to a higher level.
I see myself as one of those who prefer to have a fantastic time, while never coming anywhere close to death. However, people like Dean, who follow the motto “The closer you are to death, the more you realize you are alive.” were and always will be my main source of inspiration. Thank you, Dean Potter, for showing me how to dream and how to follow my dreams.
We all exist, but few of us dare to fully live their lives. Only the spirit of those who really lived will endure. Farewell, Dean, goodbye, Graham. I’m sure you’ll have fun on your flight to eternity.
Jimmy Hopper Jr.
I feel lucky to have stood shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the envelope with Dean Potter and many other great talents for a short while. The intense "battlefield" friendships that are forged through this sport are difficult to describe and impossible to duplicate if the risk weren't present. Dean Potter, my memories of our adventures will always burn bright. I'm going to miss you, my friend.
Robbie Phillps (Scotland):
Dean Potter lived his life for freedom, exploration and imagination. He never stopped visualising the possibilities of the impossible, and that is why he will forever inspire us to see beyond the cold stone walls of limitation and dare to imagine that anything in life is possible.
I only met him once at the Trade Show in SLC last year but he was an amazing person and ambassador to our sport as well as the slacklining and BASE communities. He did so much in regards to action sports in mainstream media. We lost an idol, a friend, a mentor and a father figure. It's terrible. I send out my best wishes and regards to his girlfriend and her children as well as the friends and family of the young man who was with Dean, Graham Hunt.
It's beyond tragic that such an accident had to happen, let alone to these two. I know the action sports community will open up to the friends and family of both Dean and Graham and help out in any way possible and that's why it's such an amazing community to be a part of.
"We'll send Peaches down last." Dean Potter said in regards to rapping off the sketchy anchors on the Third Mary. "He's the most expendable."
"I heard that! Mother Fucker!" I shouted. We laughed. It was a light moment during the recovery of Sean Leary's body. Dean, Jimmy Hayden, Jonathan Thesenga and I were the pallbearer's, helping to bring Sean's body back down from the thousand foot cliff. Sean died base jumping in Zion National Park in the spring of 2014. Dean apologized later, telling me that he was only "just" kidding.
Graham Hunt met us at the base. I was also friends with Hunt. Gonna miss both those guys.
I did know him a little. And, I certainly admired him.
I was only around Dean a few times, once when he flew straight over the top of us when we were mid way up on El Cap, a friend of mine said he was going to be practicing his jumps, before doing speed climbing on El Cap and Half Dome in a day, and another time when he almost ran over me coming out of the Yosemite Lodge...he looked at me and smiled and stepped off to the side and I said to myself ...Oh my God that was Dean Potter. He looked very approachable and had a charisma about him that was...well you knew he was a special human being, its sad to have lost Dean, for you, me and everyone else. So sad to see Dean go even if you didn't know him personally. His mega talent and boldness in the outdoors was jaw- dropping but what people will miss more than anything was the kind, humble soul of Dean Potter. My sincerest condolences to all of Dean's family and friends.
I really didn't know Dean but I can tell you that I am still stunned by the event none the less. Such a prevalent force in the climbing community gone in an instant! He was an interesting person that touched all people he came into contact with, directly or indirectly in a way that will leave a mark which will outlive most of us. I cannot explain why I am feeling such a void other than the fact that I greatly admired him, his character and his ability to inspire. Since the news came of his passing, I have only been able to think of ways to honor him by living life most completely; picking the very thing that inspires and challenges me most and doing it, and by fulfilling my dreams...now.
His presence and aura made you feel like you were in the company of someone very very special.
I met Dean bouldering in Camp 4 during the 90s. He had already gained mythological status and I was excited to meet him. My buddy and I were wondering around some boulders and turned a corner, there he was sitting on his crash pad, all covered in chalk. He talked to my buddy Blitzo and asked me what I was into. I told him bouldering and easy trad. We passed the peace pipe and he told me some good easy routes to do. He also mentioned that when he started trad climbing, he started with the 5.0s and worked his way up, trying not to skip any climbs. He was methodical in his approach, and very humble. He asked me what I had done so far and was genuinely stoked for me, saying I had already compiled a solid foundation of classic climbs. We chilled out and went through my guide book and he showed me a few good single pitch trad climbs nearby.
When we were done with the guide, he then proceeded to boulder something I couldn't even get off the ground on. I saw him around after the years, and he'd give me a wink or a second glance which meant a lot to me. He embodied many aspects of the human condition I related to, the bad side of over competitiveness to the good side of humility. I liked Dean because he was real, with his good and bad sides. He wasn't fake and didn't care about putting up a front. I respect and will miss seeing Dean doing his thing. Rest in Peace, brother.
Some of my closest friends in the climbing world were very close with him. I got to hang out in LA with him for a day last September. He always struck me as one of those rare individuals who was very deliberate about why he was in pursuit of exploring a certain passion- much more like an artist with an incredible craft than an athlete. He had a strong sense of code and he was deliberate with what he did and who he did it with. There could be no other path than the one he was on.
Dean was a man of passion. I had the honor of meeting Dean while he resoled shoes at Pete 's outside of Hueco Tanks years ago. I have always admired his drive and his ability to put passion first.
Dean was an inspirational trailblazer who was at the forefront of generating awareness for extreme sports and alpine environmentalism. As an adventure enthusiast and pioneer, Dean will be greatly missed.
I never met Dean but I was following him through the media. He lighted the future and traced a unique and original way without worrying about the conventions. Very inspiring!
Indeed, Dean's passing has affected us all. While I didn't know Dean well personally, I felt a kinship with him. He was perhaps the most misunderstood individual among our climbing tribe. I feel sad that his life was so fraught with controversy, which only served as a distraction from his greatness as an athlete. His speed climbs in Yosemite and his long, hard crack lines around Moab were cutting edge and inspired me personally decades ago.
I feel like he was meant to push as hard as he did, with climbing and eventually with BASE jumping and wing suit flying. I don't think he would want us to mourn his passing, but perhaps to look again at his life and re-evaluate those things which made him a pariah and look within ourselves to question why. He was a bright star, maybe too bright at the time. He made mistakes, as we all have, but he was a unique and driven individual, one whose eccentricities were an integral part of his genius. May his soul rest in peace.
Dean’s wild, free spirit, deep respect for nature, and soulful way of life captivated me instantly. While he danced across the rock with incredible power and grace, his perspective on living and passion for life inspired me most and gave me my first glimpse into the world of climbing. He was courageous, beautiful, and lived life on his own terms. He will always inspire me to chase what ignites my soul. Fly free in blue skies...
Very sad news indeed. I never got the chance to meet Dean in person, but to me he came across as a true character always pursuing his passions with a unique vision and enjoying life to the fullest every day. The world needs more people like him.
Ulyana Nadia Horodyskyj:
I never had the chance to meet Dean Potter. But from what I know about him, he led an extraordinary life, pushing his body, mind and spirit to the limits. He knew what it meant to live. To be free. To meet nature on its terms. Dean’s creative and innovative approaches to his arts of climbing, slacklining and BASE-jumping are legendary. Though he is physically gone, I have no doubt that his memory and indomitable spirit will live on. Rest in peace, Dean.
Meeting Dean in person would have been amazing but I was not given that opportunity. Yet I have read and heard about his incredible adventure career and spirit! I didn't have to know him in person to be inspired! His reach went far and wide all over the world, and will continue. Because of him so many learned to fall in love with adventure and living life to the fullest. The climbing community and world has lost a good man who left a gift to this world to last for all time. Dean has his forever wings now, doing what brought him so much joy! Most people who live doing what they love would not want live any other way. I hope we can all aspire to live as whole and rich a life as he did. You will be missed Dean, but your spirit lives on in us all.
What a great loss. I met Dean about 7 years ago at one of his film premieres. Great guy, so much strength, perseverance and innovation with the way he looked at things in Life. He was always interested in what I was up to with my skiing and sometimes you had to almost force his new ideas or innovations out of him.
While I didn't know him especially well, in the few times I met him while attending climbing events or film events, he was genuine and fun to chat with. I definitely had a sense that he had no fear at all in anything he did. That kind of focus I definitely admire and have applied to my projects in climbing, skiing, and writing my books, as well as the documentaries I have been a part of. Dean's legacy will be remembered by everyone in the world of extreme adventure.
For the past two decades Dean Potter set a standard of excellence in the world of climbing and base jumping. He pushed the envelope in every imaginable way, taking the standards of the day, throwing them out the window, and reinventing the way soloing big walls and base jumping was practiced. Always at the cutting edge, his imagination was a thing of beauty. Thank you for shaping the future of our sport, we are all thankful for the impact you had on all of us.
German El Sherman:
When I met Dean in 2002, I was also "free", living in a tent on a campsite of El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina. I did care about the future in a way, but I also felt detached from material possessions and I choose to live my life with all those moments of euphoric enlightenment as climbed exposed routes. Once we were talking in this base camp, a sunny beautiful afternoon and I'd asked Dean if he thought that sometimes something might happen to him when soloing while climbing Fitz Roy or Cerro Torre; he said "I hope not, I know I'm just as mortal as you or as anybody else, but I do feel that we all live with this in mind; we are just not aware that if we take the wrong decision anything can happen whether you a walking down the street of climbing here, in Patagonia"
A couple of days later he soloed the Supercanaleta route in the Fitz Roy massif, when we saw him back down at base camp in such a short time we thought that he didn't manage to climb it and came back down earlier.... He did things that seemed impossible back then, he pushed the boundaries as far as he could. I know that sometimes he might have rubbed people the wrong way, but I only saw a the friendly side of him.
A huge, tall, soft spoken gentle giant... I felt in peace next to him and had a huge respect towards his aspirations as a climber and as a human being...
I spent sometime roping up with Dean, and would occasionally see him on trips out west. He was soft spoken and very kind, the first time I heard of Dean was when he soloed "King Tut". Years latter I got to climb with him, I was blown away with his endurance and energy level. Dean open up doors for what the mind and body are capable of, truly a zen master. He we be missed by all he touched. My condolences to his girlfriend and family members. One love to Steph Davis as well.
My heart broke today.
I hadn't seen anything on the media and actually found out about our friend's recent departure after randomly calling an old friend up---the same friend who originally introduced me to Dean in March of 2010. When I heard the news, I was on my way to work. What ensued was an hour and a half of trying to orchestrate a deep tissue massage whilst not dripping snot or tears onto my client's back.
I think the most shocking part of accepting this is that, looking back, it's pretty clear that Dean was already living in the spirit world. He was not afraid of death because he knew it was already a part of life and a part of him. For him, flying was the closest thing he found to connecting his physical and spiritual realities, for he was born as a flyer; and his will to break free of his physical body's constraints was strong.
He had a supernatural energy about him that came through in everything he did. He had a profound belief in magic, and one that rubbed off on other people. I've heard him likened to an alien before, though that label does not do him justice.
I first met Dean at the Yosemite Lodge while asking an I Ching oracle questions with friends. We ended up climbing the next day, and I immediately knew he was a special soul. At the time, I was homeless and had been spending many of my nights walking various loops to Tenaya Lake, in the snow, just to do something and not impose on my DNC friends. Dean housed me for much of the next three months, because his heart was pretty much as gargantuan as his physical incarnation was. I think his height was the Universe's way of showing us that Dean was some kind of bridge between earth and celestial existence.
To say Dean was inspiring barely touches on his mark on this world. He truly saw life through such a unique lens. I'm not sure I ever completely understood all his advice back then, to be honest, but I can say for sure that I am still learning from him. I got to see him and Sean Leary jump off an unmentionable granite wall one time, through a hole in the clouds, after telling him over a cell phone that I thought it "might be possible." I remember the tiny specks getting larger and larger and next thing I knew, I was standing next to two little kids in grown men's bodies, beaming with these smiles that I will never forget.
Dean knew that a person can do anything if he or she has enough heart and dedication, and he dedicated his life and heart to showing us all that.
I think we all know he's flying around Yosemite now... At least he doesn't have to worry about rangers anymore....Fly in Peace, Dean.
Thank you for your teachings.
I only met Dean a few times but I was always struck by how massive he was, in height and in character. One of the things I love most about the climbing community is the all the characters that are larger than life. Dean was larger than life. He had such a unique imagination for bold and adventurous feats in climbing, slack-lining and BASE-jumping. Even though I'm sure he'll be missed he'll remain a huge inspiration for a long time.
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
― Kurt Vonnegut
Dean Potter. Photo Credit: Filmfest St. Anton
Dean Potter: A Tribute