The only very loose connection to Richard Armitage here was a reference to Dean Potter in my Armitage? At The Vet Office dream, when Richard told me he wanted “a dog like Dean’s” who would be capable of riding in a harness while Richard went downhill skiing… the little male dog in that dream was no doubt based on the real Dean Potter’s dog, Whisper. She happens to be a female dog, but otherwise Whisper was basically the same rough and ready little Australian Cattle Dog mix who so impressed Richard in my ridiculous dream… it was just this type of macho dog that Richard Armitage was looking for (and I was naturally able to provide for him.) The real Whisper rode in a harness on Dean’s back during BASE jumps, extreme mountain climbing and even wingsuit flying. So there’s the admittedly tenuous connection to RA. And, ok, now that I think about it, Dean did look a little like Richard Armitage, same height, and was about the same age as well.
Yeah, so I may have mentioned once or twice that I have this thing for rock climbers. I don’t actually climb myself (and I don’t really want to), though both my kids are in beginning climbing classes at the local climbing gym and they love it. And, well, Mommy enjoys hanging out watching *all* the climbers. My interest has always been more of a fascination with the lifestyle and the mindset of some of these guys. Let’s face facts… a lot of these men are just hot. (NSFW example of climbing hottie Chris Sharma). I have quite a collection of videos featuring lean male muscle, ropes, harnesses, gorgeous rock formations… And one of my favorite guys was always Dean Potter. Just something about him, the free spirit, the brooding intensity, living life to the maximum. A controversial figure who was dropped by more than one sponsor, but I followed him on Instagram and felt like he was a really cool guy. Not my kind of guy, but still someone I felt such a fascination for.
Dean Potter was world-renowned for his extreme pursuits. Not only the free soloing, which is basically where they climb with no harness, no ropes, which is absolutely insane, but also for pushing the free-soloing to new extremes and pushing his own comfort-zone limits by starting what he called “free basing” which is where he would wear a parachute as he free solo’d, just in case. If you really want a great video of some amazing male and female free solo climbers, I’d suggest this link. I defy you to watch this and not get sweaty palms. And the guy that falls- that’s Dean. He survived the fall in the video because that was a parachute on his back.
As if free soloing and free basing weren’t enough, Dean Potter was also known for his talents at highlining, or high altitude slack lining, which is where they walk across a rope. Sometimes he had a harness or parachute on, sometimes he didn’t. This mystifies me. I can admire it, but I’d never wish to see any of my own loved ones attempt such stunts!
And then there was the BASE jumping and the wingsuit flying. Basically, BASE jumping is parachuting off of an object or cliff rather than out of an aircraft, and wingsuit flying is when they dive off and fly for a minute or two in a special type of “winged” garb before they deploy the parachute. Dean was a pioneer in the fringe sport of wingsuit flying, and he even would do it with Whisper on board. The veterinarian in me does not approve of subjecting the dog to this level of risk. It was Saturday, May 16 when Dean Potter and a friend of his, Graham Hunt, were simultaneously killed in a wingsuit accident at dusk in Yosemite National Park in California. Whisper was not on board. I only heard about it yesterday, though. Sigh.
BASE jumping and wingsuit flying are illegal in all the National Parks in America. To my knowledge, this is mainly because of the risk involved and the expense involved in rescue/recovery. I think there are many places around the world where it is not illegal, but here in the USA, it is punishable by arrest and hefty fines. This means a lot of the jumps happen around dusk to reduce the risk of being caught by park authorities. Unsure exactly what went wrong, except that the word in the climbing blog circles is that after jumping off of Taft Point, the fliers had to navigate through some sort of a cleft or notch before they would be over the valley where they could deploy the parachutes. I can only assume that poor visibility or a some kind of forceful wind draft drew them off course, as neither had a chance to deploy their parachutes. It’s said it was a flight that both had successfully navigated multiple times.
I don’t understand the mindset that allows people to take such extreme risks. Compelling as the personalities may be, it just saddens me sometimes. I read a statistic that there is a fatality rate of something on the order of 1 fatality per 2300 BASE jumps, compared to 1 per 200,000 traditional parachuting fatalities. And that some 75% of people involved in the sport had directly witnessed a fatality or life-threatening/near miss/serious injury incident. I don’t condemn it, though I do feel extremely sorry for their loved ones when the inevitable happens.
I don’t believe that either man in this case had dependents, unless you count little Whisper… although I know Dean was a father figure to his girlfriend’s 3 children, as I saw a lot of pictures of him with those kids on his Instagram account. I do realize that the day will come for all of us… that death is inevitable no matter how safe you play it. And many in the climbing community believe that at least Dean Potter and others who met death in an extreme sports accident died doing something they were passionate about, and that they did live life in the fullest sense.
Anyway, I’m saddened. I had a fascination for him, and now he’s gone. I’ll miss his beautiful pictures and his unique outlook on life. So fly free, Dean Potter. You were one of a kind.