A renowned climber and BASE jumper, who for years had flouted rules against BASE jumping in national parks, died Saturday along with another man in an accident involving wing suits, and a jump from Taft Point in Yosemite. Dean Potter, 43, and friend Graham Hunt, 29, both took the leap off the 3,000 foot cliff over the Yosemite Valley near dusk on Saturday, as the New York Times reports, and neither pulled a parachute before colliding with the granite cliff "in quick succession."
Potter was featured in the Times in 2008 for doing a tightrope walk between precipices at Hell Roaring Canyon in Moab, Utah, 900 feet above the ground. At the time he said, "When there’s a death consequence, when you are doing things that if you mess up you die, I like the way it causes my senses to peak. I can see more clearly. You can think much faster. You hear at a different level. Your foot contact on the line is accentuated. Your sense of balance is heightened. I don’t seem to feel that very often meditating."
Potter was an extremely experienced, talented, and famed climber who first appeared on the scene at Yosemite 20 years ago. Just in the past month he scaled Yosemite’s Half Dome in 1 hour and 19 minutes, and completed the round trip in under two hours and 19 minutes, which is considered a record.
ABC News has some footage of Potter's previous wingsuit flying.
As Outside magazine reports, right after Potter and Hunt made their jump...
Their spotter heard two [popping] sounds that could have been impacts or could have been the noises made by parachutes snapping open. She followed standard protocols, first trying to reach the pair by radio, with no luck, and then moving to a predetermined meeting place. “They were optimistic, thinking that the men might have been arrested,” says Yosemite chief of staff [Mike] Gauthier.
Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) initiated a hasty search, but the rangers were unable to locate the pair overnight. Potter and Hunt had been attempting to fly along terrain that required them to clear a notch in a rocky ridgeline. “It’s kind of a trickier flight to go through this notch,” Gauthier says. On Sunday morning, a state police helicopter was able to spot both bodies from the air. No parachutes had been deployed. Two rangers were then airlifted to the site to perform the recovery.
Potter lived in Yosemite with longtime girlfriend Jenn Rapp and her children, as well as a miniature Australian cattle dog, Whisper, who was famous in his own right for accompanying Potter on climbs and jumps.
Below, a video made by the Times of Potter in 2008.