Daredevil Dean Potter falls to his death in Yosemite Park

Base jumper and rock climber famous for his extreme stunts had been 'pushing the envelope all his life'

Dean Potter
(Image credit: Youtube/National Geographic)

Extreme sportsman Dean Potter and fellow base-jumper Graham Hunt have been killed after a wingsuit stunt in Yosemite National Park went wrong.

Potter has been described as "one of the most influential outdoor athletes of his generation", and his death has sent shockwaves through the extreme sports world, says Time magazine.

The two men died after jumping off a 7,000ft precipice called Taft Point and an investigation into the cause of the accident has been launched. They are believed to have been wearing wingsuits, that allow people to "fly" during freefall.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Potter was not only known for base jumping, but also his mountaineering and rope walking abilities.

"Dean was part of this community and had such an impact on climbing," said Mike Gauthier, Yosemite National Park's chief of staff and fellow climber. "He was a luminary and in the pantheon of climbing gods.”

In 2002, Potter became the first person to free climb both El Capitan and Half Dome – two vertical rock faces - in less than 24 hours.

Fellow rock climber Doug Robinson led tributes to his friend. "We're very sad about Dean Potter's death, but not very surprised," he told the BBC, "he was pushing the envelope all his life."

He was also a master at slacklining, a form of tightrope walking, and was first exposed to the dangerous sport by a homeless man who wrote books on quantum physics, reports the New York Times.

He was crowned adventurer of the year by National Geographic in 2009 after he completed the longest base jump from the Eiger in Switzerland, staying in flight for two minutes and 50 seconds. Potter also became a YouTube sensation for jumping with his dog Whisper strapped to his back.

"Part of me says it's kind of crazy to think you can fly your human body," he told the Times in 2008."Another part of me thinks all of us have had the dream that we can fly. Why not chase after it?"

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.