"I definitely felt Dean was invincible."
May 18, 2015 5:04 AM   Subscribe

 
.

Went quick.
posted by fairmettle at 5:35 AM on May 18, 2015


RIP - it is a dangerous endeavour and nobody's invincible.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:35 AM on May 18, 2015


I'm a little jealous.
posted by bird internet at 5:43 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The videos of wingsuit flying I have seen look really exciting, but it is obvious that the margin of error is about zero. They fly fast and at steep angles; it isn't like paragliding where there is a lot of lift and time to consider your options.

Potter was the former husband of the climber and wing-suit flyer Steph Davis, who lost another husband, Mario Richard, to a BASE-jumping accident in Italy in 2013.

They had to have known the risks, but this is sad for their family and friends, and hopefully it will lead to better equipment or procedures that keep other people safe.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:48 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Both of Steph Davis's husbands are now dead from BASE jumping. Just crazy. I understand why and how someone could get addicted to wingsuit BASE jumping-- the joy of flying, flying like we do in dreams. Similarly I understand the purity of free soloing and the deep mental
focus it brings. Davis describes these things beautifully in her book, Learning to Fly Not saying anyone should live their life under the speed limit at all times.

But christ, BASE jumpers always end up dead. The fatality rate even for experienced jumpers is just nuts.

RIP Dean you were amazing. My heart goes out to Davis, can't imagine having both life partners go out like this.
posted by jcruelty at 5:57 AM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


BTW you should read Davis's memoir-- it's quite interesting hearing her account of how she gets into wingsuit jumping after breaking up w Dean. She's an amazing person as well. Learning to Fly: An Uncommon Memoir of Human Flight, Unexpected Love, and One Amazing Dog
posted by jcruelty at 6:12 AM on May 18, 2015


Their spotter heard two sounds that could have been impacts or could have been the noises made by parachutes snapping open.

Ugh.
posted by NoMich at 6:14 AM on May 18, 2015


.

Dammit.
posted by gwint at 6:19 AM on May 18, 2015


Glad the dog didn't die.

On Preview: yep.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:21 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


.
posted by lalochezia at 6:24 AM on May 18, 2015


The article says that this was illegal in Yosemite -- why is that? Do these wing suit jumps put other people (hikers, campers) in danger? The article also says Patagonia dropped him after he climbed Delicate Arch. There was a MeFi post about that.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:25 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fundamentally, parachuting is far more dangerous than flying, but it beat the hell out of being in a no-longer-a-flying machine several thousand feet in the air.

BASE jumping pretty much breaks every safety rule of safe parachuting.

Wing suits pretty much break every safety rule of BASE jumping.

Chasing the adrenaline rush means you race death and win. Something doesn't go right, you might end up badly hurt in a draw.

But when you're moving this fast? There's not much time for a draw. You win, or you don't. And when you don't?

. .

I think it's dumb. But it's what people do. I do my own dumb things. They did theirs. If they'd survived, if they were able, would they do it again?

Probably. Almost certain. We all have that thing we chase. Some are more deadly than others, but we all have them, and we all chase them.
posted by eriko at 6:29 AM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


BASE jumping is illegal in all National Parks, probably for liability reasons as much as it falls outside of NP mandate.
posted by furtive at 6:31 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


There's some info and scenes of jumpers and climbers evading Park rangers in the "Valley Uprising" documentary, which was awesome for a ton of other reasons as well.

..
posted by nevercalm at 6:34 AM on May 18, 2015


It's one of the most terrifying things I can even imagine, and yet the idea is so alluring, I can understand why those braver than me, who have done it once, will continue to do it until their luck runs out. RIP
posted by xingcat at 6:36 AM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


I can't help feeling that people who do this kind of thing actually have a half-conscious death wish of some sort.
posted by Segundus at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


*
posted by Combat Wombat at 6:56 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I can understand it being illegal; now the rangers get the traumatic job of finding and cleaning up the remains. Depending on where they have to go to do so, it might also be dangerous for them, as well, if they have to climb.

I am less understanding, though of course, sorry for their families. Doing something you know will kill you, sooner or later, means not giving a shit about how your death will affect other people who love you. Suicides at least have the excuse of being in terrible emotional pain. Thrill-chasers just seem to be addicts.

And the video of the jump where they took the dog made me terribly angry. How dare you put a trusting innocent pet into that kind of danger, what the hell is wrong with you.
posted by emjaybee at 6:56 AM on May 18, 2015 [51 favorites]


BASE jumping is illegal in all National Parks, probably for liability reasons as much as it falls outside of NP mandate.

Shit, I had a long reply as to why I understand, and agree with, the fact that BASE jumping is illegal in the parks and the kiddo turned off the PC just as I was going to hit post.

In a nutshell:

NPS has to clean up the mess. BASE jumping creates more messes per capita than other mess producing activities. The risk to rescuers is due consideration [tragic video of how rescues can go terribly wrong, potentially nsfl]. Not to mention the cost. Yes, both hiking and climbing have risks as well but nothing like BASE.

NPS also has to think about the protection of the features themselves, both during ascents and in the aftermath of a tragedy. Debris and such must be cleaned up and the feature preserved. I like to think most proponents of this type of thing (like freeclimbing and BASE jumping) tend to tread softly and ethically but even Potter seems to have had run-ins, as I'm sure most eventually will, with walking, and perhaps even crossing, the fine line between use and abuse:

came under fire in 2006 after he free soloed Delicate Arch, in Arches National Park, a sandstone feature that appears on Utah license plates. After the Delicate Arch climb, sponsor Patagonia dropped both Potter and his wife at the time, climber and BASE jumper Steph Davis. Potter always maintained that the ascent was both lawful and respectful. “I was just climbing a beautiful rock that hadn’t been free climbed before,” he told me in February.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:09 AM on May 18, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'll be cool about people throwing themselves off cliffs with nothing but a bit of canvas webbing between and them and eternity, if people are cool about me bioassaying indole group compounds.

Deal?
posted by Devonian at 7:10 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just a warning that some of the obits are unusually graphic. Trigger warnings all around.

In my circles, Dean was better-known for his climbing feats than the BASE jumping stuff.

To be perfectly honest, I kind of wish that the climbing community (and its sponsors) would speak up a bit more loudly against some of the community's celebrities who undertake such needlessly dangerous stunts. I don't want to read Alex Honnold's obituary any time soon.
posted by schmod at 7:15 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are inevitable misconceptions about his motivation. Fortunately, he had quite a way of putting it.
- in 2009 at St. Anton
- in 2014 at Telluride
posted by progosk at 7:15 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Potter always maintained that the ascent was both lawful and respectful.

You can maintain whatever you want, re: respectful, since it's a subjective judgment, but surely whether or not it was lawful is something that could be settled pretty definitively (I'm going to guess it was not, in fact, lawful).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:16 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also: Dean on safety and flying with his dog Whisper; and Alex Honnold, who was with Potter in the group dropped by a sponsor on grounds of safety in 2014, gives his perspective on risk and safety in this NYT op-ed.
posted by progosk at 7:24 AM on May 18, 2015


Some of the most beautiful videos on YouTube are first person perspective videos of people jumping off things in their wingsuits. Unfortunately, they invariably cock it up with some awful glitchy dubstep electronica of some sort. (Which I enjoy in other contexts, thanks, but not there)

While exhilarating and beautiful, it was obvious the people making the videos were one wrong twitch from death or serious injury. These folks aren't the first and will not be the last. To me, it's not really any different than climbing Everest or any other dangerous outdoor activity in terms of respect for loved ones. I just hope they were having fun until a mercifully quick end.
posted by wierdo at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


.NPS has to clean up the mess

The National Park Rangers up at Arcadia National Park seemed to get outright angry about people risking their lives by getting too close to the surf at Schoodic Point, even though it's the Coast Guard that has to clean that up (the NPS people will not go in after you if you slip there). So there's a bit of a culture clash between their mentality and the BASE jumpers, I think.
posted by thelonius at 7:27 AM on May 18, 2015


.
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As someone who comes from outside this scene I'm finding the offhand mention of Graham Hunt's death in long articles about Potter disconcerting. Never die at the same time as a legend I guess.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:34 AM on May 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


From this video of Potter with Whisper strapped to him:

I know there's more than that fantasy of, like, "Oh, we'll fly together." There's also "Oh, we could die together."

What a dick thing to do to one's dog.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:35 AM on May 18, 2015 [36 favorites]


I find it hard to feel sorry for people who foolishly and selfishly risk their life just for thrill of it. Their families and of course the rescue personnel that have to collect their remains (how do you think somebody looks after he hit a stone wall head first well above 100 km/h) have my deepest sympathy....
posted by SAnderka at 7:35 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am less understanding, though of course, sorry for their families. Doing something you know will kill you, sooner or later, means not giving a shit about how your death will affect other people who love you.

FWIW, the first item covered in any BASE jumping training course is writing letters to your family to be delivered after your death. So I'm not sure I agree it's "not giving a shit" but one certainly could argue it's a selfish hobby.

Fly free Mr. Potter and Mr. Hunt.

. .
posted by Dean358 at 7:38 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess I get this? I used to like to do a lot of drugs. And dangerous ones. I could have died a number of times being careless but wanting to get high. Figured the dog was happy with some sausages, though.
posted by josher71 at 7:42 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


It sounds like they were doing this late in the day, described as dusk in at least one article. I have to wonder if decreased visibility played a role in this. As far as danger goes, wing suits sound pretty similar to deep cave diving. It seems some things are just currently beyond our ability to do safely.
posted by TedW at 7:46 AM on May 18, 2015


BASE jumping is illegal in all National Parks, probably for liability reasons

They're the feds, and can invoke sovereign immunity to whatever extent they desire. They don't have one iota more liability risk than they wish to accept.

In addition to the other reasons why base jumping is illegal in national parks, it risks making some indeterminate number of people suffer the nontrivial psychological damage of seeing you spray your insides all over the landscape.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:47 AM on May 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


The National Park Rangers up at Arcadia National Park seemed to get outright angry about people risking their lives by getting too close to the surf at Schoodic Point, even though it's the Coast Guard that has to clean that up (the NPS people will not go in after you if you slip there). So there's a bit of a culture clash between their mentality and the BASE jumpers, I think.

Is the implication here that if they don't have to go into the surf to clean them up and they don't have to go in to rescue them, that they shouldn't get angry? I don't know that I agree with that. I think just the potential disruption to park services from something like this is enough to get angry about, not to mention your own personal trauma from watching someone die. It's hard for me to see the NPS as the insensitive ones here.
posted by Jacks Dented Yugo at 7:49 AM on May 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Was he wearing a helmet?
posted by Nevin at 7:49 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


if people kept dying where I work, and I had to to clean up, I'd be angry. My sympathies to the park rangers.
posted by idiopath at 7:52 AM on May 18, 2015 [21 favorites]


Is the implication here that if they don't have to go into the surf to clean them up and they don't have to go in to rescue them, that they shouldn't get angry?

I read it as the opposite: just a note that their reasons for wanting to people to behave safely extend beyond just the very specific concern about having to personally deal with it. That "fine, get yourself killed, not my problem" is not where a ranger would generally be coming from, even if folks upthread had reasonably noted that in some cases rangers would also have some responsibility for managing discovery/rescue efforts.
posted by cortex at 7:57 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know if they just send in any old park rangers to do this or are their special teams that retrieve bodies?
posted by josher71 at 8:08 AM on May 18, 2015


Was he wearing a helmet?
I'm not sure how fast wing suit flyers usually go, but even if his head was salvageable after impact due to a helmet, I'd think the deceleration to the rest of your organs could be pretty terminal. That's before any fall/trauma incurred after the impact.
posted by strange chain at 8:10 AM on May 18, 2015


Rangers up at Arcadia National Park

Acadia National Park. And rangers don't want anybody getting hurt in their park, for any reason. I'm sure they'd yell at you if they saw you running through the woods with scissors or whatever. I do not think this is unreasonable; they have to deal with enough injuries and deaths of people not deliberately doing something as dangerous as BASE jumping.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


I understand the allure, and can't really agree with the notion that it's a "selfish" pursuit because it involves the park rangers who will have to recover the bodies. BASE jumping and lots of other sports or pastimes are "selfish" in the sense that they exist for the pleasure of people pursuing the activity and little else. But the fact that a park ranger might have to go recover a body doesn't really distinguish BASE jumping from, say, driving a car. Plenty of first responders have the unpleasant responsibility for cleaning up after awful car accidents.

"But I need a car to get around." That may be true, in some senses. But framed another way, you need a car to enrich your life by giving you the ability to pickup groceries or commute into the city from your suburban home. Life can certainly be lived without a car. In the same way, BASE jumping enriched Potter's life, even though it certainly increased the level of risk he exposed himself to. Whitewater kayaking does the same thing for me.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:29 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


But the fact that a park ranger might have to go recover a body doesn't really distinguish BASE jumping from, say, driving a car.

Maybe more like driving a car 100 mph the wrong way down a one-way street.
posted by touchstone033 at 8:32 AM on May 18, 2015 [22 favorites]


The fact that a park ranger may have to put themselves in danger to recover a body certainly does distinguish BASE jumping from driving.
posted by maryr at 8:43 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


But it's not just flying, is it? It seems these flights are almost always about how close they can get to some fixed object.

I'm sure the effect on the flyer is thrilling, but it almost always seems that the common element is a camera, recording the flights. The proximity to fixed objects in video always seems to offer that frisson of recognition of the speed and danger for the viewer. And those always seemed like the money shots of these thrill videos.

And they kind of seemed like real money shots, where views are gathered by videos that really amp up the proximity shots, so that the viewer can get that vicarious "nopenopenope" effect.

And somebody has to pay for all this stuff. If this is your job, somebody has to pay you at some point.

And I bet they don't think they will die, because they are the best in the world at this. They think they can do anything, and they have been right, in the past, right up to where they were not right. But once is all it takes.
posted by dglynn at 8:48 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


.
posted by pt68 at 8:53 AM on May 18, 2015


My Dad just had a bad motorcycle crash at seventy years old. Everyone in the family wants him to stop but me. I mean I'd like him to stop on some level, but only if it's not going to be in favor of something else self-destructive. If he stays home and drinks too much and thinks about the open road all the time I'm not sure that's not worse.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know if they just send in any old park rangers to do this or are their special teams that retrieve bodies

Yes. My brother spent one of his summers during med school at Yosemite: he was the EMT following the rescue-climbers up the wall (or down, as the case may be) to find and rescue or retrieve fallen or injured climbers. There was a memorable comment he made about retrieval of human remains and the way yellow-jackets would swarm over all forms of raw meat.

The people they send would be people skilled in emergency response, but it's no less traumatic for them. I read an excellent article a few years ago about a long-time rescue mountaineer in Colorado who developed PTSD after responding to too many horrifying accidents.
posted by suelac at 9:06 AM on May 18, 2015 [15 favorites]


Some initial comments I saw on this yesterday said the dog had been with him, and I was furious all day at this jerk for killing his dog. Glad that's not true. Do whatever dangerous thing you want but dragging along a creature who can't consent to you maybe smashing him to death on some rocks is fucked up.

And what they do to the rescuers is non-trivial too. It's good to hear there are some sponsors that have limits on what they'll support.

I'm sorry for their friends and families.
posted by Mavri at 9:12 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


If he stays home and drinks too much and thinks about the open road all the time I'm not sure that's not worse.

I'm sorry your dad seems to have limited options, but yes, going out on a motorcycle with a don't-care-what-happens-to-me mentality is a LOT times worse than staying home and drinking with the same don't-care mentality. There's no danger of crashing into other vehicles/people at home.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:24 AM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you go to a park at a place or time with very few visitors, rangers will kind of mill around and beam at you -- it's like you become their kid or weird uncle (as in my case) or something as you enter their park.

Of course they're going to be upset and feel responsible if you kill yourself, whether you deserve that level of concern or not.
posted by jamjam at 9:30 AM on May 18, 2015 [5 favorites]


going out on a motorcycle with a don't-care-what-happens-to-me mentality

He's got a safety first all the gear all the time mentality, and an entire career in risk mitigation and industrial / environmental safety, but he feels deeply driven to ride for some reason.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:31 AM on May 18, 2015


I used to like to do a lot of drugs. And dangerous ones. I could have died a number of times being careless but wanting to get high. Figured the dog was happy with some sausages, though.

I'm reminded of my stoner housemates in college who thought it was hilarious to get the cat high.

When I lived in Boone, NC as a child, we used to go and watch a hang-glider who had trained a red-tailed hawk to fly with him. That's how you involve animals in your dangerous activities. I'm sad about the deaths, but I hope the dog never has to go on a free jump again.
posted by bibliowench at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Was he wearing a helmet?

At those speeds, the helmet was wearing him.
posted by roquetuen at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are the sobering accounts of accidents in Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite, including the harrowing description of people falling off El Capitan with such force that they set off car alarms. I'm pretty sure those folks were BASE jumpers.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:44 AM on May 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


The question for me about these guys is: there are plenty of mountains around, even some in some nicely deserted national monuments. So why here? Why do it where your failure is going to fuck with a bunch of people? Yosemite is one of the top tourist attractions in the world and I really don't think a portion of the 11,000 visitors in the park that day needed to highlight their trip with human bodies pancaking into granite.

Witnessing a violent death in real life is very different from TV. It leaves a mark not soon forgotten.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:45 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


The article says that this was illegal in Yosemite -- why is that?

Technically it's littering.
posted by bondcliff at 9:46 AM on May 18, 2015 [16 favorites]


FWIW, the first item covered in any BASE jumping training course is writing letters to your family to be delivered after your death.

Wow, that's a responsible training practice. I'm glad they're emphasizing the risk of death like that.
posted by salvia at 9:55 AM on May 18, 2015




Pretty sure the helmet thing is a derail, mocking the American cultural impulse to concern-troll about helmets when discussing any fatal bicycle or motorcycle accident, even when the victim was not at fault, or wouldn't have been helped by a helmet...
posted by schmod at 10:20 AM on May 18, 2015


there are plenty of mountains around, even some in some nicely deserted national monuments. So why here?

There really aren't plenty of mountains like these around, which is why Yosemite Valley was one of the first US national parks; it was obviously something special that deserved protection, even back then.

There are lots of mountains, yes - but Yosemite Valley offers sheer granite cliffs dropping thousands of feet down to a flat valley floor. There are plenty of tall mountains, but sheer cliffs are rare; there are other sheer cliffs, but very few in the world that are anything like this tall, and they generally end in scree slopes and steep river valleys with no safe place to land. On top of that, Taft Point is an easy mile's walk from the Glacier Point road, so you don't need to mount an expedition to get your wingsuit out there.

If you are going to jump off a mountain, Taft Point is probably one of the safest places in the world you could choose to do it.

My family lived in Yosemite Valley for a brief while when I was young; my dad worked there as a park ranger. We went on a lot of hikes. I will never forget the view from the edge of Taft Point, and the fascinating/terrifying slightly vertiginous curiosity about what it would be like to jump off that edge and fly. I've had the same feeling at the edge of Half Dome, though I was older by the time I first climbed up there so it didn't hit me as hard. I can't fault someone with base-jumping skills for actually giving it a try.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:29 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am less understanding, though of course, sorry for their families. Doing something you know will kill you, sooner or later, means not giving a shit about how your death will affect other people who love you. Suicides at least have the excuse of being in terrible emotional pain. Thrill-chasers just seem to be addicts.

One of my close friends died in a mountaineering accident just shy of a year ago, and it taxes my capacity for calm and empathy when people make similarly ignorant comments about him.

You don't know it will kill you. You know that something will eventually kill you, because something always does. You are going to die. Your death will affect the people who love you. This is a given, no? So why should that stop you from living your life, and pursuing the challenges that motivate you, while you have the chance?

If you actually want to die, wingsuit flying is one hell of a roundabout way to accomplish it. No, these guys wanted to live, they wanted to achieve, they wanted to push themselves to the highest levels of skill they could reach, and they wanted to live to do it again.

Proximity flying (aka buzzing a fixed object in a wingsuit) is interesting for the same reason that any other test of skill is interesting; it is amazing to see someone pull it off because you know just how good they have to be at what they are doing in order to accomplish it. The motivation for trying it is the same as any other challenging, dangerous activity: it is intrinsically satisfying to develop your skill at something hard. Maybe it's not your cup of tea, but it is the same impulse that drives all kinds of frontier-seeking activities; it is fundamentally human. Have some empathy, please.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:48 AM on May 18, 2015 [25 favorites]


If I can equate being a ranger to being in another role where you're responsible for people's well being - for example, a teacher - I'd imagine they get upset when people do stupid things because they genuinely don't want those people to get hurt. Furthermore, they're in a position where they are always having to tell brand new groups of people not to do the things that we'll get them hurt. I imagine many of these groups of people give them attitude about their concern and some ignore them. Like any other decent human would, the thought of somebody getting hurt or killed makes them unhappy.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:05 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding illegality: why not simply excuse the rangers/anyone from having to collect the pieces? Sing some sort of waiver with the NPS, and you're free to jump/fly as you wish provided you're not risking anyone else. File a flight plan, so to speak.

Anything goes wrong, your pieces stay where they fell, and before long you'll be a collection of shredded nylon and perhaps a bit of bone. Rescuers don't get traumatized, wingsuit people have fun.
posted by aramaic at 11:37 AM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Regarding illegality: why not simply excuse the rangers/anyone from having to collect the pieces? Sing some sort of waiver with the NPS, and you're free to jump/fly as you wish provided you're not risking anyone else. File a flight plan, so to speak.

So, what, some other random hikers get to run across a messy pile of human remains? Sounds fun.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:40 AM on May 18, 2015 [19 favorites]


If you actually want to die, wingsuit flying is one hell of a roundabout way to accomplish it. No, these guys wanted to live, they wanted to achieve, they wanted to push themselves to the highest levels of skill they could reach, and they wanted to live to do it again.

Absolutely -- no question about that. But they were doing something with the odds stacked way against them. Specifically:

Chances of dying on a skydive: 1-in-100,000
Chances of dying on a skydive if you don't do a swoop, i.e., a high performance landing: I estimate at 1-in-300,000

Chances of dying on a BASE jump: 1-in-3,000
Chances of dying on a proximity wing suit BASE jump (which they were doing): not exactly sure but certainly well below 1-in-1,000

Participating in any of the above means making a personal risk vs. reward tradeoff. And I'm not sure it's fair for us to judge how other people do that. But at some point the "this can't happen to me" attitude creeps in, and the risk vs. reward tradeoff becomes highly biased. (Dishonest? Unrealistic? Selfish?) And the more jumps one makes the more bias creeps in, even for the most conscientious participants.
posted by Dean358 at 11:40 AM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding illegality: why not simply excuse the rangers/anyone from having to collect the pieces?

They have enough problems with bears already. Having them get a taste for human flesh seems like a really bad idea.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:45 AM on May 18, 2015 [13 favorites]


Sorry - meant to add this link to demonstrate what swoop landings are.
posted by Dean358 at 11:49 AM on May 18, 2015


I get the "everyone dies, only some ever live" thing ... but I don't think you can find many other sports where the performance model is "keep increasing your risk until you die."

In every other sport you can name athletes are continually striving to reduce risk and extend the age range for peak performance -- where that is technically hard to achieve, like boxing or American football, the sport is under serious pressure.
posted by MattD at 12:11 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


..
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2015


Bat suits never looked like flying to me, not worth the risk. In my book flying is about soaring not plummeting. The thing I don't like are all the cameras. I wonder if anybody has tried to sue GoPro for enticing their children off a cliff.
posted by Pembquist at 12:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know that stereotypical image of a parent angry at their child for coming back after curfew: "I was so worried!!" Some people's worry turns to anger. People don't like loss. These profiles try to inspire love and admiration for these folks. So to the extent that they succeed, they naturally also inspire these spin-off reactions, e.g., "gah, what the heck, man! why did you take such crazy risks??"
posted by salvia at 1:18 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just like the idea of BASE jumping and wingsuits because it's like something out of one of those cool 1970's SF books with the cool illustrations... So retro yet so futuristic.

Sorry this fellow chose to die. Criminal that others should be left to clean up the mess, but that's the aftermath of the Will to Power for you.
posted by Nevin at 1:24 PM on May 18, 2015


I wonder if anybody has tried to sue GoPro for enticing their children off a cliff.

If all of your digital recording equipment jumped off a bridge, would you?
posted by maryr at 1:37 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Make other BASE jumpers clean up the mess.
For every 10 people you put into the bucket you get 1 jump.
posted by fullerine at 2:31 PM on May 18, 2015 [9 favorites]


@Mars Saxman

Straw man alert. You know something will kill you but most people die of natural causes later, rather than high risk activities sooner. If you have any people who love you then like it or not there is some degree of selfishness involved.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2015


Sure, it's somewhat selfish. I guess I'm just taken aback that some people apparently consider selfishness a sin so terrible that it renders human death unworthy of sympathy.
posted by erlking at 4:00 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


like it or not there is some degree of selfishness involved.

Is this a greater or lesser degree of selfishness than the kind of self-centered "love" that would demand someone give up the pursuits that bring them satisfaction and joy and give their life meaning, in order to increase the chances that they will be around to spend more, emptier years in one's company?
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


.

At least they were doing something they loved.
posted by Renoroc at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2015


Regarding illegality: why not simply excuse the rangers/anyone from having to collect the pieces? ... Anything goes wrong, your pieces stay where they fell, and before long you'll be a collection of shredded nylon and perhaps a bit of bone. Rescuers don't get traumatized, wingsuit people have fun.

You ever see a tree with a gypsy moth infestation? Because that's what Yosemite would look like inside a couple of years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:05 PM on May 18, 2015


Or do I mean tent caterpillars? Or are they the same? I'm a doctor, man, not an entomologist.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:06 PM on May 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding illegality: why not simply excuse the rangers/anyone from having to collect the pieces? Sing some sort of waiver with the NPS, and you're free to jump/fly as you wish provided you're not risking anyone else. File a flight plan, so to speak.

Mostly it is because culturally that is not how we treat dead bodies. People have a lot of discomfort with how people who die in high alpine places can be left when it is not safe or possible to recover their bodies; to leave bodies in an intensively-visited tourist attraction is a total non-starter.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2015


.
posted by TrinsicWS at 9:35 PM on May 18, 2015


Especially considering the body is wrapped in significant yardage of synthetic cloth that is going to stick around for a long time. Usually brightly coloured to boot.
posted by Mitheral at 10:44 PM on May 18, 2015


I sure hope y'all upset about the dog never, ever take your pet in the car.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:56 PM on May 18, 2015


I sure hope y'all upset about the dog never, ever take your pet in the car.

I don't understand the "you do something with some risk? then don't talk about this much higher risk thing!" argument. People make judgment calls along that spectrum all the time. It's not like "You ate a non-organic peach? Well then, stop talking about my game of Russian Roulette, you hypocrite!" Different actions carry different levels of risk. People can say "this risk is low, so I'll take it" (or "I'll expose my dog to it") and "wow, you took a risk that high? I would never do that / expose my dog to that," while being logically consistent.
posted by salvia at 11:13 PM on May 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


Driving is by far the riskiest thing you do. It's likely that you are at greater risk driving than Desn was stunting, by simple virtue of doing it orders of magnitude more.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:20 PM on May 18, 2015


Now I'm confused. It sounded like you were saying not to ever take a pet in the car, not "don't take a pet in the car orders of magnitude more frequently."
posted by salvia at 11:57 PM on May 18, 2015 [4 favorites]


Whatever. I'm sorry I tried to point out the hypocrisy. Go ahead and resume slagging the dead guy. Enjoy your commute tomorrow.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:18 AM on May 19, 2015


Either this particular flight route was impossible in wingsuits or one guy followed another's mistaken route. Either way there's no way they should have jumping at the same time rather than having one guy complete the jump and then have the next guy jump. That seems like a pretty basic mistake for people who were supposedly concerned with safety.

BTW, fff your analysis of risk is faulty. The probability that I'll die in bed is much greater than the probability that I'll die going 120 mph down the freeway but that doesn't mean that I should avoid sleeping and spend my life driving 120 on the freeway. Driving 120 is far riskier than lying in a bed. Your use of risk answers the question what are the odds that I'll be doing activity X when I die. The common usage of risk would be based on the odds that I'll die while doing activity X.
posted by rdr at 4:06 AM on May 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


@Mars Saxman

Is this a greater or lesser degree of selfishness than the kind of self-centered "love" that would demand someone give up the pursuits that bring them satisfaction and joy and give their life meaning, in order to increase the chances that they will be around to spend more, emptier years in one's company?

I don't think a parent not being crazy about their child wing-suiting off Yosemite is self-centered love quote/unquote. I also think a parent with dependant children is to some extent selfish in doing the same thing. In the latter case when you take on the responsibility of having children it just might mean that the extreme sports take a back seat for a while until they can look after themselves. Common sense.

Anyway, I'm very sad these guys died lest I get lumped in with the 'serves them right' faction.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:18 AM on May 19, 2015


Either way there's no way they should have jumping at the same time rather than having one guy complete the jump and then have the next guy jump. That seems like a pretty basic mistake for people who were supposedly concerned with safety.

They were most likely flying together to capture an air-to-air shot of Dean Potter flying his wing suit. For example, look seven seconds in here. This is actually rather typical in BASE cinematography as it's the only way to follow the action down the building, antenna, span or cliff. And as everyone shoots with wide angle lenses (much easier to frame) it would have required them to be flying just a few feet from each other.
posted by Dean358 at 6:14 AM on May 19, 2015


I'm very conflicted about the things Dean Potter and many of his compatriots do. I'm a climber so I understand the draw, but I'm not wired for something like free soloing, let alone BASE jumping. But watching Potter from afar, I was always sure he'd push past his limit one day and end up dead. Lot's of people probably feel that way about anyone pursuing activities they perceive as risky, but there was something different about Potter - the projects he chose, the way he talked about them, the indifference to rules (I'm thinking here of his ascent of Delicate Arch specifically).

Anyway, I don't think that thinking of Potter as a daredevil is all that useful. Certainly it's not what he thought he was, and if we're going to have any idea what he was thinking, the best source of information is probably the man himself. Here's a piece I thought was worth a read. I'm not convinced it's the right way to think about this, but at least it's different.
posted by that's candlepin at 6:15 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Two more links to Potter in his own words, and in those of some of his closest friends and associates (both via that's candlepin's last link).
posted by progosk at 7:16 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wanted to drop a link to the news from Rock & Ice. While there, check out a couple of other pieces: an interview, What I've Learned and an essay, Life at the Edge of Realization. I hope reading Potter's thoughts will offer people some insight before they dismiss him with trite cliches like "adrenaline junkie" or "death wish."

I hung out with Dean for a little bit at Hueco Tanks way back in the early 90's. He was a good guy. I'm sorry if it offends people's sensibilities, people who embrace safety, comfort, and conformity, but I find Dean Potter's boldness, sense of adventure, and fundamental disrespect of authority pretty goddamn inspiring.
posted by lost_cause at 7:17 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]




Slagging dead people isn't off limits. I'm glad he enjoyed what he was doing. And even though I embrace not jumping off cliffs, I'm glad he did. Sucks that he died but it's not surprising. "He died doing what he loved" is actually not a joke, for once.
posted by josher71 at 8:38 AM on May 19, 2015


[tragic video of how rescues can go terribly wrong, potentially nsfl] yt

Can someone give me a quick summary of this video? I will not click, but morbidly curious.
posted by Theta States at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2015


Can someone give me a quick summary of this video? I will not click, but morbidly curious.

It's a Spanish news report showing two bomberos (firemen) accidentally detaching from a helicopter winch wire during a mountain rescue exercise, impacting on and tumbling along a rocky slope; they're described by the anchor as having sustained multiple fractures.
posted by progosk at 10:47 AM on May 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The links above from progosk and that's candlepin are great. It sounds like he was deeply afraid of death and very much didn't want to die, and almost as a spiritual practice, consistently did things that could kill him to gain the heightened awareness and sense of freedom that it brought. It really is a shame for the world to lose someone who brings this unique approach to life.

I still think people have a right to feel frustrated or angry or whatever they feel. It was his life, and he spent it doing what he wanted. I imagine that he even got used to many people being appalled by the risks he took, but I don't know. My sympathies go out to his friends and family. I imagine some are even themselves feeling some anger, along with everything else they're feeling, which is another reason why I don't think we should roundly condemn that reaction here.

Enjoy your commute tomorrow.

I haven't driven for my daily commute for over 10 years, in case that was directed at me. Regardless, the links above show that he was well aware of how potentially fatal his activities were. I don't think people undertake their daily commute to pass through their fear of death to gain the intense clarity it brings, knowing that it would kill 999 out of 1000 people who attempted it, so I still think he was making fundamentally different choices. That's part of what made him so amazing. I don't see a benefit to obscuring the relative rarity of his approach to life; it's also part of what made him an inspiration.
posted by salvia at 10:48 AM on May 19, 2015


Oh yes, taking your dog in a carrier a few miles to the vet at 40 mph is just exactly as dangerous as jumping off a goddamn cliff with him strapped to you. Really? And given that pets don't usually go to the vet that often and the "driving is dangerous" idea comes from the fact that people do so much of it, you really can't be any more wrong. My pets take the small risk of going in my car a few times a year to get their shots (since going without them is a worse risk). Otherwise, they stay home, safely and lick their butts in peace, because I give a shit about them.

I mean, yeah, chase that peak experience till you splatter the rocks if that's your thing, your body, your life, but your poor dog deserves better and you are a shitty pet owner for not knowing that. Or caring.
posted by emjaybee at 12:17 PM on May 19, 2015


huh, also from jimmy chin's blog: When Dogs Fly - An Essay by Dean Potter

i'd also note from the Death in Yosemite book (prominently displayed in yosemite giftshops), which i haven't read but my wife has, and she tells me that most deaths occur there from drowning in the merced, which maybe helps put the risk of 'crazy stunts' in perspective?

incidentally we were at glacier point friday and it was pretty cloudy; we were planning on going back saturday and maybe look at taft point or sentinel dome when it was sunny -- and getting windier by dusk -- but we took our time getting to and back from nevada falls and just left after that. then on sunday she went with her cousin and our dog to ft. funston and a paraglider died further down the beach (oh and then at her niece's high school...)

jetmen, fwiw.
posted by kliuless at 6:28 PM on May 19, 2015


Crazy beautiful thing
posted by jcruelty at 11:07 PM on May 19, 2015


These articles always remind me of people like kayaker Hendrik Coetzee, or anyone who decided to face a mountain's oxygen-sparse death zone...
Or freedivers who constantly push the depth, or spelunkers going to extremely difficult locations...

Well, at least with Hunt and Coetzee death came quite suddenly. The other scenarios embody an isolation that is a bit more terrifying for me.
posted by Theta States at 6:53 AM on May 20, 2015


Another piece with a different perspective. Kind of a counterpoint to my last link above: What We Talk About When We Talk About Death in Climbing.
posted by that's candlepin at 8:53 AM on May 21, 2015






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