The Real
Dean Potter
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perex

TO MAKE AN INTERVIEW “ABOUT SOMEBODY” CAN BE BETTER THAN “WITH SOMEBODY”. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU WANT TO SEE BEHIND THE CURTAIN INTO A PRIVATE LIFE. HOW WAS LIVING WITH DEAN? Ivo Ninov TELLS US.

Kredity

TEXT: STANDA “SANY” MITAC PROOFREADING: T. ROZTOCIL, D. RABER PHOTO: Ivo Ninov’s archive, Beat Kammerlander, Adrien Nisan, Christian Pfanzelt, Karel Svab, Standa Mitac
| May 2017

Text 1

ONE MISTAKE. TWO YEARS

“In the moment of impact, you are flying about 200 kilometers per hour. If there’s nobody who would manage to get a doctor to you within 15 minutes, it is almost impossible to survive.” Two years have gone since Dean Potter, the Yosemite magician died during a wing suit base jump. What do we actually know about this “superman”? Dean lived quite a solitary life – you can barely find more information about him than from popular stories and famous movies.

Fortunately, we have met Dean’s former climbing partner Ivo Ninov (in the first picture in a black sweatshirt and also in the other photos in the gallery), who was a professional climber and base jumper. He lived with dean for five years – they were the same blood type and did all sorts of crazy things together. “In those times, I spent more time with him than his wife,” recalls Ivo and describes their own American dream, during which they lived as total dirtbags following only the rules that they set themselves.

Galerie 1

Text 2

THEY WILL SHOW YOU ONLY WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE

I’ve heard that you are working on a book about Dean Potter. Whose idea was that?
Recently, I help my friend Dean Findelman with one chapter. I used to live with Dean and we spent a lot of time together. Dean Findelman has written many books. He is an author of the Stone Masters book, Yosemite in the Sixties… He is preparing a new book about Dean Potter because not many people know Dean.

I see, he is very famous in the media, but people don’t know much about him.
Yes, he is famous in a modern way – I’ll elaborate on what I mean by that. For a long time, I was a professional climber, I lived in the States and spent time with all the big climbers of that time: John Bachar, Ron Kauk, Jim Bridwell, and I climbed with these guys, lived with them… Spent lot of time with Yuji Hirayama,, Chris Sharma… I have spent a lot of time with these guys. But when the modern era started – in the beginning of late nineties – you could see how modern marketing and the movies started to create the new heroes. It wasn’t the books anymore that were creating the history. I both like it and hate it. Because there is so much of bullshit in these movies – even in Valley Uprising – I helped the guys to shot a bit but the movie is just trash.

Why?
On one hand it is amazing, but it skips a lot of facts for the story – they have skipped what really happened. Instead they show things the public likes to see and because of that, the new generation which doesn’t read books knows nothing about Yosemite. For example, the guy who developed most of El Cap’s free climbs is omitted by the movie. Twenty years before the Hubers, there was an American guy, who is still around, his name is Steve Schneider – he was the guy behind of most of the El Cap free climbs. He climbed many routes on El Cap, including a free ascent of an 8a route. Tough climbing. Steve Schneider and Hans Florine climbed three routes on El Cap in one day – in the 90s! So, in the movie there is a lot of misleading information. It is similar with Dean – people know just some parts of his story. And lot of people lie in the Valley – they claim they’ve sent the routes they didn’t so they keep holding climbing back. My philosophy is the exact opposite. When you cannot do it, don’t lie. There are those who can. So, this superficial approach is one of the reasons why I have withdrawn from the mainstream climbing community. I cannot live in such rubbish, man.

BANNER I SE ČTVERCEM

Text 3 lajna

ICON ON THE LINE

Where did you meet Dean and what do you know about his beginnings?
I met Dean in Yosemite in 1999 but it took me few years until I got closer to him. He had been always learning by himself. Most of the people in America learn by themselves. First, he was just climbing, then he started to walk slacklines. I think it was 1994 when he showed up in the Yosemite Valley for the first time, and met Chongo Chuck. Chongo showed him slacklining and he was amazed because Chongo wasn’t like: “Check it out – I can walk that.” He was more like: “Check it out – you can walk it too! It is easy. If I can do it, you can do it too.” This was special about Chongo, because he pretty much gave slacklining to all of us. He could have been the only person to walk it and everybody would call it a circus, but pretty much the whole modern movement of slacklining emerged because of Chongo.

So Chongo taught Dean slacklining…
He taught all of us to slackline too, man! He brought it to the modern world, he brought that to you… If there was no Chongo there would be no Heinz Zak and Heinz Zak was the guy who brought it to Europe. I was there when all these things happened. Another of my good friends would have never slacklined if he hadn’t seen Dean in the Patagonia poster walking the Rostrum highline in Yosemite. This is how things work – Dean was the guy who popularized slacklining. Back then people told us: “Slacklining is a circus performance, it’s not fun for everyone.” Thanks to Dean, things changed.

CITÁT 1

“Think only about the next step.”
Dean Potter

Text 4

MEAT AND THE MEDIA

Were you with Dean during his first BASE jump?
Actually, I met Dean a little after his first serious BASE jumping accident. He nearly died in the Cave of Swallows in Mexico – he jumped and his parachute was partially wet and he hit one of the walls. He was very lucky that he was able to grab the rope on which they had ascended. He could have collapsed but he managed to hold it and then he rappelled a hundred meters down using just his hands. He had a super deep cuts right down to the bones. No more meat left. Pretty much hanging on to his life. This happened when I started living with Dean, it was around 2003 – I moved to his house in Yosemite West.

Was that the famous “shed”?
No, he was still married to Steph so he lived in a huge house which was just below another little house where I stayed. The “shed” is what people know, he always had it but he also had another property.

I’ve heard that he went to China to send a new slacklining record and earned some money for that, is that true?
Yeah. You can find the video on the internet.
_

Dean in China | 2012
source: NDTV.com

 

I have spoken with him about that a few times but he was a very secretive person about everything he did. He never wanted people to see him walking the line live. He never wanted people to see him climbing live. He would never ever go to a crag with bunch of people! This is Dean Potter, he was going only with a small group of friends or solo. He was mostly a solo-machine, he was training very hard and then performing in front of the camera one time and never again.

What was Dean’s approach to his media image and social networks?
I persuaded him to start a Facebook account at some point – so he had one but did not maintain it. In the end, he hated Facebook. He was always saying there were other ways how to present himself. He wasn’t so good at that. It was filmmaker’s job. He was very choosy about with whom he worked and how things were presented. He always had the final call in each movie which was made. It needed to be made his way. He got into Instagram though – you can still see his pictures on Instagram. He was posting pictures because Adidas forced him. (You can find his account here)
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Dean Potter – a different man on the stage and behind the curtain(f: Ivo Ninov)

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Did he train in a common way? Indoor wall, boulder gym and so on?

No, never! When you want to climb 8a you do not need to train. For Dean the climbing was an adventure and doing everything for that means that it becomes a kind of job for you. Today, people are training all the time but they never go climbing. 90 % of people are this way – they live in the Matrix. With Dean, we did not live in the Matrix. We did not have to wake up any time of the day, we did not know which day of the week is. For ten years – it was just different era. We were just there…

ILUSTRACE

 

– ILLUSTRATION: VERONIKA GAZDOVA –

Text 5

ICE AXE FROM A CAN

Is there any particular story with Dean that stands out for you?
The most powerful moment was when I did my first BASE jump from El Cap with him. But there are thousands of others and they are equally powerful. He spent more time with me then with his wife in those days. (he laughs)

How was the first BASE jump from El Cap?
Phew… It’s hard to describe, man. It is not something that can be explained. The feelings were so strong and that is why they have stayed with me… It is not something you can describe.

How many jumps did he make in Yosemite? Hundreds or thousands?
Thousands in the valley, for sure! We jumped every day.

What was your most scary experience with him?
I have two of them. One was on the west face of the Eiger in Switzerland. It was on the way to the spot where Dean had done the longest BASE jump in the world (3 min, 3.4 miles, 5.5 km) in 2009. This was pretty scary experience because we went up the face wearing sneakers in November 2011. We were the only people on the mountain and had to cross some crazy 50 degree ice fields. We found some pieces of metal such as garbage cans and punched it in the hard snow. When it held in the position, I stepped on Dean’s shoulders and grabbed the rock above… One of us grabbed the other one’s foot to provide a kind of step for him… If you slip you would go one thousand meters down… (You can find Dean’s article at here)
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Dean sitting at an exit on the top of the north face of Eiger (photo: Ivo Ninov)

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Something similar happened on the Middle Cathedral in Yosemite where we wanted to jump. There was a place where we could not pass and I climbed on Dean’s shoulders, grabbed a tree and after that he grabbed my legs and climbed up. (laughs) On the Middle Cathedral it was even more interesting, because we went to the top and Dean jumped – he had a wing suit with him. I did not have a wing suit, then I got scared and I did not jump. I had to get back somehow. That day, another friend of mine Sean Learry appeared and threw me a rope so I could come down.

How did Dean’s sense of humor looked like?
Sometimes, it was pretty dark in a way. He liked to make fun of people, but he was a very special person. That is why we would like to make the book – as Timmy O’Neill said we need to show the 3D reality of Dean Potter. People know the 2D one already. He was not a calm person, that people know. Dean was a very angry man, very special in his opinions, thoughts, and desires… He always talked in front of people about spirituality, but his personal life was a complete mess. But everything has a reason why it happens – when Dean was a kid he grew up with a military father so every six months he had to change schools. He always was “the new kid in class”, he never could have friends around. That’s why he was so deep into himself and he had a big heart, really. There were two personalities in Dean – one was the nicest person in the world, and the other one the meanest person in the world. He did not like to express this second personality very often – only close friends could see it.

Was this “other Dean” why he got divorced from Steph Davis? Was she fighting with his personality?
No, no, no. That was different. At some point we all change, and these two were super strong personalities. The problem I saw was the era of projects and secret projects – Steph for example wanted to be the first woman to free climb “Salathé” (8a+, 5.13.c, 37 pitches). Dean at that time wanted to do the BASE line and Steph was super mad at Dean for not supporting her as a belayer on the wall. Dean was not ready to climb the route, he could never climb the headwall. Despite having tried so many times… Dean climbed very hard things on granite because thanks to his size and enormous power, he was a really good climber and amazing free soloist, but his climbing abilities were not universal. He was climbing 8a+ maximum.

 

Dean, the tall guy, spotting during bouldering session in Utah. On the right Timmy O’Neill, 2016. (photo: Beat Kammerlander)

 

So was Steph able to climb harder routes than him?
No, she was frustrated because they always had different projects, and technically could never spend time together. When she was trying “Salathé”, either me or Thomas Huber was there… We communicated with her by walkie talkie every day… Meanwhile Dean was in Moab trying to walk his highlines. They were really driven personalities, everybody had their personal goals and they were really pushed by the media industry to perform and be the first and to make the covers of magazines. It was the modern media that pretty much destroyed their relationship. When Dean and Steph were together around at a crag, Dean was quite nice; maybe he was extreme sometimes but never in front of Steph. I lived with both of them for months in Moab or Yosemite but after they separated, I mostly stopped communicating with Steph.

Galerie 2 Alex

Text 6

MICE IN THE VALLEY

What was his relationship to Alex Honnold?
In the beginning, Dean was psyched about Alex because Alex showed up from nowhere. I knew Alex since he was 12 years old. He is a completely different person than Dean – he is one of those straight guys, he had nothing to do with our dirtbag lifestyle… He was always a focused kid who never smokes nor drink beer… He just reads his books, trains, and focuses. He is like an office worker who loves his job. Dean at the same time was a slacker, somebody who lived the lifestyle. But obviously, the results that Alex started showing very quickly startled Dean. He started losing his ground in the Valley: “The kid is doing all the hard shit.” Rivalry started to grow. It was same like with Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden, who were our neighbors. We were not enemies, but not friends. We did not share time together, nor did dinners together…. And imagine it when you live in such a small place like Yosemite West – in the winter, there was nobody but us, four people… Not communicating with each other. They had their hidden projects.

Was it common to have hidden projects?
Yes, since the commercial era the climbing in Yosemite has gotten very funny. All these people became super possessive about the things they did and they did not want anyone to know their project. They were washing the chalk off the cliffs. (laughs)
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Yosemite, Half Dome – this is where they washed the chalk from the walls (picture: V. Gazdova)

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So with Dean and Alex it was like this – no friends but no enemies?
Alex was always levels above everyone. Back then we were talking to him about how the commercial world works – me and Renan Ozturk. We explained to him how things work, called people from the North Face and he got a sponsorship instantly. He was a kid who was deep into the things he was doing and his mom was supporting him for everything he did. Despite all that Alex went all the way up the game, from the climbing gym, through the competitions… Dean and me never went through that because there were no gyms when we started climbing. Now the kids start from the place where we stopped. They have knowledge, information, facilities… In the old days, there was only a vision. Technically, Alex did a lot of stuff but he did not do anything on his own. He is just repeating things to confirm his abilities, he did not open new things yet…
When I was in the Yosemite in 2010, there was no relationship between Dean and Alex. It did not exist. Alex is very similar to Tommy Caldwell – working mice. I call them hamsters because they sit there and paddle the wheel all the time till the speed they like. We, at the same time, were just adventure dudes, trying our luck. I never tried a route more than three times.

So, was the gap between these “schools” wide?
Yes, there was a gap between our ways. You see, me and Dean, we were not into the training… We had a different mission in our lives. For Alex and Tommy, it was important to climb hard numbers and that is what made them happy, they went to work things over and over to make it happen, for me it was always the unknown – this is the reason why I finally left Yosemite, because it became to be so commercial. With Nico Favresse in 2006 we opened a route called ”Lost in translation“ (5.12b/c, 7b+, 10 pitches), and this is the only route on El Cap which is done ground up free. But nobody cares about this stuff. People are usually rappelling and checking the routes. For me there is only one way of climbing – from the bottom– ground up, following the Elbsandstein tradition. When you check it out from above, that is the end of adventure.

FULL WIDTH 2 DEAN PFANZELT

– DEAN POTTER (p: Christian Pfanzelt.com

Text 7

WITHOUT ROPE WITHOUT ETHICS

As you were talking about different missions… Can you describe Dean’s approach to climbing ethics?
He had no climbing ethics. For Dean, it was important to perform. If he had to put a bolt somewhere he did it… If he had to toprope something a thousand times, he would do it to climb it. This was his way, there were no ethics involved. It was nothing like: “We should go ground up” and stuff like this. No, no. Dean did everything he could. Dean and Steph were the first people who were fixing the entire wall of the El Cap from the top to the bottom to be able to self belay and train on static ropes. They had fixed the whole of “Freerider” using one kilometer of ropes. This is when the junk show started – they were the first people who opened that – start fixing entire routes… Trying to work the routes.

I can see some difference between you and Dean. Were you fighting about that at home?
Yes, he’s not my guru, man. I had lots of fights with Dean about ethics and stuff like that because I spent a lot of time with John Bachar who was not a friend of Dean. And there was a huge difference between them. Dean was a not true soloist in his heart, he did not go soloing for fun. John would go soloing everyday for fun and that is how he died… I lived with John in 2006 for three months and every morning he would wake up and go soloing. Peter Croft as well – they are true free soloists. Thirty years ago, I joined Peter Croft to free solo the Rostrum. When we were up he told me: “Ivo, can I do it one more time? It is soooo good” So I waited for him there… That is the difference between true free soloists and people who free solo.

What was Dean’s main motivation?
He never free soloed serious stuff for fun, man. (laughs)

So somebody goes to factory every day, somebody has to go free soloing to earn some money?
Yes, for him that was the way to stand out at that time. I’ll never forget about the route “Dog’s Roof” (5.12b, 7b), I was there with Dean and I told him: “Hey dude, you’re gonna lead, now it is time for your onsight.” He replied: “No, no, no. You lead it, put the rope and I’ll check it out.” He could not even do the moves on top rope. After three weeks, he showed up in the house: “I have soloed it.” He was working that route for three weeks without telling me. He just disapeared every afternoon, top-roped it over and over, and then once – soloed it for a small film crew.

If he went climbing just for himself, which types of routes did he like the most?
Everybody was saying that Dean is a crack specialist. He liked cracks, maybe he is the only person in a world I know who could climb 7b cracks with no protection. This is something he could climb for kilometres. He was so fucking good at doing that stuff. He liked slab a lot as well, especially granite slabs were super good for him because he was 194 cm tall and he was super strong with his fingers. He had an incredible power.

7b with no protection means that he was soloing or just not putting gear inside?
(laugh) That reminds me of  one story. He climbed a route in Patagonia on Cerro Torre with Silvo Karo and one other guy. These guys got so scared because Dean was not placing any protection for entire pitches. They get terrified. I was like: “Fuck, he never fell off.” But they were like: “We gonna die, because there are no anchors!” (laughs) He was a machine – really amazing adventure crack climber. Very good at slabs as well. It is hard to say what he personally would answer you if you asked him.. I think he wouldn’t tell you: “I like cracks.” because he did not like to specify things. That was Dean.

FULL WIDTH fotka

 

– DEAN ON BASE SOLO OF EIGER NORTH FACE (p: Beat Kammerlander.com) –

Text 8

TOTAL JOKE

Is there somebody who does BASE solo today?
The BASE solo is a total joke, man. Come on! BASE solo is something that does not exist. (laughs)

What about the Eiger?
It was just for the movie. And the place where Dean fell was not on the route. He never ever fell from a climbing route. For this shot he rappelled from the edge 40 meters just to make the exit. There are some shots from the route “Deep Blue Sea” (7b+, 5.12b/c, 320 m) but the falling was shot at an absolutely different place. It is lots of fun but it’s also rubbish. You can Photoshop me freesoloing anything, but if you want to be honest you have to show your guns. Just be who you are. _

Dean in the north face of Eigeru | fall starts at 3:20 s
source: Big Up Productions

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How many times did he BASE solo then?
Only on the Eiger and in Yosemite on the Rostrum. Only on the Rostrum maybe this would have worked if he fell. The top is very hard – around 7b and it is tough overhang and super airy as well. Dean soloed the “Alien Roof” (5.12b, 7b) and again, he spent like eternity training for it … Every afternoon for entire months. _

Dean soloing Allien Roof | 2012
source: Big Up Productions

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What was his motivation?
He realized that he is not able to free climb “Salathé” so he had to find something that Alex Honnold was not capable of. That’s how the world works, man. I think that this rivalry drove him a lot.

And according to you, is BASE soloing one of the other products of mainstream media?
Yes, I did not like it. I had a lot of fights with Dean about this issue. It was his absolute dream to do that thing and for years we were looking for the perfect spot. In one summer he went to Europe but it was super rainy. Beat Kammerlander took him to the Eiger, Geneva pillar to show him a potential place where this can be done. Dean actually never climbed the route “Deep Blue Sea”, he traversed into the route seven pitches from the ground. He found that traverse very randomly when climbing with Beat, it started raining, and Beat traversed to the right to get out, to get the edge. So that was how Dean found the way in.

If Dean was climbing it from the bottom there would not be any space to open the parachute…
Absolutely! There was only one guy who did BASE solo for real – Paul Kupsa. He was an Austrian guy, saw what Dean was doing and went to Verdon. Here he rappelled to the middle of the cliff and climbed up – onsight! He was the only person who was taking this game for real. Not trying to plan anything.

Do you know the difficulty?
I think Paul was climbing maximally 7c. (You can find a video about him here)
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Paul Kupsa (source: BaseFatalityList.com)

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What a crazy guy!
He was crazy, he did it for real! After Dean’s video, some people were trying BASE solo, for example Fernando Motta in Mexico or someone in Riglos, Spain. Everybody after a lots of preparation… Paul Kupsa was just going for it! He was the only person I know who was taking the real risk. He was a designer of paragliders, really good paraglider and a BASE jumper, trucker, climber… Good mountaineer as well, climbed the Eiger and jumped from the top… I have jumped from Eiger many times but never after climbing the north face. Paul did it and he is still totally unknown.

I can see you are talking with past tense about your friends quite often…
He died as well. Sixty of my friends died during the last ten years, man. Fernando from Brazil as well. They all died in the wing suits. All of them.

FULLW 3 kámoši

 

– IVO NINOV IN THE MIDDLE: SIXTY OF MY FRIENDS DIED DURING THE LAST TEN YEARS
(f: Dean Findelman) –

Galerie 3 DEAN

Text 9

THE LAST AIR VORTEX

What about the Dean’s death? I’m afraid there is a lot of misinterpretations on the internet…
But the true story is there. You can read the true report here: report.

So there wasn’t anything wrong with their parachutes?
No, there was no opening of parachutes here, man. This was a direct impact without trying to open it. Parachutes were ok. The chance was very little, you have to act instantly. If you are not there in 15 minutes with a doctor, it is almost impossible to survive – you crash at 200 kilometers per hour.

My image is maybe little bit influenced by the Valley Uprising movie, where it looked like a hunt on Dean Potter. Even on the internet you can find testimonies that Dean died because he was stressed out because of rangers…
No, there were no problems. No, no, no… This issue is very exaggerated in Valley Uprising. The footage when Dean was talking to a ranger was made by my camera. Dean was always a rude guy. I insisted that we have to talk to these guys, we live in this valley, we need to become friends with them. “You can never be a friend with these fools.” This was his answer and philosophy. They liked to chase us but there were those who liked us as well, they watched us hundreds of time jumping and did not care. They were not stupid. But Dean just always fought against them. I respected them – if Yosemite had no rules, would be a total chaos. I’m happy that the valley is the way it is. Dean was chased because he wanted to be chased.

Title

DEAN POTTER AS A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION

infobox tabulka obyč

 (Pro American highliner, a lover of Czech sandstone climbing, editor’s notice)

What was Dean’s contribution to the world of slacklining?
Dean was one of the first slackliners and highliners, and being the skilled and well known athlete that he was, he managed to garner much attention to the budding sport and bring it into the public eye.

What did you like about him?
It was clear that Dean’s passion and drive for all he did was untethered to outside influence and opinion. He followed his own path.

What did (or what does) his thoughts mean for other people in the climbing/highline community?
I think his passion for the sport and his incredible abilities in the realm of free soloing will live on as a testament to the possibilities of the human mind.

Faith Dickey (p: FD’s archive)

 (English crack specialist from Wide Boyz duo, editor’s notice)

Have you ever met Dean personally? If so, then what is your best memory or experience with Dean?
No, I never met him actually. A real shame as I spent quite a lot of time in Yosemite… he was pretty elusive though!

What did (or what do) his thoughts mean for other people in the climbing community?
My main thoughts about Dean and what he brought to the climbing community were really about the capacity to continually push the boundaries and the direction of the sport. He never seemed confined to the normal approach of climbing from bottom to top like everyone else. He thought of different ways to do it, different ways to present it to the public and different ways to show that a love of adventure and nature is very personal. I always liked that…. he seemed to have a very personal connection with his climbing – at times it almost seemed uncomfortable or painful for him.

Which of his catch-phrases do you remember?
Oh gosh….. er…… I’m not sure I know any?! I think all I ever saw was stuff he did in films, but then everyone’s seen those. I loved his Masters of Stone 5 film (2001) – classic hard crack climbing!

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Tom Randall (p: Standa Mitac)

(Czech climbing journalist, member of eMontana team, editor’s notice)

Me and my boyfriend were honored to meet Dean in Hueco Tanks, where he was working as a guide during winter. We joined him and his friends during frequent bouldering sessions. As a proper guide, he was always taking care of us, carrying around the largest bouldering pad and carefully spotting all the climbers. I wasn’t good at English back then and while we were climbing one highball, I was about to fall so I shouted at him: “Go away!” Steph Davis told me then that I was the first woman to give him the push in public :).

Anyway, if I hadn’t read about him in climbing magazines, I would never tell that he’s such a professional athlete. He was a laid-back guy and if there was anybody living in harmony in nature, it was surely him. He wasn’t pretentious, lived a humble life in his van, meditated a lot and believed in his attitude to life. Later, when I was making an interview with him for a Czech climbing website lezec.cz, I admired his courage to keep opening doors to new experiences. I really don’t think that what he did was foolish and capricious. He strived to understand life, himself, doing it his way. And why not? It is just our courage that determines how far we go, what we aim to explore and what our “means” are…

And if I ever believed every single word of somebody I interviewed, it was him. It may seem odd, but his passing caught me out. I believed that he could achieve his dream of landing with a wingsuit. Who else would do it?
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Simca Ulmonova making an interview with Dean (f: Karel Svab)

(Publisher of Czech printed climbing mag Montana, editor’s notice)

Once, during huge trade fair, which I was at, he planned to send a highline rigged between two pavilions. Free-solo. However, he didn’t arrive in the time. Later, I found out that he made the exhibition a bit later so that just a few people would see it. The expectation of others put such a big pressure on him that he decided to postpone the show. I do not regret not seeing him and I quite understand him – it would be him who would hit the ground, not any of us “gapers.”

Dean appeared on a title page of an issue of Montana in 2005, walking the Lost Arrow highline. This issue is still a cult among local slackliners. Not only because it provided the motivation but also because it brought about a complete manual concerning how to rig the slacklines. More than with Dean, we were always in contact with his life partner and even a wife for a moment, Steph Davis. She appeared on a beautiful title page of Montana even earlier, on issue 4/2004. For sure, it wasn’t easy to live with Dean. I can now recall one famous story when they climbed some rock tower in Patagonia together, on the top they said goodbye and then Dean basejumped to the valley while she spent two days abseiling.

I have always seen him as a man who was not the very best climber of his generation because he wasn’t just climbing. He never stiffened in his position and always followed new challenges. He trusted in himself. He wasn’t pursuing his medial presentation – that is quite unusual in the “small sports” he was involved in, especially in the US. He was doing things his own way and he knew well what the risk was. He died the way he lived.
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Tomas Roubal (photo: Standa Mitac)

(Climber from Slovakia who met Dean week before his accident, editor’s notice)

Only week ago, Dean was smiling at me when he was leaving the office. Really nice guy. He definitely wasn’t a natural rhetorician; however, his lecture was still captivating. As he described himself: “In the time when I made the longest basejump ever from the top of Eiger, I wasn’t the best basejumper at all. But I was the most innovative one.”

Together with NASA engineers, he developed his own wingsuit that allowed him to make such a jump. His latest projects were including cooperation with Google and Apple. He saw future in the innovation.

The key to his success was according to his own words a certain subconscious “system” that allowed him to perform the most extreme stunts. Even though a lot of his “colleagues” were often failing in this area and many basejumpers around him passed away, he believed that his “system” is somehow better. Sadly, no one ever created a flawless model and it wasn’t Dean’s case either…

When I have first seen the video, in which Dean does a basejump with his dog Whisper that wears aviator goggles I thought about writing a letter to animal rights activists. Later, when Dean himself showed us the video, I got the feeling that the dog is in fact happy.

That was the same feeling I had about dean – balancing on a thin edge but happy.

Nina Kuderjava (f: Standa Mitac)

Ivo and I have such a carefree attitude when climbing and flying together. We both realize that the way we pursue winged flight is quite safe and I guess we’ve become used to pouring on total concentration as well as the idea that if we make a bad error we pay with our lives.

I remembered watching Ivo on his first wingsuit cliff jump. He plummeted like a rock. Now I watched my Brother launch and fly for miles until he was out of sight.  His form was perfect in the air, so calm and fluid. He made one hell of a flight for a Vampire and it looked like he made it to the town of Grindlewald.

(source: article „Above It All“, November 02, 2011, www.fiveten.com)
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Ivo Ninov (p: Adrien Nisan, www.shams.fr)

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Special thanks to Tendon Ropes for their help with English translations.

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Autor

“Sany” Mitac

Chief editor

“Climbing is not about the grades and life is not about the money” He loves to write about crazy people.
Addicted to situations when he does not care about the time – in the mountains or sandstone crags.

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