Two BASE jumpers die after attempting wingsuit flight

Two BASE jumpers, prominent rock climber Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, were found dead in Yosemite National Park on Sunday after attempting a wingsuit flight earlier that weekend.

The two men jumped from Taft Point, a cliff 3,500 feet above the floor of Yosemite National Park in wingsuits. According to The New York Times, 43-year-old Potter and 29-year-old Hunt were unable to clear a notch in the cliff, and instead crashed into the rocks.

When their spotter couldn’t reach the two by radio, she went to their designated meeting spot. Yosemite search and rescue teams began a search Saturday night for the two extreme athletes. On Sunday, a state police helicopter found the bodies from the air, and two rangers were airlifted to the site later that day, Outside Magazine reported. Neither of their parachutes had been deployed.

BASE jumping, which stands for the four objects to jump from — building, antenna, span and Earth — is regarded as an extreme sport in which participants jump from a fixed object before pulling a parachute. Potter is regarded as one of his generation’s top rock climbers and BASE jumpers. Potter also set both rock-climbing and highlining, or tightrope-walking, records, and is considered a “wingsuit pioneer.” He is also the creator of freebase, which involves rock climbing without a harness and relying on a parachute if he fell.
BASE jumping is illegal in national parks, and officials at Yosemite National Park have worked to stop the practice in recent years.

A NewsHour report last year looked at the controversies of using national landmarks for extreme sports like highling, which is legal in national parks.

“Today’s generation is treating the outdoors as a dirty gym, and that’s not what was thought about 50 years ago with the 1964 Wilderness Act, with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act,” environmental author Andrew Gulliford said. “So those conservation laws were about preserving nature for nature’s sake. And we have got a new generation of extreme sports enthusiasts who simply want to go out, use the outdoors, photograph themselves with, you know, special little cameras, and then hit the brew pub by dark and talk about their exploits.”

One highliner told Jeffrey Brown his reasoning behind the extreme sport.

“It’s this rush of overwhelming happiness, because you have done something that you were terrified of, and then you overcame that fear, and then all of a sudden you’re proud of yourself,” Scott Rodgers said. “You feel empowered, like you can do anything, really.”