Dean Potter, climbing legend, and Graham Hunt reported killed in BASE jump accident

Dean Potter. (planetmountain.com photo)

Dean Potter. (planetmountain.com photo)

UPDATED AS OF 11 P.M.: The New York Times is reporting that Dean Potter and Graham Hunt, in their BASE jump of Taft Point, attempted to clear a notch on the cliffs below but were not able to, hitting the rock before they could deploy their chutes. More of that story here.

UPDATED AS OF 9 P.M.: The Associated Press is reporting that search and rescuers who found the bodies of Dean Potter and Graham Hunt say their parachutes apparently did not deploy. They were attempting a wingsuit flight.

UPDATED: Outside Online is reporting the accident took place on Taft Point in Yosemite, and that Potter’s partner, who was also killed, was Graham Hunt. Read more on that here.

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Various Internet reports are saying that Dean Potter, a famous rock climber and BASE jumper, has died in a BASE jumping accident in California.

Gripped.com is saying that he and his climbing partner, who was not named, died Saturday when their jump went awry around Lost Arrow Spire in Yosemite National Park. You can read that report here.

More details are also available on this reddit post about the accident.

Potter, 43, was one of the lead figures in a generation of Yosemite climbers that took hold in the  1990s, a group famous for pioneering new, big-wall routes and free-solo climbing. Among that group, Potter was considered one of the most daring and best. Potter was also known for his speed climbing and high-lining feats.

A huge loss to the climbing and outdoor community.

The Weekly Stoke: Mount Shasta, vanlife, why we climb mountains and the baddest ultramarathon around

Mount Shasta (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Shasta (Wikipedia Commons photo)

It’s Friday the 13th, and a full moon is gonna be out. But that won’t deter me from getting out there, and giving you some reading material before I go. So let’s get started!

Ever thought about climbing Mount Shasta? Blogger and outdoor enthusiast Landon Faulkner walks you through it via this trip report.

The Coast Guard released its report on the sinking of the Bounty during Hurricane Sandy. Can’t say I’m surprised with its conclusions.

Living on the road, driving to new adventures: Sounds like the life, right? But this writer puts some perspective on vanlife.

Another one from the Adventure Journal: A musician stuck in a rut takes some time in India to find a little inspiration. Travel has a way of doing that, right?

With all the bad news from the mountains this spring, world-class mountaineer Conrad Anker writes this opinion piece about why he climbs dangerous mountains.

Last one: This link takes you to a video which describes what might be the toughest, wildest ultramarathon on the U.S., the Barkley 100. This ain’t your average trail race!

NPS opens up applications for Half Dome hiking permits

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. (Wikpedia Commons photo)

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

If you’re interested in hiking Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, here is a bit of news you might want to know.

A report from The Associated Press says you can start applying for permits now. Up to 300 hikers per day are allowed on the cables leading to the top of Half Dome. But you need reservations.

Restrictions on numbers began in 2011, with the National Park Service citing safety as the main reason for the new rule.

The lottery system will end March 31, the AP reported, but 50 additional permits per day will be issued through the hiking season.

For more information, go to this link.

Bob Doucette

The Weekly Stoke: Alex Honnold’s latest feat, stuff runners know, a homicidal climber and extreme drought in the Sierras

Alex Honnold in the Sierras. (Alex Honnold Facebook page photo)

Alex Honnold in the Sierras. (Alex Honnold Facebook page photo)

How is everyone’s week going? Hopefully it’s been filled with adventure or just plain getting after it. Without further delay, here’s the latest Weekly Stoke!

Uber climber Alex Honnold is at it again, this time pulling off a multi-pitch, 1,500-foot free solo climb in Mexico. Mixed in this achievement were several 5.12 pitches. Did I mention he did this free solo?

Here’s a list of things only runners understand. Some are gender specific.

This post details some of the health issues that affect ultra marathoners.

This story is a weird one in which one climber allegedly killed another (who had been described as the suspect’s mentor) with a hammer.

A Crossfit coach and competitor suffered a devastating injury during a recent competition while attempting an Olympic lift.

And finally, while there are some parts of the country that are experiencing a cooler and wetter winter, that is definitely not the case n California, which is in the midst of a devastating drought.

That’s a whole lot of news. Now go make a story of your own. Have an excellent weekend!

The Weekly Stoke: Winter camping tips, 26 marathons in 26 days, extreme destinations and a petition on behalf of the Badwater 135

badwater

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and hopefully you all have done better than me in terms of avoiding the holiday bloat. Yikes! Anyway, I found some more great links for your reading pleasure, and perhaps something there to inspire your next move. Time for the Weekly Stoke!

The weather outside might be frightful, but this post gives you six tips on how to keep warm when camping in the winter.

A Las Vegas man ran 26 marathons in 26 days to help raise awareness for the needy in his city. Behind the glitz of the Strip is some pretty desperate situations, apparently.

Speaking of marathons, this writer gives you a few tips on how to avoid “hitting the wall” during a 26.2-miler.

Backpacker Magazine throws down a list of extreme places to visit.

Finally, a follow-up on news from earlier this week about the NPS’ decision to temporarily halt all races through Death Valley. An online petition to the White House to lift the moratorium has been started, and you can check it out or sign on.

NPS puts the brakes on Badwater 135, other races in Death Valley

A competitor runs the Badwater 135. (defense.gov photo)

A competitor runs the Badwater 135. (defense.gov photo)

In a decision that could affect a number of endurance races that traverse Death Valley, the National Park Service has placed a moratorium on races that go through the area until NPS officials can determine how safe such events are, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Among the most famous: The Badwater 135, an ultramarathon that crosses the world’s hottest environment before finishing at more than 8,300 feet on the lower flanks of Mount Whitney in southern California’s Sierras.

The NPS says it will do a study on the issue which should be done by spring, and events could resume as early as Oct. 1, 2014, the AP reported.

“We want to make it clear, we’re not canceling or banning any events,” Death Valley National Park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman told The AP. “At the moment, we’re just not taking any more applications for them until we finish our safety evaluation.”

What makes it odd: A lack of major problems associated with endurance races in the area, one organizer said.

Chris Kostman, whose AdventureCorps runs Badwater 135 and other events, told the AP that his organization has held 89 events since 1990 without serious issues crop up: No deaths, no serious crashes, and a smattering of ambulance transports during that time. Despite its rigors, Death Valley’s signature race has an 89-percent finish rate, he said. Entry is by invitation only, and competitors have to have at least three 100-milers under their belt to be considered.

But the NPS’s decision means that Kostman has had to reschedule or move a slate of 2014 competitions, he said.

Temperatures in Death Valley can reach 130 degrees, and the length of the race, plus its elevation gain (about 8,500 feet from its lowest point to its high-altitude finish) make it even more taxing.

Those reasons, as well as increasing popularity and numbers of competitors, make it time for the safety review, Chipman contends.

In the long-term, Badwater 135 could be back, and other races will continue elsewhere, the AP reports. But in the short-term, there won’t be a Badwater 135 next year.

So what do you think? Is this move due diligence on the part of NPS, or is it overreach? Let me know your thoughts.

Bob Doucette

Weekly Stoke: Surviving in a snow cave, avalanche tragedy, lost hikers found and a different kind of bike ride

Something I’ve thought about doing for some time is posting some things in the news that I’ve seen that might interest folks like you and me. So I’m going to set aside a weekly space for some of the stories that caught my attention, and might also stoke yours. Thus is born the Weekly Stoke!

Here goes…

Mount Hood. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Mount Hood. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

A hiker in Oregon got herself in a bit of trouble on Mount Hood, slipping and falling and injuring her leg. She was able to dig out a snow cave where she rode it out six days before being rescued. Check out the full story and a video here.

A less uplifting story out of Colorado. Some backcountry skiers got caught in a large avalanche, and not all of them survived to tell the tale. An excellent write-up from the Denver Post can be found here.

A day hike in Southern California turned out to be a much more serious ordeal for a group of young hikers this week. This story ends well, however.

And finally, a final tip of the hat to winter on one of the more interesting bike rides you will ever see. Watch the video:

NPS makes daily hiker limits at Half Dome permanent, will keep cables

A conga line of hikers going up the cables on Half Dome. (NPS photo)

A conga line of hikers going up the cables on Half Dome. (NPS photo)

A longstanding controversy over what to do about hiking and climbing Yosemite’s Half Dome appears to have come to a conclusion that is bound to leave a lot of people miffed.

In 2010, the National Park Service approved limits as to how many people could ascend the iconic peak every day. Upwards of 1,200 people were attempting it daily, creating logjams and leaving people at risk when trying to descend during bad weather. NPS decided to try limiting it to 300 a day on an interim basis.

NPS also considered whether or not it should allow the cables installed to help hikers up the mountain remain. Half Dome is in a wilderness area, and things like the cables are forbidden by law (the 1964 Wilderness Act) from being built. The cables predate the passage of the law by several decades, however, and the cables have been allowed to stay.

Wilderness advocates have been calling for their removal. Hiking enthusiasts counter by saying the cables’ removal would halt access to Half Dome’s summit to everyone except expert climbers, as its 45-degree, slick granite slopes would make ascending it too difficult for the average day hiker.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. (NPS photo)

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. (NPS photo)

NPS has decided to make to 300-person daily limit permanent and to keep the cables. You can read more about that story here.

One way you can look at this is that both sides lost. Fewer people will have access to Half Dome while a section of California’s most famous wilderness area will be marked by a man-made safety device that doesn’t exist in other wild places.

But if you think about it, NPS’ decisions have a degree of consistency. Yosemite National Park is not like most other wild areas in the country. It receives far more visitors because of its location (in the most populous state in the nation) and its popularity outside California. Deaths have occurred on Half Dome because of a confluence of overcrowding on the route and bad weather.

I’m all for keeping wild places wild, and I’m in favor of keeping outdoor spaces accessible. But I understand what NPS has done. Half Dome is a unique place, and these two issues requires unique solutions that won’t apply to other wilderness areas. In order to accommodate visitors, NPS had to thin the crowds while also making sure that some degree of safety remained on a route that people had become accustomed to climbing over several decades.

The only real alternative would have been much harsher: Remove the cables and institute even stricter rules on how many people could ascend. That surely would have made the chorus of discontent a lot louder, with only a few purist wilderness advocates happy.

Drop your thoughts on this development in the comments below.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088