Dean Potter

Photos and audio by Dean Fidelman

Dean Potter on Elephant Roof (May 17th, 2015) I was at a concert when I heard the news. Distracted as I flipped through emails on my phone, a headline struck me stronger than the music did. Dean Potter had perished in a BASE-jumping accident off Taft Point in Yosemite the evening of May 16th. Stunned, I reread the headline. Could it really be true? Could a man who seemed to channel the divine really have befallen such an untimely mortal outcome?

Admittedly, I have no personal connection to Potter himself yet his loss elicited a surprisingly visceral reaction in me. I held back tears as I texted my climbing buddies, “Have you heard?” Their response confirmed it was true. It was not the first time I had read of a professional climber’s fatal tragedy but, for some reason, Dean’s accident hit closer to home. Dean Potter had always exemplified a different take on the world of extreme sports for me and seemed (almost) invincible, but who was he really?

Potter was known for pushing the boundaries of what others believed to be possible. Huge free-solos, record-breaking speed ascents, and heroic link-ups in Yosemite. Legendary highlines untethered. Daring BASE-jumps and the entirely new sport of freeBASE climbing. Referred to by some as the wizard and a free bird, he somehow managed to incorporate a spiritual perspective in his death-defying pursuits that exemplified the higher purpose and power we all strive to be in touch with more regularly. And he was a machine. Just weeks before his death he established the record ascent (and descent) of Half Dome in 2 hours 23 minutes and 51 seconds doing what he called ultra climbing. I’ve done that circuit and his time is unbelievable. Potter’s accomplishments felt super human and his fortitude transcended the norms and expectations of his onlookers. As all these thoughts flew through my mind, it dawned on me that Potter was truly the quintessential example of a Soul Climber. Whatever that might mean to you, it’s the theoretical inspiration for which I named this website. And Potter encompassed it in its entirety.

10 days later, I received an unexpected email via info@soulclimbing.com from another incomparable ‘Dean,’ this time Dean Fidelman. Our discourse went back and forth for a few days as I soaked in the situation. Am I really talking with Dean Fidelman, the man who’s images had enthralled me for years and, in many ways, inspired me to start this project in the first place? I couldn’t hold back my excitement when I asked him if he would consider contributing some of his photographs to the website and he replied, “Yes.” Dean mentioned specifically he had some images of Dean Potter he wanted to share. I was awestruck. If there was anything I could do to honor the life and accomplishments of Dean Potter, this was it.

The images that follow are a generous contribution from Dean Fidelman’s collection and I feel blessed to be a part of it. Fidelman’s life work, his art, and his documentation during the formative years of climbing as we know it are unparalleled. Over the phone he told me he was trying to “share more” and I could not be more appreciative of that simple gesture. Thank you, Dean Fidelman, for extending this opportunity our way and sharing your experiences with us. And thank you, Dean Potter, for the countless moments of inspiration and integrity with which you lead your life in the mountains. You will be missed dearly and your impact on the rest of us will not be forgotten. I can only hope that this homage to your life’s pursuits fulfills all that you would want. Rest in peace, Dean Potter. Or better yet, soar in peace. Let your spirit fly on and touch others as you have touched me. May your soul climb higher and higher on the ladder to enlightenment. Thank you and enjoy.



— Galen MacDougall —

This Dog
This Dog's Roof - 2 of 2
Dean Potter and Whisper
Dean Potter and Whisper
Dean Potter, Chongo and Ivo
Dean Potter, Chongo and Ivo
Hi-line at Lower Spire
Hi-line at Lower Spire
Dean Potter and Willard - 1 of 3
Dean Potter and Willard - 1 of 3
Hi-line at El Capitan Meadow
Hi-line at El Capitan Meadow
This Dog
This Dog's Roof - 1 of 2
Zen Crack
Zen Crack
Dean Potter
Dean Potter
Dean Potter
Dean Potter
Hi-line at El Capitan
Hi-line at El Capitan
Dean Potter and Willard - 2 of 3
Dean Potter and Willard - 2 of 3
Morning Coffee with Ivo
Morning Coffee with Ivo
Separate Reality
Separate Reality
Dean Potter after solo
Dean Potter after solo'ing Heaven
Dean Potter and Willard - 3 of 3
Dean Potter and Willard - 3 of 3
Dean Potter and Friends - El Capitan Road
Dean Potter and Friends - El Capitan Road
Dean Potter as Rat Boy
Dean Potter as Rat Boy
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Who inspires you to climb, to explore and stretch your limits?

Please contact us if you have a special story to tell and photos to share about those who have helped you reach higher.

Special thanks to Aja Jacobsen for his artwork contributions.

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