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Dean Potter: Anti-Climber

Posted on: September 10, 2007

Dean Potter: Anti-Climber

As many of us learned in high school, reputations are in large part defined by the company we keep. I am dismayed that in Issue 21, Alpinist undermined its integrity and besmirched its good name by taking a spin with anti-climber Dean Potter.

Potter's earlier half-hearted "apology" following the Delicate Arch fiasco displayed a Clinton-esque ability to pay lip service to the pain of others while avoiding the real pain of accepting responsibility for one's actions. But Potter's defiant stance in "The Space Between"("I will never bow to unnatural restrictions.") pulls back even this flimsy pretense and reveals his true remorselesness.


Potter just doesn't get it. The anger stirred by his controversial climb was not motivated simply by the response of the Park Service. Some—like Potter—may feel that the Park Service's response represents an infringement on climbers' rights. Many others would argue that no climber has ever had the right to throw a toprope over the Delicate Arch in order to rehearse moves resulting in permanent scars to the fragile sandstone— even if it was technically "legal." Or, for that matter, to fix anchors on the Three Gossips to facilitate slacklining.

Critical readers and savvy climbers understand that Potter's pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo is nothing more than a cover for his true motivation—the publicity that boosts the ego and fills the bank account.

In his previous apology, Potter admits that publicity-seeking was "a part of" his motivation, but claims absolution since he was "only doing his job." That argument didn't hold water in Nuremburg, either.

Potter seems incapable of critical self-examination, but thoughtful climbers should take pause to review their own motivations in light of his exploits. "Because it is there," may have been all we needed in the age of Mallory. Twenty-first century climbers should ask themselves if there are potential climbing objectives that are there, but that should simply remain off-limits.

Potter achieved his goal: he is the most famous climber in the country. Alpinist helps him maintain that status. In so doing, it undermines its credibility as a journal for serious climbers motivated by internal goals achieved in the absence of photographers, media exposure, and lucrative sponsorship deals.

Here at Alpinist, our small editorial staff works hard to create in-depth stories that are thoughtfully edited, thoroughly fact-checked and beautifully designed. Please consider supporting our efforts by subscribing.



"Twenty-first century climbers should ask themselves if there are potential climbing objectives that are there, but that should simply remain off-limits."

maybe we should all consider this as part of our relentless fossil fueled quest to climb mountains that are far out of our reach. dean only offered up a physical analogy, of some sort, to what we are willfully ignorant of each time we turn the key and press the gas to get to our favorite crag or far off mountain range, that being: the ignorance of the impact that these actions have on the environment. i support dean for climbing a rock that he found striking, and helping raise the question of how one physical location, one rock, can be so sacred and off limits while we are willing to damage and pollute others in support of our personal and social agendas.

wmsmale was clearly suffering from some sort of age related dementia when he made such antagonistic comments towards younger generations. hopefully other readers realize this and chose not to form some sort of argumentative reply, we should all pray for his well-being and take his comments as a lesson for patience when dealing with obstinate, angry, and unaware people who have let time and age ruin their perception.

2012-12-01 07:56:27

Yeah, it wasn't until the 70's generation got old and past their prime that the collective consciousness of climbers "suddenly" developed an ego and a sense of entitlement. Too bad we can't turn off the Internet and get back to having fistfights over ethics in the camp 4 parking lot...and a time when nobody put in bolts or pitons (*cough cough cough*), and when dirty smelly climbers squatting in the wilderness didn't impact anything, didn't take up space or resources, they cared more because they lived out of dumpsters instead of mom and dad's trust fund. There was CERTAINLY no "who's who" in the climbing world of the good old days either, why back in 1975 I bet if you walked into Camp 4 and asked who the 'best climbers were' you'd get funny looks cause nobody would understand much less know, they were all just there for the joy of being with nature in their egoless state. El Capitan back then had no trash at all, nobody flung poop from the walls, nobody fixed ropes, pounded stove leg parts into cracks. Serenity Crack is a an astonishing natural wonder, isn't it? Yes in the 70's, there was nary of trace of climbers passage. Only natural features were climbed without nailing, everyone downclimbed instead of rapped off, and no one breathed a word of their exploits to another.

Ah. The good old days. God damn kids.

2012-11-28 07:47:43

As a "rock climber" who started climbing in 1968 I'm fed up with this new/current generation of climbers. Bunch of spoild brats who don't make a pimple on monkeys ass. It;s all about speed climbing and who's who in the climbing world. It;s all about solo free climbing, get real, solo free climbing was going on long before this new breed were born. I heard there's all sorts of junk left in the crevices of El Cap, ropes being left in place, pitons, etc. No repect, it;s a me, me, me generation of adolelecent inmature "kids" who don't give a damn about the wilderness, enviornment. It;s the throw away generation, and Dean Potter enforces this attitude for name recognition. When you climb, no one should ever know you were there. "Sport Climbing" bullshit. Have some f——-respect, you punks are turning Yosemeti into Disney Land.

2012-11-27 23:19:01

Not a good trend at all.

2007-09-12 20:31:42

Equating Nuremeburg and Dean Potter debases those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. There is no comparison. Such a purile reference debases an other-wise valid position.

Issue 21 was the worst issue yet.

The issue that you have brought up regarding the recent exposure of the "publicity hunters" in the pages of Alpinist I too find disturbing. I guess I feel (felt?) a certain ownership of Alpinist, being a subscriber. It dishartens me to see the sort of free press that some of these characters are given. Alpinist, for myself, has always been a magazine that, in spite of the spectactular nature of some of the climbing, was roots.

There is so much quality material out there, not to say that the Potter article was not, just that there is other material out there that has the sort of quality that Alpinist is known for....If you have lost your ways boys....look at a "Surfer's Journal" for inspiration.

Change is good, but if Alpinist continues on a trajectory of low quality material, I will cancel my subscription. The new website is missing a lot of the information previously easily found and the search function is not so good. The "Climbing Notes" section from the old website had ascents that I have been unable to locate using the search function.... and the loss of "Climbing Notes" in the magazine in it's previous form is a bummer. I loved the packed-in style of that sucks you've decided the web-site is sufficient for this purpose. Why not do away with the magazine all-together Christian?

2007-09-12 17:19:25

Anyone who would like to appreciate a good anti Dean Potter rap song should check out a recording by ODUB "Not All Roses". Apparently Dean thought it warranted a ceist and desist letter to be sent back to ODUB to prevent it from being circulated. Which in reply ensued another song titled "Ceist and Desist". :)

2007-09-10 22:09:06
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