Dean Potter died. I knew moments after it happened as my facebook feed, news feed and twitter accounts blew up with posts, reposts and heartfelt "I'm so sorry for your loss" posts and tweets and comments.
Maybe a more kind hearted soul would have felt the same impulse to post and comment and share and join in the tear filled chest pounding self flagellation that will consume the climbing community for weeks to come but I just can't muster it - because here is the thing. I didn't know Dean. I didn't know his friends and family and I've never met him.
Since I started climbing over 30 years ago the community I consider myself a part of has lost dozens of the most daring and selfless - unknowns like Derek, well knowns like Bachar and Dan and Alex and the obscure like the poor bastard I watched gasp out his last moments on earth splattered half in and half out of the Mississippi on an achingly beautiful mother's days.
Each time I've watched the "core community" come together and make heartfelt tributes to the fallen - beating their chests in an effort to out grieve each other. But here is the thing. Behind closed doors and in the quiet of the night we all know that none of us are truly worthy. Dean put his life on the line and crossed it in the pursuit of his dreams - demonstrating a commitment in the process that we will simply never know. Wifes, kids, debt, parents, dependents and life prevent the vast majority of us from committing our lives in such a fashion. We post and grieve publicly not to comfort Dean's loved ones, but to draft behind those who have demonstrated and proved once again that our sport is truly "rad", "extreme" and really really dangerous. Dean's death allows the rest of us to bask in the knowledge that we are cheating death each time we set out to climb - when in reality our bolted lines and cam cracks aren't much more dangerous that running around a city block.
Compounding all this is the fact that lurking just out of sight are the sanuk organic cotton styly sunglass wearing uber groovy marketing directors who either consciously or unconsciously lick their collective chops each time another tragedy strikes. Death sells, risk attracts. Red Bull will sell even more shit to posers who have trouble climbing out of their xbox couches, Patagonia will sell more overpriced crap to Newbury street shoppers looking to be "authentic" and climbing gyms around the country will attract more daisy chain shiny gear wearing dudes and dudettes.
I'm sorry Dean died and I wish I had met him if only to shake his hand and wish him luck. At the same time I can't shake the guilty feeling knowing that his death and the death of countless others contribute to the popularity and attraction of the sport I love.
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