Dean Potter jumps off of large high things wearing a ‘flying squirrel’ suit. Don’t ask.
Last year around this time he was being filmed and sponsored by National Geo in just such an adventure. He came up our way to jump off of Mount Bute near the head of Bute Inlet. Bute is a fiord/inlet half-way up the BC coast and the source of our high winter ‘outflow’ winds. Isolated.
The mountain is pretty high. Apparently it is one of the
highest mountains in the world in terms of ‘climb’ because it rises straight up right from sea level. It is an impressive slab o’ rock covered in snow and ice and located miles from anywhere. Really inviting, ya know?
This mountain-climbing, leaping-off-it film made only one thing partly understandable to me: Dean seems to like that sort of thing. After that, I watched the whole film wondering, ‘why?’
A friend of ours is a world-class mountaineer-in-retirement. He has some kind of understanding (if there is such a thing…..my jury is still out) of this. He has climbed this formidable challenge and was asked to accompany the film crew and climbers to the base camp and provide them with background, history, stories and local knowledge. I confess that even going to the base camp made me question ‘why?’
Mind you, I feel that way about multiple flights of stairs, too…………
I am obviously not the mountaineering type. Not a mountain-goat nor a lemming gene in my family, I guess. Even watching the film induced a fear-of-heights response. It just ain’t my thing.
But I have to say – it was interesting in a Spider-man-cum-Zen-Yoga-master meets Evil Knevil kind of way.
And the story did have some elements…………..the best part of it all for me was Chuck.
Chuck lives up at the head of Bute Inlet at Homathko camp. Year ’round. Our previously mentioned friends took us up to meet him and his wife one weekend a summer or two ago. Very beautiful country. Very rugged. Real he-man, mountain-man, can-do kinda place. He and his wife meet and exceeds that description all the time. Chuck is an extreme handyman and on a huge scale. The two of them are way, way larger than life in a Paul Bunyan kind of way.
For instance: he made a hot tub. He used a huge dump-truck bed for the in-rock pool and then put a building around it so as to be usable year ’round. ‘C’mon…….that is real mountain-man, can-do stuff! Admit it!’
Anyway, the flying Dean and his crew climbed the peak and ascertained that the leap off the top did not have the required five to seven seconds free fall-without-interruption (so that the squirrel suit inflates into flying shape). “What to do?”
“What if you had a ramp? Like a spring board off the top? You know, it allows you to leap off from a further distance out?”
“Chuck!? How we goin’ to do that two miles up??!”
“Piece o’ cake!”
And so Chuck fabricated a large aluminum bridge-to-nowhere that could be rigged by a high rigger on the peak of the mountain. Made it in his shop. A gazillion miles from anywhere. Like..in a day! It allowed for a ‘further out’ leap. Then Dean, the lucky leaper, would have all of five seconds before flying or well, splattering.
The game was on.
A helicopter flew the parts up to the peak, the guys assembled it and within a day the flying Squirrel-man was set to go.
And he did. Dean Potter flew like Rocky (of Rocky and Bullwinkel fame) for just half a second under three minutes. And guys hanging off ropes and stuck in granite crevices 12,000 feet up filmed it.
And we got to see it all happen – nicely packaged and edited – up at the community potluck. Got a nice dinner to go with that. Even had a free beer. It was good.
And that was the only part I really understood.