“He had learned this extreme form of tightrope walking from a homeless man who wrote books on quantum physics. But that was years ago, while goofing around on a flexible piece of nylon webbing tied close to the ground between a tree and the bumper of a Chevy van.
This was something else entirely for Dean Potter, one of the world’s best climbers, barefoot in the dying sun last Friday, walking between ledges of a U-shaped rim above Hell Roaring Canyon, a 400-foot sheer sandstone wall on his right, a 900-foot drop to a dry riverbed on his left. No leash tethered him to the rope. Nothing attached him to earth but the grip of his size-14 feet and the confident belief that, if needed, his parachute would open quickly and cleanly and not slam him into the canyon wall.
At 6 feet 5 inches and 180 pounds, wirily strong, Potter dressed in jeans and blue T-shirt emblazoned with a hawk. He wore a wide headband over unruly hair, gaining the appearance of a less gaunt and reckless Keith Richards as Alpine daredevil. As Potter stepped onto the 180-foot rope – a strand of iridescent blue against desiccated canyon shades of brick and tan and coppery green – he was believed to be the first person to combine the adventure sports of highlining and BASE-jumping.”
(Video of Dean Potter’s solo on El Capitan via Google)