Climber Dean Potter's claims that he was merely "communing with nature" when he scaled Delicate Arch in Arches National Park are slowly, and steadily, eroding away, just like the very sandstone he was climbing. In fact, it looks like the tawdry stunt was nothing more than a well-rehearsed film shoot for the 34-year-old.
On top of that, Outside magazine believes it has uncovered evidence that Potter's climb was not exactly unaided, as he has maintained, and that the arch did indeed sustain some damage from ropes tossed over the top for use in scouting his route.
Sadly, just as renegade snowmobilers, ORVers, and personal watercraft users cast a black pox on their sports, Potter seems to have done the same for climbers.
The folks at Patagonia, who support Potter as one of their "alpine ambassadors," seem to be seeing the wrongs of his actions and are rethinking their relationship. Frankly, I hope the National Park Service rethinks its decision not to cite Potter.
It's been said that Potter is one of the country's, if not world's, best climbers. That might be, but he needs to re-examine his ethics. According to an Outside article, Potter initially examined his route while secured by ropes tossed over the top of Delicate Arch before he made his "solo" ascent. Those ropes, the article continues, very possibly sawed narrow groves into the soft sandstone.
NPR is running a story on the stunt and has obtained photographs of grooves in the arch. You can view the story and photos here.
Of course, Potter maintains his rope-work didn't notch the arch.
"The marks up there are not mine, absolutely, and I know for a fact that other people have been up there," he told the magazine. "So it's crystal clear: When we were doing this arch climb it was in all of our minds that the super priority was to be careful of the rock: Don't harm the rock, move slowly, don't do anything at all if you are going to harm the rock. I'm so in tune with rocks and nature. On any rock around the world, if I hurt the rock, I feel like I'm hurting myself."
Puh-lease. He's beginning to sound so zen-like that perhaps he's spent too much time out in the sun.
Oh, back to communing with nature. Outside's article makes it sound like Potter actually was communing with capitalism. Seems that footage of his climb was part of a trailer for his latest movie, which has a working title of "Aerialist," that was shown the other weekend at the Telluride Film Festival.
If nothing else, it sounds like Arches officials can fine him for not securing a commercial filming permit...It's a shame he can't be banned outright from the national park system.