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Dean Potter Free Solos Separate Reality and A Dog’s Roof

A Dangerous Trance: Potter free solos Separate Reality and A Dog’s Roof without a hitch on a soloing binge.

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This article appeared in Rock and Ice issue 153 (September 2006).

During the first week of June, Dean Potter free soloed A Dog’s Roof (5.12b), Yosemite, which he characterized as “perhaps the most difficult solo in the Valley to date. I [also] soloed Separate Reality (5.11d) five times as well, in a long trance.”

Separate Reality is a 20-foot fist- to finger-sized roof crack situated high above the Cookie Cliff. Wolfgang Gullich made the first known solo
of the intimidating route (a fall from the lip, the route’s crux, would mean a 500-foot plummet into the manzanita) in 1986. Heinz Zak, who photographed a shirtless Gullich hanging over the void, immortalized the solo with photos that appeared in most climbing magazines at the time. In no small part due to the power of these images, Separate Reality became a litmus test for bold solos. Almost 20 years later, Zak returned to make what is thought to be the second solo ascent, in June last year.

Potter running one of his five cordless laps on Yosemite’s Separate Reality (5.11d). Photo: Dean Fidelman.

“It’s been in my mind forever,” Potter said. “There is no solo more classic or special. The first time I did it I was quite nervous but the jams were locker and my sequence was super locked in. It felt so good I started to do it over and over again, to savor it as a breakthrough.”

On June 4, Potter upped the ante by soloing A Dog’s Roof (5.12b), a 40-degree-overhanging off-fingers crack near the west end of the Wawona tunnel.

“That was a way different experience,” Potter said. “The last time I went up to it, I couldn’t lead it. The climbing is on rattley jams that could just
slip out. The crux is right at the top [of the 40-foot wall]. But I meditated hard at the base and on the solo I felt like I could break my fingers
[because] I was jamming so hard. I actually had to ease off a little.”

When asked what else he has planned for this spring season, Potter said, “I’m on a free solo mission.”


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