Posted by: Walker Mackey | 2015/05/25

Life and Death Inevitablity

Two of my best friends died last week in Yosemite, flying wing suits. These guys were true pioneers and some of the best people I have had the pleasure to know. I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to fly and climb with them.

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For the last birthday of Grahams life we got to climb El Cap in a day together. He had never climbed El Cap and I’ll never forget his smile. He was deeply challenged by the experience. As an extremely experienced wing suit mountain flyer and one of the best in the world, this new element of moving fast over splitter crack terrain was a gift unlike anything he could have imagined for his birthday. He was so psyched, but totally scared! After 10 hours of full on short fixing and speed climbing we arrived on top of El Capitan. Not bad for a first run. I will forever remember the smiles we shared on the top. Pure Joy! We were supreme that day. We were wild native flying monkeys of Yosemite in our natural habitats.

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Dean took me to one of his special jumps just before I left for Europe. It’s a flight that I dreamed of flying for many years and one that’s only been done by hand full of wing suit pilots. Before the jump you arrive at a very special rock ledge that sits perfectly amongst the cliff walls with a beautiful view of the spectacular Yosemite Mountains. Those moments siting in the “hot tub” will forever be ingrained in my mind. I honestly didn’t realize that these moments would be the last ones we would share. For me, it felt more like the beginning of a dear friendship, not the end. We got along so well on this hike and the previous month working on his house and shredding missions after mission. Just like everything in life you never realize what you have at the time. Its only in retrospect that you come to truly appreciate the fleeting moments that you shared with your loved ones. To me, Dean was the most sacred of wizards. The last e-mail I sent him was to let him know that I had watched the hobbit on the plane ride over and his name was not the “Dark Wizard,” as many had come to call him, but to me he was “Radagast the Brown.” Radagast was the tender of beasts that was mostly concerned with the well being of the plants and animals of the forest and there for was not concerned with the war for the ring. This is who Dean was. A protector of one of the most beautiful place in the world, Yosemite National Park.

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The lessons I learned from these special people are priceless. I’m honored to have been a part of there adventure. They will forever remain in my mind and I will never forget the reverence they have bestowed upon me.

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So, how to move forward? To be honest it’s a hard question to answer. These people were some of the key components and sources of my inspiration and what I considered the best guides for success in this perilous quest for human flight. Dean was one of three people on a list of individuals that inspired me the most. Now I’m not totally sure how to proceed. I know I will never stop flying. When something is so much a part of you it’s impossible to stop. It’s my passion. I’ve felt like this many times. With alpine climbing, the second season I was in Patagonia, I went thru a near death experience were my partner and I were simul-rappeling and our anchor failed. We got lucky. When I returned I was confronted with the question “Do you quite something you love because it could kill you?” For me, of course you do not. This is the thing that gives you heart and what is a life living without heart? You learn from your experiences and you move forward with caution and thanks that your friends taught you something. This is the best thing I can think to do. Originally I started this path with the intention to climb big mountains and use the wing as a means of decent. I have come to know this activity as Paralpinism. This accident has reinforced my original intention and re-established my connection with these roots. We were originally meant to be Paralpinists, climbers that jumped. We ended up being BASE Jumpers that climbed. Up until the last day of my friends lives we were working on developing plans for projects in the high mountains. In Graham and Deans honor I will fulfill these commitment’s to climb high peaks and spread the ashes of my loved ones. They would have expected me to do this and I of them. It was an unspoken pact. This is how the flying monkeys live, with grace, honor and commitment. I am extremely grateful for the redefinition that my friends have given me. It is a final gift that could only be given from there hearts. Flying monkey love forever. Huooooo!

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Responses

  1. Thanks Walker. Awesome story. I never knew Dean or Graham but have been captivated by their spirit and lives since I first read about them a few years ago. I followed Dean daily. He was a true inspiration.

  2. A beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing these awesome memories and your inspiring perspective.


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