Sean Leary Killed in BASE Accident

Courtesy of

3/24/14 - Sean "Stanley" Leary died in a BASE-jumping accident in or near Zion National Park, Utah, on March 13. Leary was due home yesterday, and when he failed to return a search was organized and his body was discovered.

Though rarely in the spotlight, Leary was widely regarded as one of the most talented Yosemite climbers of his generation. He had climbed El Capitan dozens of times and set the speed record for climbing the Salathé Wall, with Alex Honnold, in 2009. He also set a new speed record on the Nose, with Dean Potter, in 2010 (broken in 2012 by Hans Florine and Honnold). That same year, he climbed three El Capitan routes in a day with Honnold. In 2012, he and Mayan Smith-Gobat set the mixed male-female speed record for the Nose.

Like many great Yosemite climbers before him, Leary took his skills to big walls and peaks around the world. He had done new routes and first free ascents in Patagonia, Baffin Island, Venezuela, and Antarctica, where he joined a British team in early 2013 to complete a 35-pitch new route on Ulvetanna, one of the world's most dramatic summits.

Leary also was a top wingsuit flyer, opening numerous "exits" around North America. He had flown from El Mocho in Patagonia and Mt. Asgard on Baffin Island, among other extreme jumps.

Leary, 38, worked as a rigger and film stuntman. He was married in 2010, and his wife, Mieka, is pregnant with their child.



Previous Comments

Chatted with him at Kendal film festival last year as we were waiting. Patient, quiet, understated and affable. Didn't seem easy in the limelight as he wandered around but what life achievements under his belt. A true hero in an old fashioned sense. A sad loss but what an inspiration. Nick

Nicky - 08/02/2014 2:46:59

He seemed like a top bloke (as we say in the UK). I'm thankful I have some of his epic climbs on DVD to continually act as inspiration. A true talent, a man who lived life as it should be lived and he seemed like a true gent. My thoughts are with his family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Adam Troman - 05/09/2014 3:48:51

He seemed like a great man. I didn't know him, but found this story through a NatGeo Instagram post. Death is the inevitable truth we'll all have to face, but it's always too soon. I pray nothing but good health and a healthy future for his loved ones and people affected. It truly sounds like he loved his life.

Amber - 04/14/2014 2:10:09

Sean was so rad and cool, he is such a legend.! What an amazing source of inspiration and strength he will be to his child.

Airlie - 03/27/2014 4:02:12

Death is nothing at all I have only slipped away into the next room I am I and you are you Whatever we were to each other That we are still Call me by my old familiar name Speak to me in the easy way you always used Put no difference into your tone Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed At the little jokes we always enjoyed together Play, smile, think of me, pray for me Let my name be ever the household word that it always was Let it be spoken without effort Without the ghost of a shadow in it Life means all that it ever meant It is the same as it ever was There is absolute unbroken continuity What is death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind Because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you for an interval Somewhere very near Just around the corner All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost One brief moment and all will be as it was before How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again! Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918 Peace and love to the family and friends

JP - 03/26/2014 11:05:12

I am sorry to not have known this man. To all those that did, give yourself the gift of time to heal.

Brad - 03/26/2014 4:19:12

In 2002, Sean took me to do my first lead ever on "Pine Line" at the base of El Cap. At one point, I asked him "Can I take a hang and rest a bit? I am tired" "Not on your first lead, Jen. You can do it". So I went on and finished the climb in a perfect style. I told everyone the story whenever we climb "Pine Line" since then. Sean inspired me to push harder. Yet he is such a humble and genuine person. Sean, you don't need to rest now. Fly, fly high and far... You were and will always be better than most of us, here and in Heaven...You lived big, you loved deeply, now you will live in our hearts forever...

Jennifer Wang - 03/26/2014 1:50:41

This has devastated our family, I am heartbroken, Honestly I think I may still be in shock, unable to wrap my brain around the fact he's actually gone. Sean was/is an epic soul! It warms my heart to see all that knew and loved my brother and all the kind words. He was very much a hero, especially to his nieces and nephews. I want to thank you for all the love shown here. Also I would like to thank those f you that are so bord with your oun lives that you thought it be clever to pick on a dead man. Did you know him by any chance? I'm willing to bet that non of you have the testicular fortitude to walk in a funeral and talk such ugly nonsense face to face with mourning loved ones. Non the less, thank you for simply existing, for without you ugly,twisted,selfish folks this big beautiful earth wouldn't have the much needed balance. And thank you again, because knowing my brother like I do, he would find your ignorance, narcissism and babble humerus and sad. Hope you get that hug you are so desperately begging for! To everyone else, much live and bless you!

Angelia Schlegel - 03/26/2014 10:53:55

Sean was a kind and caring individual by nature. He was an intellectual, courageous and a good friend to those who were lucky enough to know him. I respect Sean for the life he lived. Even Eagles fall from their nest. All of us who knew him will love and cherish his child. Sean's home town will miss him and love his family and baby with open arms. Rest in peace friend.

Home town local - 03/25/2014 10:28:01

One of my favorite memories is of Thanksgiving a few years back. It was a somewhat random gathering of people, including Sean, Mika, and I. I barely knew them or some of the other guests going into the day and didn't know what to expect. The day lives in my memory as representing the meaning of Thanksgiving - to open your heart and give thanks for everything - for good food, for your close friends, and for members of your community who may live on the edges to your day to day life, but that you come to realize are beautiful, kind, loving beings. Thank you for that memory Sean and Mika.

Marya Carr - 03/25/2014 9:26:13

Having known Sean all his life, I can say he did life to the fullest! He loved life! It is tragic his life was cut short and sad for his family and friends. However, he did more in his 38 years than many people ever dream of doing. Will miss your smile Sean and all the stories your family shares about you. I know you will be watching over your family.

Ginger Rolf - 03/25/2014 4:17:51

Sounds to me like Base Jumping technology needs a boost...a little redundancy in case the chute doesn't open properly. Perhaps a ballistic drogue chute in case of primary failure...

Kevin - 03/25/2014 2:12:23

He was one of few left who was genuinely kind and will be missed. A light went out in the world and it will be darker without it.

justin - 03/25/2014 1:36:15

Ran in to Sean and Dean Potter during the fall couple years back at Dewey Point watching the big full moon rise over half dome, I think they were driving Sean's pickup--it had a chainsaw in the back. Just hiking along around dusk with two dudes walking the other way. I'm nearsighted so I didn't recognize them until they were close and we moved aside for them and they for us. Kinda muttered "holy shit" to my buddy sotto vocce. Buddy kept it cool and chatted them up, I just kinda stared at my shoes. Salient detail being that they were both calm, at ease, happy and, crucially, willing to talk to a pair of star-struck kids about the moon and stuff. Thank you for that interaction Sean, peace be with you.

Jon Bye - 03/25/2014 12:37:12

I have much sympathy for the family and friends left behind in this situation. They knew the risks he took and loved him for who he was. I would guess they take some solace in the fact that he died the way he lived. However, his child didn't know him and has lost a great deal in Sean's passing. It's sad that his child will have to live with this blown-up, distorted vision of a hero-dad, instead of experiencing the real-life, somewhat flawed, but present and loving dad. This exaggerated memory won't read bedtime stories, or take care of a colicky baby so Mom can get a few much needed hours of rest, or proudly take a picture on the first day of kindergarten.

Sara Smith - 03/25/2014 10:22:10

This is just my story, and view of things and this, acknowledging we're all different. But still... I started climbing at 25 and it became the core of my life, something mountain biking never managed to do. I climbed free, aid, solo and even free solo. This was in the nineties. What Sean Leary did (in climbing) was what I in those days thought would be the life to strive for. Then I fell in love with my now wife. I continued climbing, but my previous aspirations started fading. A few years later I became a father and had to recalibrate my love gauge as the scale proved very, very inadequate. And lost all interest in living at the edge. All I've wanted from that point on was to be the best dad possible for my two kids. That includes them climbing from age 2. We ride our bikes, we go camping, we explore the world and learn. And to the best of my ability I make sure we're all safe, without it killing the fun. Adrenaline is nothing compared to the love you can get from you're children, when you love and treat them right. They'll love you even if you're a self-centered junkie, but I doubt it can feel right if you don't feel you've earned it. Yes, I do fail at times, we all do, but that's something kids need to learn, too. That we're all vulnerable. Sean Leary's child will learn that a far too hard a way. Sean Leary learned in a split second or two, and when it was too late. I feel so utterly sorry for them both, and Sean's wife, who now has to carry the burden of his mistake.

JB - 03/25/2014 2:03:35

Sean was a amazing person. He is my uncle and he loved his family more than anything.

catherine hamon - 03/24/2014 11:05:23

This article is a little on the apathetic side; no author, not a whole lotta love. Sign of the times... I lived in Zion for years... Hats off, my man... and sorry about your kid.... damn.

bill williams - 03/24/2014 10:13:34

I didn't know the man, but during life it sounds like he yearned to touch the face of God. Now he can be with God in eternal joy and boundless adventure. My condolences to his family.

Steve - 03/24/2014 9:38:58

Every man dies but not every man lives. Godspeed

Thor - 03/24/2014 8:19:44

Too many good people are dying young from base jumping. It's tragic and sad. His child will only see pictures and hear stories. You can wrap up in he was living life to the fullest and went out doing what he wanted to do, that's great. How about how great Of a feeling it is when you get to hold your newborn child. RIP and our prayers for the family.

Craig - 03/24/2014 6:55:14

One never knows their Demise, we cannot just sit around and do nothing just because we have children,or do not. Meika would never have taken away his adventurist life, just because of worry! She was also very adventurist. They loved climbing together. Their child will remember his or her Dad well because of his choices in life. DO NOT CONDEMN, unless you know this person Very Well. RIP Nephew Sean Leary!

Emily Rear - 03/24/2014 5:33:41

Great student. Even an adventurer then. Definitely lived life

Stan redkey - 03/24/2014 4:27:03

Very sad. Thoughts and prayers to Mika. <3

J.L. Luke - 03/24/2014 2:26:47

One thing missing from this article: He was one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

John - 03/24/2014 12:53:13

Heartbreaking news for so many of us who knew and respected him.

Tom Evans - 03/24/2014 12:23:06

So tragic, our thoughts are with his family. Your smile and light will be remembered by all who knew you.

Marina (Jacobs) Buie - 03/24/2014 12:19:35