Dan Osman (“The law of gravity is strictly enforced.”) d. 1998

                                           Speed Climbing                                                   Free Fall  


“Dan Osman (February 11, 1963November 23, 1998) was an Asian American extreme sport practitioner, known for the dangerous sports of “free-soloing” (rock climbing without ropes or other safety gear); and “rope jumping” (falling several hundred feet from a cliff then being caught by a safety rope), for which his record was over 1000 feet / 304.8 meters. He was known for living a bohemian lifestyle, rarely working, and living in a tree house for months at a time. He was the star of several rock climbing videos, which brought free-soloing to a wider audience.”


“In 1989, working with a top rope to put up a 5.13 climb at Cave Rock that he called Phantom Lord, he fell 50 times trying to place a single bolt above a particularly torturous move. In the process he discovered that he was more exhilarated by the falling than the climbing.”


“I watched his headlamp disappearing into the dark,” says Daisher, “going and going, and in about ten seconds I saw the rope straighten, heard it start to whip—what Dano called flossing the sky—but it didn’t make the full whipping sound. Then I heard him yell—’Ahhhhhh’—and a crash like a tree had broken in half, and I thought, ‘Holy shit, he’s swung into one of them.’ I pictured him down there hanging from a limb, injured and bloody. I yelled to him, got on the radio. Nothing. Quiet. Then I started freaking.”

Daisher rappelled to the base as fast as he could and followed the beam of his headlamp through the rocks and trees until he finally saw the ragged rope end dangling from branches above him. Then he spotted Osman, lying peacefully on his side.


The ‘bum’ lifestyle attaches itself to fly fishing, travel, skiing,  climbing, surfing etc. etc. Osman’s life aside, and the eleven years since his death do not, for me, dilute the sheer athleticism of his feats. I am less enthralled with the free fall rope catching part than with the rapid ascents unaided. For an old, less agile man that is nervous ten feet up stringing Christmas lights, I find it amazing. I won’t bother with a life’s critique…whatever. For this endeavor, his endeavors, take the good and forwarned to the bad. Still worth a look for the Parkour types and just any of us around those sheer rock faces like Yosemite, Smith Rocks, etc.  

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