Brad Gobright Dies in Rappelling Accident in El Potrero Chico


Brad Gobright has died, aged 31. Brad was a brilliant climber who had a ranging talent. Accomplished in hard sport climbing and bouldering though most known for his speed ascents of big wall multi-pitches and free soloing. Most recently Brad and Jim Reynolds were featured in Reel Rock 14 where they broke the speed record on The Nose on El Capitan.

A real “climber’s climber”, Brad Gobright lived to climb. His home base was his 2005 Honda Civic which he traveled the US in. He waited tables, bummed food, and ran out pitches on sketchy gear. He traveled as much as he could on the little money he earned, and has topped out on more big walls than most people know. His life goal was “to work as little as possible and climb as much as I could”.

Brad Gobright on a recent desert climbing trip. Credit:

The accident happened on “El Sendero Luminoso”, a 15 pitch 5.12+ wall on the El Toro formation in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. According to Rock & Ice magazine, Brad and Aiden Jacobson were simul-rappeling down from the seventh pitch on an 80 meter rope. They had not tied stopper knots at the ends of the rope. At some point Brad accidentally rapelled off the end of his rope.

From Rock & Ice – “Gino said that both climbers fell to a big ledge at the fifth pitch where climbers who ascend the route in multiple days usually bivy. Evidently Gobright bounced off the ledge and came to a stop considerably farther down towards the bottom of the route, on a ledge in an amphitheater known as the Skull Amphitheater. Jacobson and the team’s rope both landed on the fifth pitch bivy ledge.”

“Gino and his partner witnessed the entire tragic accident. They then rappelled down to the fifth pitch ledge and helped Jacobson reach the ground. Jacobson suffered no broken bones or any other serious injuries.”

Simul-rapelling is where the rope is connected the an anchor and each side of rope is equalised. One climber rappels off of each side at the same time. Tying a knot at the end of the rope when rappelling – both when simul or solo rappelling – is always advised as rappelling off the end of a rope is one of the most common causes of death in climbing. Mis-judging rope length or slipping while rappelling without a backup can lead to a fall without a way of stopping.

Photo by Drew Smith on instagram

Arriving in El Potrero Chico a few days before, Brad started off with a free solo of the “Yankee Clipper” route – a 15 pitch 5.12a.

Gobright’s list of achievements are many. In 2017 with Scott Bennett they climbed three massive routes in Yosemite – Zodiac, The Nose, and Lurking Fear – in under 24 hours. He free’d the “Salathé Wall” 5.13 in Yosemite in just 13 hours, and “El Corazon” in 19 hours, and the “Muir Wall” in under 18 hours. Earlier this year Brad and Alex Honnold free climbed the “Pineapple Express” variant of the “El Niño” route on El Cap, making only the second free ascent. He holds the speed record on 700-foot 5.11c “The Naked Edge” in Colorado at 26 minutes, which he also free solo’d. He also free solo’d the Eldorado Canyon multi-pitch “Hairstyles and Attitudes” 5.12c – a ground breaking hard solo.

He was featured in the film “Safety Third” that shows the life he lives and the routes he climbs. He had broken his ankle three times, once while out with Alex Honnold, and also broken his back on a roped climb. Once he broke his toes climbing the famous “Midnight Lightning” boulder problem in Yosemite without a pad because he had done the route so many times before.

Brad Gobright features in Safety Third

There’s a great clip below of him on The Nose speed record to a ledge where a couple of climbers already are. He comes up, takes a swig of their water, – sweating and obviously at his limit – clips his first piece of protection since the last piece 150 foot below, then continues on at a crazy clip. Jim Reynolds comes up, unclips the piece Brad placed, runs across the ledge and continues on up. On the gear they took – “We took 8 cams, 11 quick draws, and 14 spare carabiners. For the first 14 pitches, Brad only places 4 cams, and clips fixed gear and anchors otherwise”

Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds on their speed ascent of The Nose, Yosemite

Many well known climbers who were friends with Brad shared their mourning. He was well loved by people he knew and climbed with, and a popular figure with fans who loved his personality, kind-hearted nature, and passion for climbing. Brad Gobright’s death is a sad moment for the climbing community as a whole and he will be well remembered.

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I’m so sorry to hear that @bradgobright just died in a climbing accident. He was such a warm, kind soul – one of a handful of partners that I always loved spending a day with. I suppose there’s something to be said about being safe out there and the inherent risks in climbing but I don’t really care about that right now. I’m just sad for Brad and his family. And for all of us who were so positively affected by his life. So crushing. Brad was a real gem of a man. For all his strengths and weaknesses (like his insanely strong fingers, or living out of a Honda Civic…) at the core he was just a good guy. I guess there’s nothing really to say. I’m sad. The climbing world lost a true light. Rest in peace…

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