Free soloist Brad Gobright died in a rappelling accident on Wednesday, November 27th in El Potrero Chico, a National Park north of Monterrey, Mexico. He was 31. Although the risks are high with any form of climbing, Brad was one to always promote safety around the sport.
Earlier in the week, Brad traveled down to El Potrero Chico with his good friend and climbing partner Julie Anne Baxter. The day before the accident, Brad and Julie ascended Space Boyz, an intermediate 1000-foot sport climb.
Space Boyz in El Potrero Chico, MX. Dave Coleman photo.
After completing Space Boyz, Baxter decided to take a rest day on Wednesday, leaving Gobright to send out a social media request looking for a partner to climb with on Wednesday. Aiden Jacobson, 26, from Phoenix, Arizona responded to Brad’s request.
The next morning, Brad and Aiden tied in together and proceeded to climb El Sendero Luminoso, a 2,500-foot classic rated at 5.12+. Brad onsighted the entire route, meaning he never took a fall. Aiden was able to onsight all pitches except for three.
After summiting, the two athletes prepared a simul-rappel with their 80-meter rope, a technique used by many climbers as a means of rapelling down a route faster using the counterweight of their partner, resulting in codependence between the two.
Many rappelling accidents and deaths are caused by the failure to tie a “stopper” knot at the end of the rope. Climbers who choose not to tie a stopper knot typically fear that the rope will get stuck somewhere down the rappel. Even though Brad and Aiden did not tie a stopper knot at the end of the rope, it still got caught in a bush down below. It seemed as if the rope was still long enough to reach a ledge that was 20 to 30 feet below the bush.
As they continued to rappel, the rope came up too short, and Brad’s GriGri device slipped past the end of the rope, causing their weight distribution to send them both into a simultaneous fall. Aiden’s fall was slowed by the bush that was below him, resulting in minor injuries. Unfortunately, Brad bounced off the ledge below, and proceeded to fall over 900 feet to his death.
El Sendero Luminoso in El Potrero Chico, MX. Mountain Project photo.
Brad Gobright was one of the world’s most accomplished climbers, and one of the few athletes that could compete with world-renowned athletes like Alex Honnold. He holds several records, including the first free ascent of The Heart Route on El Capitan in 2015 with Mason Earle, climbing three distinct routes on El Capitan in less than 24 hours with Scott Bennett (Zodiac, The Nose, and Lurking Fear), setting the speed record of two hours and 19 minutes on The Nose on El Capitan in 2017 (Since broken by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell), and making the second free ascent of El Niño on El Capitan in fourteen-and-a-half hours. He also starred in the film Safety Third, a segment in Sender Films’ Reel Rock 12 Documentary, Two Nineteen Forty Four, and The Nose Speed Record.
Brad Gobright was a widely respected, talented, and wonderful person who will be sorely missed by the climbing community and outdoor realm. We give our sincere condolences to Brad’s friends and family.
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