Brad Gobright, an acclaimed American free solo climber, has died after falling nearly 1,000 feet while scaling a well-known route in Mexico, authorities said.
Gobright, 31, fell to his death Wednesday while climbing a rock known as El Sendero Luminoso, or the Shining Path, in the Potrero Chico national park in northern Mexico, the Mexican civil defense authorities said in a statement Thursday.
Gobright, a native of California, was hailed as one of the world’s best free solo climbers, a technique that uses no ropes. In 2017, he set a speed record of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 44 seconds at the popular climbing route called the Nose on El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park. It has since been surpassed.
On Wednesday, he was rappelling with a climbing partner, Aidan Jacobson, when he fell. Jacobson survived the fall but sustained several injuries.
“It was basically a blur,” Jacobson, 26, told Outside Magazine. “He screamed. I screamed. I went through some vegetation, and then all I remember is seeing his blue Gramicci shirt bounce over the edge.”
A civil responder who participated in the rescue effort and posted Facebook pictures of Jacobson in an ambulance said the climber had injured his right ankle.
Practitioners of free solo climbing say it is a risky yet exhilarating experience, one that comes with a calm acceptance of death.
“The risk in free soloing is always to fall off and fall to your death,” Alex Honnold, the renowned free solo climber, told The New York Times in 2018. “I mean, that’s pretty straightforward.”
In a message posted on Instagram on Thursday, Honnold praised Gobright’s “insanely strong fingers” and said the climbing world had “lost a true light.”
Other styles of climbing have had their share of tragedy. In 2017, Ueli Steck, a renowned mountain climber known as “the Swiss Machine” for his rapid ascents of imposing peaks, died in an accident at a camp near Mount Everest.
In 2015, Dean Potter, a top rock climber, was killed along with two other menin a BASE-jumping accident at Yosemite.
A college dropout, Gobright had dedicated his life to climbing, touring in the United States and living in a Honda Civic.
“I enrolled Brad in soccer when he was 5,” his mother, Pamela Gobright, told Rock and Ice Magazine in a 2015 profile of the climber. “But he just climbed the goal posts instead of following the ball.”
In the 2017 documentary “Safety Third,” he says of free soloing: “I know it’s not safe. I’m not saying it’s safe, but it’s fun, you know?”
In his last Instagram post, posted this month after a climbing trip in Utah, Gobright wrote, “At times things got very chaotic, but at other times it was calm and silent as I stared off into the vast openness.”