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Rock climber who died in Mexico spent recent winters in Las Vegas

Updated November 30, 2019 - 11:10 am

Professional U.S. rock climber Brad Gobright, who died Wednesday in a rappelling accident in northern Mexico, was known around the world for his risky ropeless climbs.

And in Las Vegas, where he spent a few recent winters climbing and training, Gobright was revered by the local climbing community for his bravery.

“Brad inspired lots of climbers. He was fearless, a seriously heroic figure,” Maison Des Champs, one of Gobright’s climbing partners, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Friday.

The Orange County, California, native died after falling more than 900 feet from El Sendero Luminoso, an almost sheer rock face on the El Potrero Chico peak near the city of Monterrey, according to Mexican civil defense authorities. He was 31.

According to Outside Magazine, Gobright and Aidan Jacobson, a 26-year-old climber from Phoenix, climbed the route Wednesday. Jacobson told the magazine that the fall occurred while the two were “simul-rappelling” down the wall using an 80-meter rope.

Simul-rappelling involves two climbers, their bodies acting as counterweights to each other, descending opposite strands of a rope that has been rigged through a rappel anchor.

Jacobson fell through vegetation, slowing his fall, before he landed on a ledge, according to Outside Magazine. He suffered minor injuries.

‘Absolutely ludicrous’

Gobright began rock climbing when he was 6 and had been climbing full time since 2009, when he dropped out of college in California.

He was known to live in his Honda Civic, although he usually lived in an apartment during his winters in Las Vegas, according to Des Champs.

In 2017, Gobright and climbing partner Jim Reynolds scaled the Nose, a 2,900-foot granite wall on El Capitan in Yosemite, in 2 hours and 19 minutes, breaking the speed record previously set by Alex Honnold and Hans Florine.

In a tribute posted to Instagram on Wednesday night, Honnold described Gobright as “such a warm, kind soul — one of a handful of partners that I always loved spending a day with.”

View this post on Instagram

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…

A post shared by Alex Honnold (@alexhonnold) on

Des Champs said Gobright “wasn’t just the guy with the Nose record.”

Gobright was an underdog with a vision, one of the few who would go toe-to-toe with Honnold, a Las Vegas resident and the star of the documentary “Free Solo.”

“He really worked hard for his accomplishments. He was a dirtbag that came out of the boulders and took down Alex Honnold for the Nose speed record through sheer grit and hard work,” Des Champs said. “He was absolutely balls to the walls, ripped with bravery. He was absolutely ludicrous.”

Des Champs, a 20-year-old Las Vegas resident, had been climbing with Gobright for less than a year before his death. But they had grown close in that short time, he said.

“He was a hero of mine, like he was for so many climbers,” he said. “He was always someone I looked up to, and I would always just fanboy around him in the gym.”

‘Sweet but crazy’

Last winter, Des Champs kept running into Gobright at Red Rock Climbing Center, near Charleston Boulevard and Cimarron Road. Des Champs hadn’t been climbing for long and couldn’t help but ask Gobright “ridiculous questions” about climbing techniques, gear and, of course, El Capitan in Yosemite.

When summer rolled around this year, Des Champs said, he decided to spend his first season climbing in Yosemite. He arrived with two pairs of pants and $200 in his wallet.

A week after climbing on El Capitan for the first time, Des Champs got a text message from a number he didn’t recognize: “Yo dude, this is Brad Gobright. I was hoping play around on the lower pitches of Muir Wall tomorrow if it’s not raining. You free?”

“I couldn’t believe it,” Des Champs recalled Friday. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever climb with him.”

By the end of the summer, Des Champs headed home to Las Vegas with a bag of new clothes that Gobright had given him and thousands of dollars from a job Gobright had set up for him in Yosemite.

“He really hooked me up,” he said. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Their most recent climbing trip, just last week, took them to Moab, Utah, where Gobright had been filming a movie featuring a ropeless climb of a route called Fine Jade.

“It was gnarly. Brad was climbing, taking whips while I’m dodging rocks the whole time,” he recalled. “It was sweet but crazy. I’m so glad I got last week with him.”

Des Champs said the coming months, especially, will be difficult without Gobright, who he said had plans to spend this winter climbing in Las Vegas.

But, he said, “When I’m scared up on the wall, and I have a 30-foot runout, I’ll think of Brad and keep going. I’ll use it as fuel.”

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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