Free Solo Climber Brad Gobright Falls 1,000 Feet To His Death

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How Did Brad Gobright Die? Free Solo Climber Falls Almost 1,000 Feet To His Death

The 2018, documentary film Free Solo showed us that there are people who live on the edge, and are always in search of a new quest. Alex Honnold was the center of that film, and we followed him as he attempted a free solo climb of El Capitan, a 3,000 foot tall vertical rock formation.

The film won an Academy Award, but also made people curious about free soloing. And though we now have a better understanding about what motivates climbers to free solo, a recent free solo tragedy is shaking their community.

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How did Brad Gobright die? A fellow El Capitan climber, he made a free ascent in 2015, but set other records in following years. In 2016, along with Scott Bennett, he climbed three routes in 24 hours on El Capitan; in 2017, he and Jim Reynolds set a speed record for The Nose. And with Alex Honnold in June 2019, he made another free ascent on the formation.

Unfortunately, Gobright died doing what he loved and even more tragic: He was only 31 years old.

On November 27th, he fell 980 feet during the El Sendero Luminoso climb in Mexico. While rappelling down with his partner, Aidan Jacobson, the two began falling. While Jacobson was able to save himself and wound up with minor injuries, Gobright fell to the bottom.

According to Jacobson, a stuck rope may have been the cause of Gobright’s fall.

“I asked if we were good, and he said, ‘Yes, we can untangle the rope on the way down.’ We didn’t tie knots in the rope, either. We started rapping. I was a bit above him. I was on the left. He was on the right. Then all of a sudden, I felt a pop, and we started dropping,” he said. While Jacobson fell into a bush and struck a ledge, Gobright kept falling.

“It was basically a blur,” Jacobson continued. “He screamed. I screamed. I went through some vegetation, and then all I remember is seeing his blue Gramicci shirt bounce over the edge... My first thought was that some anchor bolts had blown. I was worried I was going to get pulled off the edge by Brad, so I grabbed onto a rock and held on tight for 30 seconds.” 

When he didn’t feel a pull, he eventually was able to clip himself to a fixed line.

Said Outside, “Apparently, there was less rope tangled up in that bush than both Jacobson and Gobright had thought — not enough to get Gobright all the way down to the ledge. And because there were no knots in the end of the rope, it slipped through Gobright’s GriGri rappel device.”

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In the wake of his death, his fellow rock climbing friends made posts on social media remembering his spirit, drive, and talent.

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Alice Hafer wrote, “He was an amazing person, more driven and psyched than anyone I’ve ever known. He had a magic about him on the rock, unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He was so supportive and encouraging, always pushing me harder and believing in me. I can’t believe that not even a few weeks ago he was sitting next to me as we drove home from Arizona. I’ll cherish those moments always. He will be so missed, forever. Love you always Brad.”

Honnold also made a post and wrote, “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.”

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.​